The 9 to 5 job: What will you do to get it back?

In the good old days, kids would look at their stressed-out dads running the family business and think, 'I don't want to spend my entire adult life spending late hours in the office like dad. It's ok if I don't make as much money as he does, but at least I'd have a stress-free life outside work. Family business is out...corporate world, here I come.' And then the fun started.

Corporate life is no longer the 9-to-5 affair it was assumed to be. Well, the '9' still stands there unflinchingly, but the '5' has metamorphosised into a rather flexible range extending from 5 pm to 5 am. And we aren't talking about those one-off situations where a deadline or an important event is approaching and only a few key members are staying back to fight the fire. Instead, we're looking at a full-blown forest fire that has been raging on forever with no signs of subsiding.

 The 9 to 5 job: What will you do to get it back?

We're looking at a full-blown forest fire that has been raging on forever with no signs of subsiding. Reuters

Companies don't seem to mind this trend. In fact, some even encourage it. Often there are incentives thrown in for those going the extra distance. Perhaps the equation in the minds of the company management is: more hours = more output.

Ironically, though most employees may not share those sentiments, they are staying back anyway.

In the early years of my career, when I was a software professional working in SEEPZ (a Special Economic Zone in Mumbai), after 6 pm some would start playing music in their cubicles, a mini celebration of sorts for having crossed the formal working hours and moving into party zone. The real transformation would happen after 7 pm when the freebies kicked in. It wasn't uncommon to see a whole bunch of guys from many IT companies housed in the area descending on the restaurant within the campus with a vengeance.

Compared to the morose expressions on faces in the morning as they entered their offices, they looked fresher and happier in the evenings. Thanks to the company-sponsored food, or the reimbursement for transport, perhaps, a large number of professionals would be seen lurking on the campus. These hardworking professionals seemed to have realised that the soul-stirring item numbers blaring on FM channels could be appreciated much better in the privacy of a (company sponsored) cab as opposed to crowded and noisy buses and trains bursting at their seams during peak hours.

For many years, I thought this was typical of the IT industry, till I realised that the culture of sitting back late extends to other industries as well. And it isn't just about fun-n-frolic or freebies. There are other serious reasons as well. For many, there's just too much work dumped on their little shoulders. For others, it is the company culture. Leaving the office before the boss does is akin to blasphemy. Those who leave on time are sissies who can't deal with the tough requirements of the job. They are not serious about their jobs and don't deserve the promotion.

From friends and acquaintances who work in diverse jobs, I continue to hear macho stories of long working hours and also all-nighters. The only gutsy character I know of who's fighting real hard against this trend of working late nights is our building watchman, who believes nothing should come between a man and his sleep... including work.

Does your company have a culture of sitting back late? What do you think the reasons are? What have you personally done to get your life back?

Sameer Kamat is the author of 'Beyond The MBA Hype' and the founder of You can connect with him on Twitter @kamatsameer

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Updated Date: Dec 21, 2014 04:46:15 IST