Work, Re‑cultured: A Start‑Up Employee Finds an Already‑Bad Work Culture Got Worse
In Work, Re-cultured, The Swaddle brings you a snapshot of what work-from-home culture looks like for Indian professionals across industries. In this installment, a 33-year-old senior employee at a travel start-up, T.
I’ve been working at this start-up for five years. To start with, the culture of start-ups is already pretty bad. Your time is taken for granted, you’re never given any time to just be. Even if you talk about having a life outside of work, that’s frowned upon. Even if I say I need my weekend, that’s not appreciated. If a person worked throughout the night, they’d want to brag about it. When I started there, the company had no fixed holidays. Most people didn’t like to take a leave. When I used to come back from leave, I felt like I needed to start building relationships from scratch; I was made to feel insecure about my work, like what I would work on when I returned was up in the air. Then we finally got an HR, a leave calendar. Now, with the pandemic, those were the first to go. Everything has gone to shit.
The work culture has gotten worse, now that everyone’s working from home. We have downsized. There is no talk of holidays. The first few times I saw a holiday coming up on the now defunct leave calendar, nobody would talk about it. My boss would schedule meetings on those particular days. I’ve been vocal about how certain things are not working, but then I’m seen as rebellious.
Everyone’s sitting at home and so we have no excuses. You need to justify wanting a day off — make excuses like somebody’s dying, there’s a catastrophe. In terms of the hours, there’s nothing in the contract about the hours you’re supposed to be working. In this company, they tell you when to come in, but when you can go, nobody knows.
My boss keeps messaging throughout the day, whenever a thought pops into his head, he sends you a message on WhatsApp. Now weekends are off, but when you bring up things on a Friday, he always says I’ll message you on the weekend.
I like to finish my work, but I also like to have a life. But now, I have to manage a team who is working from home. The young boys in my company like to sleep until late in the afternoon. Nobody answers my messages until 12/12:30. I have to work on their schedule. There is no real tracking. What they’ve done is they’ve cut our salaries and they’ve put 100 people on leave without pay. The work has gone down but they’re also trying to do new things.
Personally, I’m a disciplined person. I thought I would feel lonely working from home, but I quite enjoy it. The fact that I didn’t have to deal with office politics — it was much easier at home. I was able to follow the kind of schedule I’ve always dreamed of following — working out, making a fresh lunch, eating the messy things that you feel shy about eating in the office. And I smoke, so having my joint earlier in the evening once I finish work is another thing I’m able to enjoy. Also I can sleep a little late and wake up on time. Because it’s a start up, there aren’t a lot of processes in place any way. In the office, I could just walk up to a person and tell them ‘hey this is urgent.’ Here, work’s a little slower. Now I just make groups, and have had to figure out processes to better communication. The good part is nobody is constantly coming to you and badgering you for meetings. Now it’s better, but meetings always stretch out.
I think I like work-from-home, but I don’t like that it’s completely work-from-home. I would still like to be able to go to the office sometimes.
As told to Rajvi Desai.