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Bengaluru employees come out in support of Private member’s bill on working hours

Bengaluru employees come out in support of Private member’s bill on working hours
Tight working schedule sap the energy out of employees

BENGALURU: Just 25 years old, Ajith (name changed), shows all signs of burnout with just three years of work experience and is thinking of taking a break for a year knowing fully well that it might empty out his meagre savings. “I need to take a break. It’s been a while since I had a full night’s sleep or took a holiday,” Ajith said. Employed in a sales and marketing job with a multi-national company, Ajith says he had been warned on his first day about long working hours but he took it in stride thinking it was nothing that could not be handled. “I’m out on the field by 7 am for a team meeting and technically finish work by 6pm. But I’m expected to answer calls and e-mails through the evening. Then the preparation for the next day starts,” he said.

The recent move by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Member of Parliament (MP) Supriya Sule to introduce the Right to Disconnect bill as a private member’s bill has caught the interest of thousands of employees in the city who are hoping that the piece of legislation would see the light of day.

If the bill is enacted into law, employees say that they will finally get a chance to leave their work behind and focus on some rest and recuperation once they exit the office. Several employees City Express spoke to discussed working hours which sap the energy out of them and leave only a few hours for sleeping in between office work.

In addition to giving employees the right to refuse work calls, the bill also makes it mandatory for companies with more than 10 employees to list out specifics with employees about work hours and also to set up digital detox centers. “E-mails on phones have made it impossible to stay away from work. WhatsApp groups have done the same. There are e-mail trackers and message seen alerts which basically do not let you lie about not having seen the messages. The other option is to put your foot down and say you will not work which earns you the tag of a ‘troublemaker’, a sure way to ensure an early exit,” said an advertising professional who did not want to be named.

The constant connectivity to the workplace has also resulted in a syndrome where checking your phone for work messages comes naturally. “I have sent work e-mails on holiday, from beaches, hill stations and even remote villages where you have to walk a distance to get internet connectivity. It just comes naturally to me now,” said Ashish, who works for a financial analysis company.

According to psychiatrists, the bill is definitely a welcome one with certain conditions. “I know of examples of people in the private sector who have been given unearthly working hours. It is a good idea on the whole that the option of doing overtime should be vested in the employee,” said Dr Ajith V Bhide, President, Indian Psychiatric Society.

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