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Posts Tagged ‘Work Life Balance’

Vacations

Not to be neglected. Do not give in to the temptation of believing that the whole organization would collapse in your absence. Plan for the same in advance and delegate while keeping your boss updated. You would be surprised to find that your team turned in a better performance while you were away to the Bahamas.

Companies like Daimler which facilitate a real ‘off’ from office would win in the long run. Incoming mails get deleted from your inbox and get diverted to someone else.

Before going off on vacation, an auto-reply mail along the following lines may come in handy:

‘Hi, I am on the Mars these days, missing Wi-Fi or cell signal, shall get in touch once I am back!’

The absence of a good manager is never felt, because his team is trained up so very well!

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, the English version of which was released recently. The Portuguese version of the excerpt follows.)

FÉRIAS

Não devem ser negligenciadas. Não ceda à tentação de acreditar que toda a organização entrará em colapso na sua ausência. Planeie as férias com antecedência e delegue as tarefas, mantendo o seu chefe informado. É capaz de ficar surpreendido ao constatar que a sua equipa teve um desempenho
melhor quando você estava ausente nas Bahamas.

Empresas como a Daimler, que facilitam um verdadeiro ‘desligar’ do escritório, ficam a ganhar no longo prazo. Os e-mails recebidos são apagados da sua caixa de entrada e reencaminhados para outro colega.

Antes de ir para férias, convirá redigir um e-mail de resposta automática, mais ou menos deste tipo:

“Olá, atualmente estou em Marte, sem Wi-Fi, nem rede detelemóvel. Entrarei em contacto consigo quando regressar!”

A ausência de um bom executivo nunca é sentida porque a sua equipa está muito bem treinada!

(This is how you can lay your hands on the Portuguese version of the book, launched in Portugal during March, 2016.)

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WORK-LIFE BALANCECXOs of today operate in a hyper-competitive, fast-paced world. Round the clock connectivity gives them a great advantage – of being always accessible. However, it also takes a heavy toll. Making time for personal commitments poses a serious challenge; so does the absence of introspection as to where their own life and career is headed.

Here are some simple and do-able tips for CXOs to keep driving in the fast lane, with a clear view of the horizon and occasional stopovers in the sunlit valleys of life. In other words, to achieve the delicate goal of better work-life harmony.

Family time IS important

If you happen to be in station, earmark a time of the day which is exclusively for the family. Could be breakfast time. Could be dinner time. Make sure your international calls and Skype conferences are scheduled in such a way as to not to impinge on to this time.

Treat your weekly off days with the respect they deserve. Do not allow yourself the luxury of driving over to your office on such days.

Avoid sweating over small stuff

Small stuff is important. But you do have team members who take care of the minute details. Guide them, by all means. Do not get directly involved. You would only get blamed for micro-managing.

Prioritize well. Prioritize in advance. Follow Bhagavad Gita, which exhorts us to render our duties faithfully, guided not by desired results but by imperatives of the tasks themselves.

Check if you suffer from a decision fatigue. Put routine decision-making in an auto-pilot mode. This is bound to free up lot of your time which could be used more productively.

Managing technology

Let your biological age not bog you down. Learn and use technology in such a manner as to ensure some breathing space for yourself. That is when you will feel connected to terrestrial life outside your extra-terrestrial universe of work.

Technology can enable you to be virtually present at different places in different time zones. It can also enable you to be connected to anything critical happening which you genuinely feel might need your intervention. Use technology to delegate better and more effectively.

Schedule your priorities

Time is a finite resource. Use it intelligently. Engage when necessary; take a break when required. Meaningful interactions with family and close friends could leave you well charged up for the tasks ahead. Productive discussions with clients and professionals can help in resolving issues more effectively.

Excellence needs the fuel of passion. When passion drives your professional journey, constraints become less formidable. Tasks cease to become chores. Wise scheduling of your priorities results into excellence.

From IQ and EQ, on to SQ

Give your overworked brain some rest. Try using your heart to decide upon an issue. You will notice that improving your Spiritual Quotient would improve your performance. Small doses of gratitude and compassion help. Being aware of yourself and being conscious of what is happening within you helps. Humility helps. Developing equanimity helps.

