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The 70-Hour Workweek Dilemma: Is Burnout the New Success?


IN the world of entrepreneurship and corporate leadership, few names command as much respect and attention as Narayana Murthy. The co-founder of Infosys is renowned not only for building an IT empire but also for his candid and sometimes contentious opinions on India’s work culture. His recent call to Indian youth to embrace a grueling 70-hour workweek has ignited a debate that transcends borders and reaches into the fundamental issue of work-life balance. For instance, some argue that Murthy’s approach ignores the fact that Indian workers are already overworked and underpaid and that forcing them to work even longer hours will only perpetuate these problems.

Murthy’s argument is straightforward: India must improve productivity, reduce government corruption, and eliminate bureaucratic delays. It is imperative that the youth work longer and harder to achieve these goals. He draws parallels with post-World War II Germany and Japan, where sacrifice and diligent work led to resurgence. In today’s globalized, technologically advanced, and interconnected world, does this blueprint still hold water? This is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. While the past might provide some insight into the path forward, it does not necessarily fit the present. India needs to tailor its approach to its own unique circumstances and the current times.

Some industry leaders, such as Bhavish Aggarwal of Ola Cabs, endorse Murthy’s vision of relentless dedication, while others, such as Ronnie Screwvala, founder of upGrad, and Hari Mohan Bangur, chairman of Shree Cement, question its wisdom. It’s as if the nation has been thrust onto a seesaw, with one side arguing for boundless labor and the other pleading for balance. While Murthy’s vision is admirable, it can also lead to burnout and stress for those who implement it, as well as a lack of work-life balance for employees. Additionally, it can also lead to a lack of creativity and innovation, as workers may become too focused on their tasks and forget about the bigger picture.

Let’s take a step back and assess this 70-hour workweek in the larger context of global corporate culture. Forbes’ “World’s Best Employers” report for 2023 reveals that top tech companies worldwide cap official work hours at 45 hours a week, with some employees occasionally clocking up to 52 hours in high-pressure situations. The global tech giants appear to be thriving without demanding their employees’ waking hours.

The heart of the matter here is not merely about the number of hours clocked; it’s about the quality of those hours. Ronnie Screwvala’s dissenting view underscores this point. Boosting productivity is not solely a matter of toiling longer; it’s about becoming better at what you do, creating a positive work environment, and ensuring fair pay for the effort invested. Clocking in more hours should never be at the expense of physical and mental health or personal growth.

In many ways, the 70-hour workweek proposition mirrors the rise of what are now called “extreme jobs.” These aren’t ordinary nine-to-fives; these are jobs that require more than just long hours and high pay. They come with responsibilities and pressure that border on the superhuman, making a mockery of the once-sought-after 40-hour workweek.

The same research by Forbes reveals that high earners worldwide are working more than ever. The traditional 40-hour workweek has become an endangered species, with 62% of high-earning individuals working over 50 hours a week and 10% toiling for more than 80 hours. The majority of these “extreme jobholders” put in 70 hours or more per week. But is this the path to success or the road to burnout?

Vacations, once a time for rest and rejuvenation, are dwindling. Many “extreme jobholders” take ten or fewer vacation days per year, canceling plans “regularly.” The long hours and limited time off are a choice, not an obligation, and many are driven by the pursuit of professional excellence.

In the quest to build empires and conquer Everest-sized dreams, we find ourselves teetering on the precipice of work-life balance. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, we must recognize that the equation of success cannot be reduced to mere hours on a timesheet. Success is about innovation, collaboration, and a dedication to both personal and professional growth.

Narayana Murthy’s call to arms may resonate with some, but it’s essential to remember that time alone does not measure the depth of our accomplishments. To build a brighter future, we must not only work hard but also work smart. Quality trumps quantity, and as the world evolves, so too must our understanding of what it takes to succeed.

In an era where the 70-hour workweek is not the only path to the summit, we must consider that life, like business, is a delicate balancing act. Let’s endeavor to build a world where success isn’t about giving up our lives for our work but rather harnessing our work to improve our lives. After all, what’s the point of climbing a mountain if you’re too tired to enjoy it at the top?


(The author is a compelling content writer who revels in writing at the intersection of technology and policy ecosystems, has the flair to project emerging technologies in an intelligible light for the benefit of the lay reader. He is currently engaged as a Senior Manager (Corporate Communications) with Bhubaneswar-headquartered IT consulting company CSM Technologies.)

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