I eat drink and sleep office; and you?
(The Economic Times (India)): Life's labour is not lost but it seems that the simple joys of life are getting lost in the act of making a living. The globalisation of Indian business combined has meant that the definition of working hours is changing drastically.
The unusual aspect of this change is that it's not just the providers of offshore services-mostly located in India-who have had to adjust their lives to western work hours.
In many cases, westerners are having to adjust their work hours, because large chunks of their companies are located in places like India.
The invasion of work into life is not new, especially with technology in its various avatars tracking you down and ensuring you are always. working. Mobile phones, PDAs, Blackberrys, instant messengers, and video conferencing ensure that work is always a click away.
Of course, the twist is that the click is not in your hand or on your mouse, it will be an email, sms or an instant message pushed down your mobile phone with an threatening click.
Moreover, customers, partners and vendors expect that you will respond immediately, not an hour or day late. Especially in the world of instant messengers, where your presence can also be monitored and if you don't respond it is seen as some sort of misconduct.
Sanjay Chaudhury, a mid-rung manager at Siemens Information System puts it very aptly, "Initially it starts with checking the mails by connecting to the office mail server from home. It soon gets to be a ritual, and you start craving to be connected when at home."
The intrusion of technology is taking another leap with distribution of work globally in the form of services being carried out from offshore locations.
This dispersion of employees at captive or BPO vendor locations worldwide means that it is no longer possible to walk to the next cabin or floor and get an update on the progress of some project.
The globalisation of back end work or support services means that both customers and vendors have to adjust to working hours in each others time zones.
Work done offshore, nearshore or even outsourced in the same city is flattening work hours. Top and senior management in Fortune 500 companies were earlier the only ones faced with the problem of managing several time zones.
But now every manager, directly or indirectly, has to cope with this problem as some part of support services is invariably outsourced.
Mr Chaudhary says, "Due to distributed development centres, different people(having different life styles) work on the same project in different time zones. As a result, there is always some query which is being sent across. People feel that by addressing these mails (In the expanded work hours), they're able to remain in sync with the company and thus remain in full control of the work. In many companies, it is expected that a person is accessible 24x7-although it is not the nature of the job."
Offshore vendors work according to the office hours of their customers or their customers' customer, but as the size of this operations grow both sides- the European and US customer and the Indian supplier of services-start stretching themselves. Mid rung or senior level employees at the delivery side or facing the customers see a much greater levelling of work hours.
Atul Nishar, chairman of software services firm Hexaware Technologies, says, " Long working hours is part of the global IT industry. Indian companies are competing with global companies and the ambition and the drive of Indians makes them work harder and longer hours then their counterparts anywhere in the world."
Victor Antonio, who works for Patni Computers in Boston, says," The global client base in different time zones combined with a delivery in multiple time zone means longer working hours. Individuals adapt to it depending upon whether they are morning person or night person. I like to start work early, sometime as early as 7 am. This allows me to straddle some time zones."
The straddle becomes a straggle as individuals try to keep pace with work loads. A recent survey of US executives had found that most middle managers are working harder than ever in the past, one of the reasons for this could be rising globalisation and outsourcing of services.
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