Amazon India’s New Mantra: ‘Log Off, Get a Life’

Amit Agarwal, Amazon

The Senior Vice President of Amazon India, Amit Agarwal has proposed a new mantra for the employees, “Log Off, Get a Life”, to maintain proper work-life balance. He suggested his colleagues through an email to stop attending work-calls and responding to work-related emails from 6 pm to 8 am. Although the company representatives preferred to keep mum about this email, it has been confirmed by some news agencies creating a stir in the online communities including Facebook and Whatsapp groups.

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According to reports, Mr Agarwal also talked about the importance of discipline at work and how to draw the line to maintain a healthy balance between personal and professional life. He is in fact in line with company founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who also talked about this issue earlier. Bezos said that it is not important how many hours you invest in your profession, but what is important is the energy that stays with you when you shift to your personal life.

This memo by the Indian manager of the e-commerce major sheds light once again on the glaring work life misbalance in the IT industry and start-ups in the country. Most of the employees in a software firm or a start-up company slog for about 60 hours at their workplaces and attend business calls and work emails when at home. All the metropolitan cities in the country fair noticeably poor when ranked according to the work-life harmony, as revealed by a survey conducted by the Amsterdam based Arcadis. Hamburg topped the survey with an average annual working time of 1473 hours, while India is in a stark contrast with its citizens toiling away more than 2195 hours every year.

In India, work-life extends much beyond the standard 9 to 5 on weekdays. In fact, weekends hardly offer any relief for the workers who have to frequently attend duty calls on Saturday mornings or at least work until late hours on Fridays. Some offices demand their employees work on vacations as well. So work-life balance is a considerably newer term in the professional life of Indians, who owing to their multinational workplaces are quite used to working off hours. However, they do succumb to the pressure and stiff competition, which more often results in a termination notice or a replacement.

The Seattle based Amazon also had quite a reputation for having a demanding work culture and making employees work until exhaustion. So, this new mantra proposed by the Sr. Vice President of the Indian arm has led to the speculation whether this indicates a relaxed approach of the company towards its workers in the future. Amazon is hopeful of a prospective growth in a highly populated country like India and has already invested $5.5 billion. Incidentally, Amit Agarwal has previously worked as an executive assistant to the CEO Jeff Bezos, who is well known as a tough boss.

Work life balance is especially poor in Bengaluru, one of the busiest cities of India and the IT hub of the country. Not only the IT companies, which have their staffs working late night for their outsourcing business but also startups have a similar work culture. With late night conferences and weekend work pressure, the employees hardly get their personal time.

The difficult work schedule has taken its toll on the health of a large number of young working Indians as pointed out by numerous psychologists, sleep laboratories and fertility clinics. According to the well-known psychiatrist Dr Kalyanasundaram, insomnia and suicidal tendencies have risen among the younger generation who struggles to maintain their personal and professional lives. His South Bengaluru clinic is being often visited by well placed young professionals suffering from various ailments including cardiac problems. He also added that young people suffering heart attacks were not so common in the earlier decades. All of the appointments for the techies are on Saturdays that are always pre-booked, sometimes months before. The doctor thinks that this unhealthy stress is like a ticking time bomb which can explode at any time.

Not only Bengaluru, start ups in the country capital, Delhi, also experiences an exhausting work pressure. For example, OYO founder Ritesh Agarwal has confided that he gets almost no sleep on the working days. He makes up for the lost sleep by going to bed early on Saturdays and waking up late on Sundays.

Byju Raveendran from Bengaluru, founder of educational app BYJU’s said that he also works until late along with his teammates and often indulges in football games and other recreational activities after midnight. Food delivery business and sports arenas in the city thrive because of such late-night workers.

The founder of the e-commerce data analytics app SellerApp, Dilip Vamanan also works for at least 14 hours in his office and attends work calls and emails when at home. He also mentioned that many of his colleagues suffer from lifestyle-diseases like stress, insomnia and backaches.

A major global organisation like Amazon has started a welcome idea, which may seem effective but will be difficult to implement. As mentioned by Vamanan, Indian startup founders have to sit back and let the auto mode take over, something which they may not be yet ready for. However, one can hope that this newest mantra from Amazon India will soon be followed by others leading to healthy work-life balance for the young Indian professionals.