70 Hour Week: ‘Far Too Ambitious’

Doctors warn that overwork is leading to lifestyle diseases like diabetes and spondylitis.

Youth should learn to balance hard work with a healthy diet, proper sleep and timely exercise, doctors said while cautioning that overwork is leading to early onset of lifestyle diseases.

Some medical experts also said that a 70-hour-week regimen would be “far too ambitious,” and urged team leaders at workplaces to divide work in an optimised manner among team members and “not try to extract too much work from an individual”, which often leads to physical or psychological burnout among employees.

Their comments come in the wake of Infosys co-founder N R Narayana Murthy suggesting that young people should work 70 hours a week to boost the country’s productivity.

Murthy’s remarks were criticised on social media for allegedly promoting an ‘overwork culture’ by some, and praised by several others.

Doctors in Delhi warned that overwork was leading to early onset of lifestyle diseases like diabetes and cervical or spondylitis.

Smoking, drinking and consumption of junk food at work or home is also adversely affecting their health, and compounding their health issues, they said.

Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant, internal medicine at Apollo hospital in Delhi, said, “Hard work doesn’t mean you neglect or compromise your health. Hard work is fine, but a person should take care of one’s health too while following their ambition.”

“So, it has to be balanced with healthy diet, healthy lifestyle, proper sleep and timely exercise,” he told PTI.

The 70-hour-week regimen would be “far too ambitious, I feel, and 60 hours per week with a balanced and optimised lifestyle” should be the way forward,” the doctor said.

“Many people work hard and then resort to eating junk food or smoking at regular intervals, of course, having this myth that it is helping them de-stress, but it’s not, it’s only making their health even worse,” Dr Chatterjee said.

Some resort to regular drinking and frequent parties, driven at times by the idea that ‘I can afford, so I will do it’. This attitude has to change, if a person has to grow professionally without compromising one’s health, he cautioned.

Doctors at other government and private hospitals also warned about consumption of junk food, at times for “snob value” at workplace, which in turn leads to a “wrong ripple effect”.

Recreation is important, but it should be done after putting in hard work on working days, for both personal and professional growth in any organisation, the medical experts underlined.

A senior doctor at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said the OPD of internal medicine there is seeing a “paradigm shift” in the nature of patients visiting it.

“We are seeing now more younger people than the elderly population who are coming to us with early onset of lifestyle diseases like diabetes,” the doctor said.

“They are glued to their computer screens or mobile phones all the time, so they complain of pain in eyes, neck pain, back ache and many other issues,” the doctor added.

Consumption of junk food, lack of proper sleep, negligible or no exercise, coupled with the sedentary lifestyle at work, is making matters worse, he added.

The senior doctor advised to balance ambition with healthy diet and lifestyle, and not give in to any pressure from peers or otherwise.

There have been many cases of physical or mental burnout and overwork is a major cause for that, he added.

Ambition is good for work, good for country, and a person can work for even 10 hours or so per day “while ensuring health is not compromised,” Dr Chatterjee said.

In a conversation with former Infosys CFO Mohandas Pai in the inaugural episode of 3one4 Capital’s podcast The Record, Murthy had said that youngsters should put extra hours at work to compete with leading economies.

‘India’s work productivity is one of the lowest in the world. Unless we improve our work productivity…we will not be able to compete with those countries that have made tremendous progress,” he said, comparing India with China, Japan and Germany,’ Murthy said.

‘So therefore, my request is that our youngsters must say, ‘This is my country. I’d like to work 70 hours a week,’ he added.

Murthy’s remarks have drawn mixed reactions on social media.

Comedian and actor Vir Das wrote on X, ‘Life’s hard. You meet a girl, fall in love, get married. Her dad wants you to work 70 hours a week. You can’t work that hard, you just wanna chill and run England’, a reference to Murthy’s daughter Akshata Murty who is married to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Another user on X said ‘overwork’ gave him stress and health complications.

Bhavish Aggarwal, CEO, Ola Cabs, also posted, saying, ‘Totally agree with Mr Murthy’s views. It’s not our moment to work less and entertain ourselves. Rather it’s our moment to go all in and build in one generation what other countries have built over many generations!’


Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com

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