Happiness and contentment within is great to have. You end up radiating it to those around you. Harmony in the work atmosphere improves. Output of the whole group improves.

You might find that IQ, EQ and SQ are like the spokes in the wheel of life, of which career is but one component. If all are equally developed, the wheel does not wobble – it runs smoothly.

A non sequitur?!

Before I sign off, allow me the liberty to pose a question. By hyphenating ‘work’ and ‘life’, are we not demeaning life? While chugging through our careers, we could honestly believe that work is much greater than life. In fact, it is merely a part of life. A subset, which needs to be in harmony with all other aspects of the multi-hued experience we call life. Perhaps, it is time to correct our perspective.

My proposal is this. Next time round, do not think about work-life harmony. Think only about achieving a state of harmony between the work-sphere of your life and the other spheres of your life – family, friends, hobbies, and the like.

When the conductor of an opera gets on to the stage to produce music that touches our souls, what he strives for is excellence, based on harmony. A discordant note from a single cello could ruin the performance. Likewise, all CXOs strive to get desired results, based on a harmony – between different managerial functions, between the organization and its various stakeholders and, above all, between the different constituents of their own lives.

So, how do you achieve this state of harmony? Would you like to share some insights?

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Having settled back in the shadow of the Alps yet again, I am filled with a sense of exhilaration and awe. The heat of India has got replaced by the chill of melting snow. TheSwiss Zermatt dust has given way to fresh air which is invigorating. In the cobbled streets, litter is missing. The greenery and the snow-capped mountains are a relief for the eyes. The ears are just about getting used to the soothing silence which has replaced the relentless honking on Indian roads. Courtesy in public spaces is once again leaving me dumbstruck.

But the stark contrasts do not end at the physical level. There are differences in the mental make up. The value systems which govern our behavior appear to be differently configured. The forces of nature and nurture which have shaped our personalities are quite different.

East and West can both learn quite a few things from each other.

What Indians can learn from the West

  • Respecting the Public Good

In the West, we find better respect for the public good. For instance, public spaces are cleaner and drivers on roads are courteous. On the contrary, in India, we keep our houses values cartoon corruptionclean and water our gardens everyday – but, when we go to the beach front, we litter the place with gay abandon.

In an office setting, a friendly colleague could get chastised for being careless on a project. In India, a criticism would either not be made – so it may not hurt the feelings of a friend – or taken personally by the recipient.

Corruption is another manifestation of the same lack of concern for the common good. Society is relatively corruption free in the West. In India, corruption, tax evasion, cheating and bribery have become a part of daily routine.

Apathy towards solving problems which affect the ordinary citizen is another dimension. In the West, people form groups to solve common problems in a proactive manner. In India, we see serious problems around us but do not try to solve them. We either believe that the problems do not impact us directly, or it is for someone else to resolve the issues.

  • Openness to Learning

If we have to progress, we have to change this attitude, listen to people who have performed better than us, learn from them and perform better than them. In India, we appear to have perfected the art of rationalizing our failures and explaining them off by misquoting our scriptures. We are good at finding excuses to justify our incompetence, corruption, and apathy. This attitude will not do.

  • Accountability based on the RoleAccessibility

Another interesting attribute that we Indians need to learn from the West is that of accountability. Irrespective of your position, in the West, you are held accountable for what you do. However, in India, the more ‘important’ you are, the less answerable you are.

Organizations whose top honchos indulge in illicit relations with their team members need to be pulled up and acted against as firmly as a junior cashier who siphons off money from the till.

  • Dignity of Labor

Dignity of labor is an integral part of the Western value system. In the West, each person is proud about his or her labor that raises honest sweat. On the other hand, in India, we have a mindset that respects only supposedly intellectual work.

A peon deserves as much respect as a Head of the Department. CEOs whose fragile egos are shaken by someone else parking his/her car in the normal slot needs to do some introspection.

  • Discriminating between Intimacy and Friendliness

Indians tend to become intimate even without being friendly. They ask favors of strangers without any hesitation. Rudyard Kipling once said: A westerner can be friendly without being intimate while an easterner tends to be intimate without being friendly.

