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Changes In Indian Work Culture Over The Years

We are becoming the men we wanted to marry.
- Gloria Steinem

This was a quote that came before its time in the 1970s from Steinem who was a leading voice in the feminist movement. The average workplace has seen a few changes since then. But today, after four decades, if the quote were to come true, the men in our workforce would have to take a 22.5% pay cut. As Geena Davis cheekily mentioned during the Golden Globe awards this year, “And the men, yeah, these five nominees have agreed to give half of their salary back, so the women can make more than them!”

Speeches like this have started showing that ‘work’ and ‘culture’ aren’t two independent words but rather one that is woven into a single fabric. Slowly, but steadily, the work culture around the world is changing. And the change is showing in India too.

Work Culture

Gone are the days when being an engineer or doctor was considered the be all and end all of life. Conventional careers are passé, and fixed working hours are history! Indian work culture is slowly graduating to be more flexible and employee friendly. Here’s what’s changed in Indian work culture (and some things that haven’t changed much) over the years, especially in metro cities.

1. Introducing The ‘Getting the job done’ Culture

During the 70s in India, getting a Government job ensured that you got the choicest wedding proposals. If not that, then you at least needed a medical or engineering degree to be considered eligible. Jobs back were typically ‘9-5’, including an hour-long break for lunch and a few minutes for tea!

Eventually, with the arrival of private firms and ‘MNC’s, there was a cultural shift, where people who put in extended hours were considered to be ‘dedicated’. Although this culture is still around, the shift is happening again - this time towards ‘Getting the job done’ where quality matters, and not the hours of work put in. The emphasis is on productivity, rather than sitting late at work and not achieving much. Managers have observed that once you give a degree of flexibility, the employee has an opportunity to take ownership and responsibility, which also gives them a sense of fulfilment.

2. A Culture Where ‘Women Can’t Have It All’

Women in India, and everywhere else face a common set of adversaries. They are supposed to be these super jugglers who can cook, clean, tend to a family and work as competently as their male counterparts – all for a lesser than equal pay. While the CEO of Pepsi Co. Indira Nooyi said that ‘Women can’t have it all’, Sheryl Sandberg, the CEO of Facebook and a leading voice for gender equality questions how successful men never get asked if they can have it all. Despite the increasing emphasis on helping female employees achieve a better work-life balance, most companies still aren’t empathetic enough to consider the challenges a working woman faces post marriage and kids.

3. A Culture Leaning On A Remote Workforce

A few years ago, the thought of having a remote workforce was unheard of. This was because technology hadn’t evolved to the extent it has today. An average city worker spends 3 hours in tiring commute – time that can be given to increase their productivity and output. With internet and wifi, most people can stay connected with work virtually and attend meetings once in a while. From customer support to writing to digital marketing to programming and even sales and marketing consultation can be done remotely.

4. Increasing Stress At Workplace

While we mentioned ownership and responsibility earlier, we left out one piece of information – the pressure that comes along with the job. Data shows that an overwhelming 46% of the workforce in firms in India suffer from one or another form of stress. Hidden and buried under work targets, office politics, relationships with colleagues and unpredictability is killer stress that seems to snatch away lives of people in their 30s and 40s. There aren’t as many workplaces that implement a value-based employee recognition program that promotes their overall well-being.

5. Going Above And Beyond Work

Many employers are beginning to realise the stress caused at work and are trying to compensate for it by creating a more conducive work culture. Many offer perks like free transport, free or subsidised food, offer to support charitable causes of your choice. Some offer travel opportunities, team dinners, picnics, theme parties and retreats to exotic locales. Others invest in skill building for their employees with a mutually-beneficial understanding.

6. The Rise Of The Planet Of The Talented – Rewards And Recognition

Rewards at the workplace are not just limited to a hike in salary every year. Talented employees want a way to stay connected with their work and appreciation for the hard work they put in. Even things like spot award badges work great in keeping the team motivated.

Research into the latest HR trends reveals that 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least twice a week. If constructive input and recognition work in a continuous loop, there is a higher chance that work issues are addressed before they become a problem.

7. Awareness Of ‘Work-life Balance’

According to the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index 2016, all Indian metros have a less than 20% people index. This means that factors like affordability, gender equality, income equality, health, education, crime reduction and work-life balance are all in bad shape. Stressful jobs, hard commute and over-connectivity play a huge role in causing this index to tip over. Today, it is true that both employees and employers are aware of ‘work-life balance’ and companies that mention this as a part of their style of work have a higher chance of retaining talent.

India’s work culture is far from perfect. We need to proactively recognise and reward in-house talent to stop the brain drain to developing countries.

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