Shantanu Deshpande, the founder-CEO of Bombay Shaving Company, posted an advice for freshers like me on LinkedIn: work 18 hours a day for at least 4-5 years, don’t do random rona-dhona. No, I don’t agree. If wanting to do well at work and have a peaceful life at home is “rona-dhona,” then this is a road we’re willing to walk on.
With the younger generation realising the importance of work-life balance, companies are under pressure to make it a part of their working culture. Perhaps this is what bothers the millennials. Their next generation is pushing for a life at home and at work without sacrificing progress in either, a luxury that wasn’t afforded to them.
Deshpande’s millennial generation viewed work as a grave necessity and, in some cases, derived pleasure from working long hours. The millennials gave rise to what we call ‘hustle culture’ today—there’s always another project to get, another job title to achieve, more money to make. And Deshpande acknowledges it: “The flex you build in the first 5 years of your career carries you for the rest of it.”
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The tragic millennial saga
This toxic mentality has found solace in households across India and has only recently started to fade. In the case of millennials, this mentality is understandable. Indian parents have long been obsessed with wanting successful careers for their children. In 2015, a report found that 51% wanted their children to have successful careers as opposed to 49% who wanted their kids to lead a happy life. Wanting their children to be healthy was an even lower concern for most.
The millennials grew up seeing their parents slog day in and day out, and learned to contribute to the household and also make enough for themselves.
To add to their woes, there was always a lack of jobs. Unemployment has always been a problem in India, with numbers reaching a four-decade high in 2019. And so, they worked knowing that if they weren’t committed to the job they had or ‘grateful’ for the money they made, there would be dozens eagerly waiting to grab their spot.
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Gen Zs, ungrateful?
For Gen Zs, the situation is different. One could equate buying into hustle culture to poor working conditions, where people are forced to work longer hours and regularly produce results to prove their worth. The only difference is that hustle culture enthusiasts are willing ‘bonded’ labourers. We have grown up with parents utterly devoted to the hustle culture, and neglect and illnesses run amok in such households.
Overwork is fatal. Studies have shown that people who work more than 54 hours a week are at a major risk of dying. A 2021 WHO study found that overwork killed 745,000 people. This culture is violent and all-consuming. A generation filled with knowledge workers, Gen Z doesn’t want to equate hours with results.
The romanticisation of work, although common, gives those who indulge in it a quick trip to burnout and depression. The performative element of overworking has slowly started to fade. Gen Z doesn’t look at exhaustion as a trophy that symbolises their love for work.
Another factor is that jobs today don’t pay enough—even as the world battles tremendous inflation. Unpaid internships and peanut-sized salaries for new entrants are pretty much a norm. If you want people to give their ‘all and then some’, pay them for their all and then some.
For most freshers, jobs are much more than a means of subsistence — they see a job as a route to independence. And having seen what overworking can do, they want work to supplement their life. A work-life balance comes from flexibility in working hours and locations, as well as time and ability to pursue personal interests without having to sacrifice professional growth.
For both millennials and Gen Z, it shouldn’t have ever been a ‘this or that’ situation, it should’ve been a ‘this and that’ situation. If “rona-dhona” gives me the peace of mind I need, maybe, that’s what our bosses should consider for themselves too.
(Edited by Prashant)