I jokingly tell everybody, the husband and I have been semi-retired for the past six months. No, we don’t have a millionaire godfather looking out for us, both of us work, but the pressure at work is so light in comparison to what we’ve been used to so far, that it could be almost non-existent really.
Our workplace has a forty-hour week, which is rarely, if ever, stretched to forty two or forty three hours. Anything beyond that, and you have the COO sending out appreciation mails to the entire department and apologetically asking you to treat your family to a nice dinner on the company’s expense account the next day.
A funny incident happened during my first week here. In the software industry, we are usually asked to provide our own work estimates when we are assigned a new piece of work and the estimates are later reviewed by the manager. This helps to schedule the work and assign a delivery date to the client. The first time I did this exercise here, I bumped up my estimates slightly, assuming from my earlier experience that my manager would be downsizing them during the review.
Imagine my surprise when he bumped them up some more, explaining, ‘We need to allow for some buffer time too, you know!’ When an unexpected issue occurs in the course of their work, instead of working inhuman hours to meet the stipulated deadline, folks here speak to their manager who in turn speaks to the client and if the problem is genuine, adjustments are made all around.
Compare this to my former workplace in India, where late night and early morning calls, workdays that frequently spilled over into the night and working weekends were the norm and an obvious expectation from each employee. The company, on it’s part, very thoughtfully provided shuttle services throughout the night and on weekends. Anything to make the client happy!
So to say our work life is not very hectic these days might seem like a major understatement. Plus we live just a short ten minute drive from the office, so our commute is hardly worth talking about. On a typical workday evening, I get time to catch up on some reading, watch a couple of my favorite serials, spend an hour in the gym, write a blog post, have a long phone chat with a friend, take my own sweet time cooking up a complicated Sanjeev Kapoor recipe followed by a long leisurely dinner and some ‘quality’ time squabbling or romancing with the husband, depending on our mood for the day!
We take long walks by the Hudson river behind our house, share a hot cup of coffee in the balcony as we admire a spectacular sunset over the river and star-gaze and chat late into the night. On weekends we take long road trips, or go cycling, kayaking, para-sailing or apple-picking.
Wouldn’t all this sound unbelievable to a poor hassled soul, back home after a grueling ten-hour workday and hour-long sweaty commute from VT to Thane? I would know, this was my life just a while ago. The life I lead right now seems straight out of a dream to me.
Let me clarify something. I don’t think such a lifestyle is typical to the US. The first three months we were here, we worked in NYC where the work culture was even more competitive than in India. My current workplace might be some kind of an anomaly in this respect. We are located in a small rural town and our company used to be family-owned before it was taken over by a large multinational company last year. Probably the old small-town and family-owned company culture still persists, giving us the charming laid-back lifestyle that I so enjoy.
Our mornings start with a meeting which the boss starts with a chirpy, ‘What a beautiful day!’ every day. Yes, every day, unless there’s a thunderstorm or a pile of snow outside when he adds, ‘In Mexico!’ Our half-hour meetings have just about ten minutes of serious talk, the rest of the time we laugh, joke, rant and generally work up a wonderful frame of mind to go attack our workload for the day. In the summer we have lunch on the lawns outside, followed by a short walk to the airfield just behind the office to watch planes take off or land right in front of us!
I was never a very ambitious person, give me some interesting and challenging work to engage my mind and I’m more than happy for the day. Challenging does not translate into punishing or exhausting in my book and a hundred grand salary in NYC does not sound attractive to me when coupled with the three-hour commute it entails. Our current lifestyle suits me perfectly that way, thank you very much.
The husband is a different matter altogether. He is much more ambitious than me and is afraid he’ll stagnate and lose his competitive edge in such a laid-back atmosphere. These days, he is busy preparing his MBA applications while I go chase butterflies and smell the flowers on my own for a change!
What about you, dear readers? Are you more like the husband or like me?