Friday, December 17, 2010

The Value of Time at the workplace.

We Indians are a peculiar lot- we haggle over prices of most things that we buy. Despite the huge amounts that some of us may be earning, we do not want to spend even one paisa extra on any  item in the interest of "not wasting our money". 

But there is something that we waste liberally -time. We are very lavish in the way we throw it away little realizing that this probably is the only resource  that we may never get back/

To illustrate this let me take you to a familiar scene - meetings in Indian offices. They are probably the best examples of how we throw away this valuable resource. A meeting that is scheduled to start at a particular time rarely does. No body and nobody adheres to the time limit mentioned in an agenda !! We love to talk and this becomes a major challenge - each one of us trying to "out talk" the other and all this finally exceeding the agreed duration of a meeting. Nowadays with powerpoints aiding us in the talking - we make the world literally "our stage". A fifteen minute presentation usually has more than 30 slides and the presenter reads through all the material on the slide finally taking another good ten minutes to speak about things not written on the slide. Others, not to be outdone then give their opinions/ views and we slowly find that the topic goes way out of focus but no one realizes it until we have lost about one hour or so and we have to come to some decision regarding the original topic under discussion. So we get back and start again...

So what does all this do to a eight hour working day ? It extends to nine , ten or eleven hours and we leave our office feeling great about having worked so hard. The quest ion is - have we?

We seem to confuse time spent on an activity as the mesure of effort and that in turn is linked to the sincerity of any employee. The first to arrive and the last to leave in any office is seen as the best role model.

It is really sad the way we seem to be conducting our lives these days. Given the difficultites of commuting to work and back it becomes all the more important to ensure we complete our work within the eight hours alloted and get back in time to see our children awake , play with them and enjoy their childhood. We will never get these moments back but we do not seem to realize this. We become embroiled in a system that wastes our time and that of others and we contribute to it in our own ways.

I have a friend from abroad who once told me " Eight hours is the normal time it takes to get a day's work done in an office. If anyone takes longer to complete something s/he is lying". 

I guess in India, if someone took less time than that to complete something they are probably perceived as insignificant people within the organization with no "work". Our entire system revels in working on an average for 9-10 hours perpetuating inefficiencies at every level and ending the day with a smug and happy feeling of having been recognized as "hardworking"!

2 comments:

Deepa said...

First to comment!! I heartily sympathise with you. I am terribly afraid of these powerpoint fiends. I remember one meeting, where a participant put up entire case studies (narratives) on slides and proceeded to read them out - just before lunch time!!

And there is no need to feel smug about 'hard working' for those that spend 10-12 hours in office. As far as I'm concerned, its 'hardly working'!!

anindita said...

Thanks for putting these thoughts in writing. Could not agree more. I wonder why staying at the workstation for more no. of hours is seen as a virtue and I have seen people proudly telling the new comers, "I had one Casual Leave for my wedding" or, "I was working on my first anniversay and my spuse spent the entire evening sulking and sad". What is so grea about it?

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