The 70-Hour Work Week Debate: A Closer Look

Recently, Narayan Murthy, co-founder of Infosys, sparked a significant debate when he suggested a 70-hour work week. While his comments were made in good faith, the media’s reporting led to a widespread misunderstanding and subsequent debate. 

The question of how many hours an employee should work each week is complex and doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. There are two ways to approach this: the idealistic approach and the realistic approach. 

The Idealistic Approach 

The idealistic approach revolves around the concept of ‘flow’, introduced by Michael Csikszentmihalyi. Flow is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it. 

In an ideal world, if a company can create the right environment with clear objectives and provide necessary support for success, employees will work in flow. In such a scenario, the number of hours spent working becomes irrelevant as employees may even exceed 70 hours per week.  

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” Csikszentmihalyi 

The Realistic Approach 

In reality, each employee has different intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, making it extremely difficult to create an environment that fosters flow all year round. At any given time, there are 20% of employees who are highly motivated and determined to advance, 70% who want to go with the majority, and around 10% who resist change. For these reasons, it’s not feasible to expect all employees to consistently work more than 70 hours per week. 

Leaking Productivity 

Instead of focusing on the number of hours worked, let’s shift our attention to improving productivity. In this post I am sharing where productivity often leaks: you need to think about it and take corrective actions to improve productivity.   

1. Lack of Clarity: The absence of clear goals and objectives is a major productivity killer in the workplace. Without a sense of direction or focus, employees are left floundering, leading to a chaotic and confusing environment riddled with inefficiencies. The lack of momentum and resilience can stifle self-improvement and mastery, leaving employees feeling directionless and unproductive. 

2. Inefficient Meetings: Meetings, often seen as the biggest time guzzlers, can be a significant drain on productivity. Depending on your rank, you may find yourself trapped in meetings for anywhere from 8 to 20 hours a week. Many of these meetings are directionless, lacking a clear agenda, proper scrutiny of participants, a timekeeper, or an agenda keeper. The worst-case scenario is when meeting minutes are not properly captured, leading to further confusion and inefficiency. 

3. Underutilized Technology: Despite the pivotal role technology plays in enhancing productivity today, many small and medium enterprises are failing to leverage it effectively. Adoption is slow and many routine tasks that could be automated are still being done manually. This underutilization of technology is a missed opportunity for better decision-making and efficiency. The time that could have been saved by using tech platforms effectively is instead wasted, stifling innovation and execution 


The 70-hour work week is not a realistic or idealistic solution for most employees and workplaces. It may lead to burnout, stress, and reduced quality of work. 

Productivity is not measured by the number of hours worked, but by the outcomes achieved. Therefore, we should focus on how to optimize our work processes and environment to achieve more with less time and effort. 

There are three key areas where we can improve our productivity: clarity, meetings, and technology. By having clear goals and objectives, we can align our actions and behaviours with our desired results. By having efficient meetings, we can save time and energy for more important tasks. By leveraging technology, we can automate, eliminate, or enhance our work activities and decisions. 

About the Author 

Dr. Parthiban Vijayaraghavan is an expert in solving an organization's complex problems through accurate diagnosis, designing, innovation, agility, and execution excellence. He is also expertise in Decision Making Process, Leadership Communication, OD, Learning Strategies, and implementation, He is a Certified OB/OD Professional.

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