Those who have worked as expatriates in another cultural setting would readily attest to this.

  • A Professional ApproachWORK-LIFE BALANCE

In India, more than 70% of the time of senior managers is spent on follow-ups; just ensuring that what is committed is indeed delivered. Delays are easily explained, and so are cost over-runs. Keeping a person unduly waiting is a sure sign of seniority in an Indian organization.

Here is yet another lesson to be learnt from the West – that of professionalism in dealings. Managements in the West ensure better work-life balance for their employees.

What the West can learn from India

  • Loyalty towards FamilyZOMBIES

Indians are part of a culture which has deep-rooted family values. We have tremendous loyalty to the family. For instance, parents make enormous sacrifices for their children. They support them until they can stand on their own feet. On the other side, children consider it their duty to take care of aged parents.

In organizations, we often find executives who are competent as well as extremely loyal. Also, respect for seniors is deeply ingrained in the system. There are times when juniors find it tough to take independent decisions. Very few are adept at registering a dissent with their seniors. Successful organizations have a culture which is designed to overcome such handicaps.

  • Family: A Critical Support Mechanism

One of the key strengths of Indian values is the presence of so much love and affection in the family life. In India, families act as a critical support mechanism for employees. Thus, resilience is better.

In the West, it is common to have break-ups when the career prospects of a manager nosedive. This adds to the stress experienced by a manager. Mental disorders present a much greater challenge. Predominantly, life has a materialistic approach, leading to a vacuum within.

  • Managing Chaos

Indians have improved upon the art of managing chaos and disorder. Even in high entropy situations, Indians tend to keep their nerve. Perhaps, this leads to better levels of perseverance as well.

Successful management of a human congregation like the Kumbh Mela is but one example of this trait.

  • Facing Adversity with EquanimityFeatured Image -- 1211

Upbringing steeped in religion and spirituality enables an average Indian to face adversity and failures with equanimity.

Learning from Different Value Systems

Values are like mountains. They have survived for centuries and shall continue to do so much after we have kicked the bucket. Universal common denominator is that of, say, love and affection. Over and above that, value systems differ across continents and cultures. When it comes to values, every culture has its own Unique Selling Proposition.

In this age of globalization and connectivity, mingling of diverse cultures is bound to happen. Learning from other value systems and adapting their good features is the only way to enable humanity to realize its full potential faster and better.

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Here are some key ideas which emerged at a National Seminar on Industrial Safety, Health and Environment organized by the Regional Labour Institute, Chennai and the Madras Management Association recently at Pondicherry in India.  

  • Businesses today face three kinds of challenges:
  1. Increasing digitization and the spread of internet which is fundamentally changing the way a    business interacts with its customers and suppliers.
  2.  As the world’s economic power and consumption of goods and services gradually shifts from the developed world to Asia, a host of new business opportunities present themselves.
  3. A value-based culture which takes into account socio-economic realities is becoming increasingly necessary to succeed in business. Businesses have the choice of being proactive while shaping future policies and goals. In the long run, this would avoid their facing pressure from either the community, or the government or the society at large. DSC_4999
  • Growth in business has to be consistent, competitive and profitable. A business also has to be socially relevant. A renewed emphasis on S-H-E alone can achieve this.
  • Following the tenets of S-H-E is not only about companies creating a separate Department to drive these goals. It is also about better regulatory compliance. It is also about calculating the carbon foot print. It is also about a change of attitude. It is about putting people and planet alongside the drive for profits. DSC_5025
  • Unless companies imbibe a culture which encourages all managers and executives to work together to achieve their goals by adopting sustainable methods, continuous growth may be difficult to achieve. Ensuring safety of all concerned is an important responsibility of the business. Many business leaders realize that a healthy employee contributes better. Work-life balance needs to be taken care in such a way that the employees are always happy as well as healthy. Businesses also need to ensure that they give back to Mother Earth more than what they draw from it. taking care of environment is an important issue which facilitates sustained growth.DSC_5109
  • All over the world, businesses are gearing up to ensure that their operations take place on a sustainable basis. There are already companies which have started reporting Environmental P&L Accounts.
  • In India, the government is now talking of shifting subsidies from chemical fertilizers to organic fertilizers. MNCs like BASF are talking about Product Stewardship, meaning compliance right through the entire supply chain to its end-use customers. DSC_5124
  • According to a recent study done by KPMG, India has emerged as a leader in the field of sustainability reporting. In the Asia-Pacific region, India has recorded the highest growth in sustainability reporting since 2011 – 53%. Chile is the next, with 46% increase, followed by Singapore (+37%), Australia (+25%), Taiwan (+19%) and China (+16%).
  • The safety of an employee should also cover the duration he or she is not on duty. The concept needs to be extended to the life outside, at home, on the road – practically in all spheres of life. DSC_5158
  • When companies think of a SHE culture, they should not ignore the safety and health of their women employees in a much wider context. They need to feel empowered to report misbehavior of any kind. At the work place, the need is to treat them with dignity and respect. As part of a progressive society, males need to examine their attitudes towards women at home and in public spaces.

