As a disgruntled and disillusioned employee with 4 years of work experience, I write this article with a conflicted heart. Movies and inspirational stories will have you believe that all it takes for you to achieve that extra “0” at the end in the paltry figure that is your salary is an extra hour and a teeny bit of extra effort. While the employers will make you feel that every penny you earn is a favour that is being granted due to their generosity. And amidst all this, somewhere lies the elusive work-life balance that the HR department so readily keep harping on. Jeffery Bezos, the embodiment of all things wrong with the system has displayed his dislike with the term. He prefers the term work-life harmony. It sounds like a fairytale, this term. But thinking about it gives me the chills. For the likes of Bezos, both work and life indeed can be harmonious, with the world at his disposal he has everyone to do his bidding. But for us salaried employees, it simply means that we are at the constant disposal of our bosses, even when we are in the confines of our homes.
With a 9 to 5 work timing on paper and a minimum of 8 to 8 off it, every person in the corporate ladder is just as overburdened as their junior or senior. Thus, just passing on the stress and anger downwards in the hierarchy, ultimately having a cumulative effect at the level of the poor intern.
Meanwhile, the intern is expected to balance not just their personal life and work life but find time to study as well. As the memes make it abundantly obvious, the only thing they get in return for the work they do is “experience” or at most some meagre wages that are below even the minimum wages. However, the “experience” ends up being useless in case the intern switches fields. Or worse, god forbid, falters to perform well academically because of the stress caused by overworking in the first place.
This often then begins a spiral of an ungodly mix self-criticism and self-pity that is hellishly difficult to break out of. The lesser you work, the more you felt left out from your peers, while the more you slog, the lesser your sense of accomplishment in the field you choose to work in. The impact of every additional hour dwindles at an exponential rate, thereby fueling the cycle of anger and then the doubts of whether you are even in the correct field start popping up.
Ironically, meanwhile in current times more so, social media fuels a more frenzied “#wanderlust” thereby making oneself feel even more inadequate when comparing with peers or influencers. As social media becomes increasingly polarized about the necessity for the so-called hustle culture, the average millennial, like me, suffers an additional dysphoria from both these show-cased worlds, being too broke to “live the life they dream” at the same time too burnt out to “work till dawn”. And the corporates happily profit off even this, selling products in either blatant ads to buy better beds for more sleep in shorter duration of time or through indirect targeting by asking us to pay higher for every service used and paying the employee lesser for every service rendered.
Adding to my dilemma, as a commerce student, the economics of it make perfect sense. The more services people are willing to offer for lower prices, leading to a case of excess supply over demand, the wage rates are pushed further downward. On the other hand, if at an individual level, a person takes a stance of charging higher than the general rate for services performed, they lose out on a large market share thanks to the increasing competition due to the 24*7*365 availability of products and services.
In conclusion, I am yet left wondering, where does this spiral of thoughts really end? How many more lives are lost to suicides due to burnout, health related disorders and when is the equilibrium reached where cost of a human life matches the service that they provide to society. Even as I write this article my mind wanders off to work again, questioning if I am enough? If I am doing enough? And most importantly, is my colleague doing more than me, thus ensuring her place in the corporate ladder, while I “waste” my time contemplating issues that do not support my financial needs or the needs of a family dependent on me financially.