“You look tired,” I observed. “Sir, I go to office at 9am and leave for home around 8pm or 9pm or sometimes 10pm and it has almost become a daily routine,” the bank manager replied.
I posed another question: “But if the office closes by 6pm, then why do you remain till so late?” He replied, “Sir, the real duty of people working in the banking sector starts after the office officially closes”. I asked if he gets duly compensated for the way he works. He shook his head.
I suggested that he should also focus on his health by exercising and going to the gym. He said that by the time he is home after working 12 to 14 hours a day and tending of the needs of his family, he is left with little energy to go to gym. It is difficult to argue with this notion.
Banking is just one sector where this problem prevails. There are so many other industrial sectors where organisations think that it is their right to get their employees to work beyond the time for which they are paid. They are not concerned with the health of employees. What employers need to understand is that when employees are not given enough time to focus on their mental and physical health, they will remain lethargic, burned out and will not feel like doing work. This will, directly or indirectly, affect the productivity and overall health of the organisation.
According to labour laws, an organisation can only make its employees work for only 48 hours a week. This means that an employee can work up to a maximum nine hours a day and five days a week. If an organisation wants their employees to work six days a week, eight hours is the maximum amount of time they must spend working every day. However, it has become a trend at most organisations in Pakistan – especially where the seth culture is all-pervasive – that employees should be wrung out at the workplace. Employers also expect their employees to work from home. It’s an unfortunate situation which has a negative outcome for all those involved.
For a final year project I worked on during my master’s degree, I got the opportunity to visit one of the multinational corporations in Pakistan. I observed that the duty of the employees would begin exactly on time and they would not be expected to stay beyond their official work hours. The HR manager would visit the various departments, switching off lights to indicate that the work day had ended. Moreover, they provided a range of different facilities, such as a gym and cafeteria, to encourage employees to maintain a balance between their professional and personal lives.
These multinational corporations understand that for employees to deliver effectively, their physical and mental health needs to be given top priority. As a result, they are encouraged to participate in sports and inter-office group activities. This trend needs to be adopted in all Pakistani organisations, regardless of whether they are small, medium or large.
Considering the nature of different types of organisations, it is acceptable if employees have to work overtime twice or thrice a month. But it should not be done at the expense of the employees’ health. If targets are to be achieved and deadlines are to be met, there should be some form of compensation – in terms of taking a day off on weekdays – if employees are made to work extra hours.
However, in a country where there is already a dearth of jobs, employees who fear losing their job or being given a tough time at the workplace, feel discouraged from filing a complaint when they are asked to work overtime without being duly compensated for their efforts. Many of them do not have the option to quit their job because they are, more often than not, the sole breadwinners for their families and will not be able to find alternative employment easily.
The culture of forced late-sittings at most organisations in the country and the failure to strike a balance between our professional and personal lives are adversely impact our health. Unfortunately, neither employees nor employers seem to realise the after-effects of these practices. Efforts need to be made to enable employees to establish a suitable balance between their professional and private lives.
The writer is an organisational