Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Concept of Vacation-to stay available or not

Ofcourse again RM's post triggered memories and thoughts that instead of hogging all her comment space (I DID leave a big comment there though!) I decided to put it here...

I worked at the client place for about 8 months in the US as a contractor from my first company. Fortunately I was the only person in the team who was a contractor and the others were all the clients themselves. So, my lead, the Subject Matter Expert (SME) were all quite older to me and very confident of what they were doing. Including their vacation time or their time after work.

I've seen that the general trend there is to get to work really early by about 7 and leave by 3. And those 8 hours they do only work -they hardly take many breaks... My lead was one such guy. A Baseball fanatic, a family man with 4 kids - he would be at his desk by 7 and leave sharp at 3.We used to have project production releases every fortnight on friday nights which I would do it from home at midnight and the rest of the week we would all be on high alert for any issues because it was all about a lot of company money transactions... After one such Friday release, the first 2 days were fine and then the we  caught a bug on wednesday at 4pm. It was something major at the business level and we are all desperately trying to get it resolved when we realised that my lead is missing. Then the manager called him like 5 times but there was no response.
The next day the guy walks in coolly and gets into this meeting where the manager asks him where he was and that he was *needed* yesterday for the issue which we somehow managed to get a work around, and he says: "You know C, that wednesdays are my Golf days - I leave by 3". My eyes grow wide! And then when the manager says he could've atleast picked up the call so we could call him back: "Oh! I dont take any office calls once Im off for the day, I have a family and my own life-dont expect me to take office calls once I leave work, unless I mention myself that I will work from home!" By this time my jaws have dropped to the floor.

Here I was, refused leaves and comp-offs for working even on saturdays and sundays gettign hardly 3hrs of sleep because of the work pileup... I realised that I was plain stupid! I did not know where to draw the line and how to put my foot down...

That was when I realised how we 'fear' the organisation, the manager we report to or even how we dont know how to compartmentalise work and home/family. How to switch-off from work once we leave from work - either on a holiday or just home!

And there is also a big part played by the higher management itself. In the US if you cite your personal problems/if you inform that you will not be available - even if you are going gambling to Vegas (Yes, I said it and they were cool about it!) they respect your personal space and refrain from calling you even. They understand that you have a life beyond the work space. And it is necessary to unwind/ actually live life outside the 4 A/Ced walls of the office.  Here once you reach a 'level' you need to be avaliable 24/7.(This was told to me by a senior manager when I told him my son was sick and I had the mobile on silent at 10.30pm in the night.) And that 'level' is for everyone from 6months to 16 years experience...

So, who will break this trend? Trend of working 12 hrs everyday all 7days of the week? Trend of expecting to be available when you are on a holiday?

Now, I have begun the trend myself, at the cost of much ire from the seniors - Trend of NOT being available over weekends/holidays/ even after 6pm in the evenings.Come what may!


  1. Awesome babes...I am glad you are taking that step...its very very important to unwind yaar...I think we Indians sometimes still live in the slave era! my private time is mine alone and I would appreciate if no one disturbs it unless its seriously a matter of life and death!

  2. I can't completely agree with all points though, things have changed a lot in the last few years, these days even the clients are expected to work like how we do, I mean nights, weekends etc. and people like me work 24*7. I hate working for Indian companies. And now all companies are misusing ppl because of the crazy economy. There is always exception to what I said above.

  3. Yay that you are starting the trend by putting your foot down. The change can only happen when more employees follow suit instead of feeling like they are doing some great thing by 'pulling all-nighters' (this all-nighter nonsense seems to be glamoroused in MBA programmes). It reminds me a bit of the Indian woman martyrdom syndrome also - push yourself to the brink, don't put your foot down, then boast about how tired you are. It helps to have an enlightened boss also - someone who has experienced a work culture where balance is respected. With more multinationals coming in, one hopes that that balanced work culture from abroad will peter down to India since it is written in the HR policy. In Hong Kong, the Chinese tend to have a similar work "ethic" to India, but bosses that have worked in Western companies tend to be more sane because they have seen that you can get quality work even when the employee is not your slave.

  4. @RM/Bride : See-both of you mentioned a very important word - Slave! Slavery is what is expected by the people though the organisation has its policies in place... And because we opt to DO the slavery its taken for granted everyone will do it too... We do need to put our foot down and be unapologetic about taking a day off/going on a holiday or even leaving work on time!

    @LF: you have actually said the same things I have about working 24/7 -only that the clients are expected to do 24/7 too - is that your point? Then isnt that going downhill too?!!

  5. RS- I started posting a comment here, but it turned out into a post of its own. Have posted here - http://pangsofsenselessness.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/vacation-and-working-late/

  6. This is an awesome post ! I used to have that same fear like will I create a bad impression in the company if I dont work on weekends or if I dont solve the issues immediately ( even if it comes on a weekend) . But those were the first few months/years. Those were the days when I used to check my email every hour for issues. Then slowly I started learning to manage my time , balance work and personal time.

  7. Good going babe... Continue doing that.. DON'T STOP :-)

    I have seen it a lot when I was working in India (even though it was for a very short time).. But work life here is sooooo much better... My company stresses so much on family time and being home for dinner, it really helps... I have never worked like how it was in India... I get to do everything I want to and balance work and home very well... As I always say, one shouldn't be judged on how long they are at work.

    High time we start changing things out there!!

  8. Came here from R'smother's blog :-)
    Putting your foot down is important. We always push ourselves to the brink instead of taking a break when it is rightly needed.

  9. Corporations can be ruthless in squeezing every inch of its employees. Sometimes WE need to put our down and a say a resounding. But sometimes there is no choice. :-(

  10. Its unfortunate and it IS the Indian corporate mentality.
    You can call your personal time your own but it will affect your career, you can be sure of that.
    While we were slogging here over weekends and late in the evenings, my onsite coordinator (for whom we were doing all this work) comes in late, saying that he had been playing hockey and was tired.

    But clients too have started working like Indians nowadays. The competition is very high and economy low.
    Despite that its easier for Indians to work for a foreign manager than a foreigner to work for an Indian manager.

  11. Summerscript - That is the problem-one you did it people will expect you to continue doing it...hope we get to change that...

    S&S-Read,commented too :-) good post there again...

    Ashwathy - Thanks for dropping by - I've been lurking at your place too over the past month or so *guilty look* :-) You cant blame the Corporation for it, its more to do with the kind of people you work with, sadly.

    Sanju - "Despite that its easier for Indians to work for a foreign manager than a foreigner to work for an Indian manager" - Absolutely agree...

    Sneha - Thanks Babe!Am trying to change atleast what works for me!!

  12. Yaaayyy! Way to go! It is difficult to pull it of when everyone around you is doing the same thing, i.e. being available 24/7 but not impossible! I am proud of you! :)