‘Karoshi’ is a Japanese word that carries with it monumental gravity. It means ‘Death by Overwork’. It is becoming increasingly clear, if not already apparent, that the dynamo for any business is not the equipment, not the top management, not the media; but the managers and the people who do the work. Without altering human knowledge, skills, and behaviour, change in technology, processes, and structures is unlikely to yield long-term benefits. Managing business productivity has essentially become synonymous with managing human resources effectively. To manage change, companies must not only determine what to do and how to do it, they also need to be concerned with how employees will react to it. In this respect, the role of human resource management is moving from the traditional command and control approach to a more strategic one. Yet through all the evolution of management ideas, strategic approaches, research reports and statistics, India still lags in employee empowerment compared to its developed counterparts.
A recent study by global travel agency Expedia, has shown that India is the second most overworked country in the world, only behind Honk Kong, working over 42 hours a week on average. India is also ranked as the 10th most vacation deprived country in the world as employees are forced not to go on vacation to remain in the good books of their employer. Alarmingly, even during the times Indians do go on vacation 94% of the people are constantly in touch with work – constantly checking the email or are on phone calls. While ideally a work week should be 35-40 hours, Indians work for 50 hours a week. These statistics also fail to reflect the realities of a work week. While the employee may leave his/her work place at 8.00 PM, he/she carries some work home and after dinner or a break in the evening, continues to work for another 2 hours. There have been numerous reports all week by various dailies highlighting that 73% of the workforce in the country today wants to change jobs.
Statistics aside, the employee sentiment that anyone strongly feels right now is negative. People are not happy with their employers and the way they are being treated at work. This along with the fact that India is going through a very tough phase with high inflation, lower liquidity and lack of opportunities; have led to a high level of unhappiness amongst the India work contingent.
A handful of companies and entities have realised the importance of employees and have made many employee friendly policies but these are far and few and are not reflective of the general populous. There is no reason for companies to cut their employees slack as they have realised that most employees are at their mercy and they have nothing to stop them. Directors fire shots across the employee’s bows forcing them to cancel planned leaves, threatening them of rating them poorly. There is a significant part of the senior workforce that is bitter and overworked and desperately want this attitude to percolate to the employees who work under them. Too many times in the last few years have I heard people complain they’ve had to cancel vacations. Too many times have people felt coerced into burning the midnight oil with no compensation received. People are forced into booking lesser time in their time sheets to help Director’s get a better rating and hence a better compensation.
There needs to be a consequential shift brought about for a workforce that wants empowerment but doesn’t know how to communicate it. There needs to be laws brought in(which are moderately and subjectively enforced) to help control this ill-mannered and reprehensible lead people dominance. I can see this change happening over the next few years in India. And I can only hope changes are swift and implemented strongly.