The first time I had to go to work on a Sunday, I skipped lunch, fought with my mother for no particular reason, and made my boyfriend buy me a new watch. I was 23 and had just joined one of the leading dailies in the country. So, yes, I stepped into office with the widest grin (imagining to change the world with my haloed contribution to journalism), leaving all the tantrums outside the big iron gate. And, thus, began a journey where holidays and weekends were mere terms and day-offs meant sleeping till the sunset (because who parties on a Tuesday!).

There is much talk on work-life balance thrown in every organisation’s policy or every time the company leadership decides to address the employees. But how much of it is followed in reality? I haven’t come across any promising information on this, yet. In fact, I was even laughed at by a potential employer for mentioning the phrase during an interview. So the questions that need answering are how much work is too much and where do we draw the line? 

Learning on the job

Life in mainstream print media is different from 9-5 job profiles. Especially at the news desk, work hours are always in the graveyard shift. It took me a while to accept it, but I chose this career, and no one said it would be easy. However, the dynamics changed with time, and I started enjoying this new life. I learnt things that no journalism school would ever teach. I also learnt one more thing — if I don’t take out time away from work myself, no one will ever bother to offer me that space. Hence, after sacrificing my day-offs week after week, I learnt to make up for it in my own way. I decided my limits and ensured my time at work is compensated with enough time-offs. However, I never compromised on my work ethic and left no room for complaints. 

Slouching on the corporate couch 

When I decided to move to the corporate world, the start was great, with a very cushy profile. I literally learnt the meaning of work-life balance and enjoyed both work and life to the fullest. A job switch got me back to the all-work-and-no-play kind of a place. It was a set-up where working beyond one’s capacity was considered normal, and everyone was expected to stretch beyond their means. No one liked it, but no one said it. Pulling off all-nighters at this office was considered normal, where people sometimes didn’t go home for two to three days to meet deadlines. And, no prizes for guessing that those who wished to log off on time (of course, I was a part of this list) were never the preferred ones for the good projects.  

Setting your own limits

It is essential to know where to stop and say ‘no’. Of course, no one likes to deliver shoddy work and get done with it just to bag the salary; definitely not me. The idea is to set your own goals and expectations. If you know how much you are ready to stretch, it becomes much easier to plan and let your team and seniors be aware of your limits. Delivering perfection is non-negotiable, and one should always be prepared for bad days. You might have to stay over for those extra hours to meet deadlines and pitch in on day-offs, as well. But just ensure it doesn’t become the norm. 

Note to self

What you do during your time-off is no one’s business, and you don’t owe an explanation to anyone. I have spent way too much time trying to convince managers that I have important work to do and hence, need leaves. How I wish I had spent more time caring less about such explanations! In the long run, no one wins brownie points by being a part of the excessive-burnout bandwagon. 

Now that I am a mother and plan to get back to a regular work life soon, I am still trying to strike the right balance where both work and life (and my child) get equal priority. I love my work and can’t wait to get back to the office. But would I want to compromise on quality time with my child? A big NO. Knowing how difficult it is for mothers standing on this balance board, it gives me quite a bit of sleepless nights already!

About the author:
Torsha Banerjee
A freelance writer/editor with a decade of experience. A storyteller at heart, she is still learning to weave magic with words. When not chasing deadlines, she loves spending time with her daughter, reading, or hanging out with friends.