To most of the rest of the world, India has traditionally been viewed as a culturally diverse nation with ancient traditions and customs. When one thought of India, one thought of three things: Taj Mahal, Spirituality, and Religion.
Today, thanks to our expertise in “Information Technology” and a weak rupee, India is the world’s largest outsourcing destination for IT-related services. Along with national respect and laurels, IT has also brought a surging economy and millions of jobs. Our IT industry alone employs more than 10 million people and accounts for 52 percent of the $130 billion (U.S.) global market — not bad for a country where more than half of our population is younger than age 25.
IT is playing a big role in India’s transition to a developed nation with millions of IT workers acting as catalysts. Our IT force is one of our most valuable resources, and certainly worth handling with care.
But what do India’s IT workers do all day as they keep the economy moving? Do they really enjoy their work? How do they relax? What is the public’s perception of IT workers?
Besides glamorous and cool, IT workers are fairly well respected in India — probably because everyone knows (or at least thinks) we earn fat salaries. Unfortunately, the truth is a bit different. Most people view us as rather serious intellectuals who lead unexciting lives. A great many women (not working in IT, of course) think of us as boring, with little zest for life.
Non-IT people tend to have a skewed view of our typical work day. They view our daily schedule as follows:
- Reach the office between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m.
- Spend the first hour checking e-mails, while enjoying high-quality espresso
- Coding for the next 2-to-3 hours (with unlimited cigarette breaks, of course)
- Binging on free lunch (during which time we are allowed to abuse our supervisors)
- Attend a status meeting for the next hour (mostly boring and redundant)
- Back to the code (filled with impromptu conversations of who’s doing what fun and exciting things)
- Checking emails again before calling it a day
- Leaving for home in a company cab
The truth is that an IT worker’s day is not all excitement and adventure. It’s pretty much like any other type of work: long demanding hours doing repetitive tasks. Although a typical work day is 8-to-9 hours, we often feel pressured to stay longer in order to meet unrealistic deadlines. Many of us also work on the weekends. (I can see why women think we’re boring.) IT work is frequently pressure-packed as we race to meet deadlines, all while accomplishing more with less. (And the more we accomplish with less, the less they’ll give us next time around to accomplish more.)
So, how do we highly-trained IT professionals blow off steam? There are as many ways of relaxing as there are IT workers. Below are just a few of them.
Lazy couch syndrome: The most in-demand, and still the most popular, form of relaxation (hands down) is sitting on the couch and watching endless hours of television. Of course with a pizza lazily placed in front.
Exotic weekend holidays: It professionals love to spend our money traveling. If you have a job that requires more mental labor than physical, travel can be a necessity. Come Friday, IT workers are continuously looking at the clock, waiting for the day to end so that we can leave for our weekend holiday.
Booze takes the cake: Friday nights (every night for alcoholics) are all about gossiping concerning your boss and colleagues while throwing back a few with your mates. Remember to be careful, booze is powerful. Whether at home with your friends or at a club, the night is sure to run to havoc as emotions find their way out.
Going for a movie with family: Yes you heard it right, there are still some who opt for movies with their families (mom, dad, sisters and brothers). Wholesome family entertainment with loads of songs, popcorn and Pepsi. If the show and company are good, you can decompress and forget about your professional responsibilities for a few hours.
Party: House parties and nightclubs are quite popular too, but only the “cool” people are invited. The good news is that, since IT professionals make decent money, going to a nightclub is not a concern. The bad news is finding the right company to go with is.
Fixing the house: Sometimes, those who are married would rather stay at the office, because it’s more work for them at home. From paying off the bills or taking the wife out for shopping to driving the kids to grandmother’s house, it’s hectic. And when you think the ordeal is over, something or the other always pops up at the last moment. At least at work you’re getting paid.
Enhancing your IT skills: Some driven professionals use free time to further enhance their skills. These are the ones who want to climb the corporate ladder as rapidly as possible. For them, free time is all about coaching classes to propel their careers forward. Most of these types are held in high regard by colleagues, but we don’t invite them to many parties.
The Underlying Problem with the Indian IT Industry
The main problem with the Indian IT workforce is a simple “lack of relaxation.” According to a study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, more than 54 percent of our IT workforce suffers from depression, headache and obesity, chronic backache, spondylosis, diabetes and hypertension. Throw in male-pattern baldness and it makes you wonder why anyone wants to work in IT.
The bottom line is that most IT workers aren’t having a great time at work, and that can turn out to be a big problem in the future.
Part of the reason why so many IT workers aren’t happy with their jobs seems to lie with the people running IT companies. An old-school mindset persists that bosses have to control their employees rather than helping them flourish, or allow them to express their ideas. Additionally, questioning more senior employees or supervisors, even when they are in the wrong, is frowned upon. If you want to question authority, be ready to pay for it. Additionally, the frustration of not being rewarded for your talents, or being passed over for promotions can also lead to excessive stress.
The Way Forward
If anything, IT management could sometimes do with some younger people and new ideas. Some progressive companies are taking a cue from foreign organizations by having more frequent recreational activities, and allowing employees to take regular vacations. Seriously, there is nothing wrong with asking to use your vacation time — you’re not a prisoner applying for a parole.
Companies around the world are realizing the importance of helping employees relax. They understand that happy employees tend to be more productive, miss less days of work and have lower levels of job hopping. This is a lesson more Indian employers would do well to heed.
The bottom line is that IT workers are a valuable resource and we deserve a bit of fun occasionally and we sometimes have good ideas. Yes, Indian IT workers work for cheap bucks, as compared to workers in the West, but at the end of the day, all we really want is a balanced life and a bit of time to ourselves.
The good news is that change is coming, slowly but surely, as more companies understand the importance of a balance between work and personal time. Hopefully in a couple of years, stress will no longer play the spoilsport in an IT professional’s life. The only thing that we’ll need to worry about then is how to spend our big salaries.