The day-long seminar was attended by over 200 participants who benefited from the expertise of several subject experts and thought leaders from the field. It was inaugurated by the Lt Governor of Pondicherry.  

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Sir Wilhelm Rontgen, I have just started my career in a large company. I am clueless how to understand the real motives of Scientist Roentgenpeople around me. There is no correlation between what they say and what they actually do.

Try to tune your mind to frequencies ranging from 30 peta-hertz to 30 exa-hertz and just X-ray their minds. You will then be able to understand people better. Putting yourself in their shoes (or sandals, if you prefer), finding about their family backgrounds and upbringing, discovering the underground cable connections they have within the company you have just joined, et al, are all inputs which would help you to understand them at a deeper level.

Use your common sense and intuitive insight to peep into people’s minds, much like the way my X-rays do for the physical body. If you take people around you at face value, you will always feel betrayed and cheated. This, in turn, could lead to a lower morale, thereby stunting your career growth.

As a brilliant student, your IQ supported you well. Once you start working, your EQ levels would help you better. Once you rise to higher levels in the hierarchy, your SQ would come in handy.

Madam Marie Curie, my boss is very aggressive. He keeps announcing new meetings which do not take place after the first Scientist Marie_Curiefew sessions. When I propose an idea, he shoots it down. Six months later, same idea becomes his idea, when it gets implemented.  

Handling an aggressive boss is just like handling radioactive isotopes. You are right that their ideas have a half life of their own. Once the initial enthusiasm has died down, the ideas just fizzle out. The good news is that they keep introducing newer ideas and isotopes in the system, so the excitement never ceases.

By closely watching his behavior over a long period of time, you can surely surmise the general decay time of his proposals. This would help you to learn to tackle him effectively. Once in a while, when you are sure of your stand with which he disagrees, look him in the eye and tell him so. Like a goblet of mercury, he may roll off in a different direction and eventually get persuaded to change the direction of his thought processes.

Once in a while, recharge yourself by looking out from your office window and simply admiring nature. All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child…it was like a new world opened to me,…which I was at last permitted to know in all liberty.

Respected Mr. Albert Einstein, is your Theory of Relativity applicable in an office setting? I am about to take up a new job and need your advice. Please elaborate without equations, because I am not a mathematics wizard like you.

Yes, several facets of my theory are highly relevant in the work place. Here are some examples:

  • Let me tell you something that your management text books do not speak of. There is an upper limit to your career progression in a company. Scientist Albert_EinsteinJust like light cannot travel beyond a certain speed, you can expect to get promotions only till the time you reach your level of incompetence. Thereafter, you can either decide to relax and just take it easy, or switch to another frame of reference (read organization). If I had continued my stint at the Swiss Patent Office, you would have never heard of me, right?
  • Every organization is uniquely configured. It follows that their frames of reference are never the same. What works well in one need not work well in another. When you take up a new assignment, spend your honeymoon period understanding their value system and their frame of reference. No one would mind answering any of your questions then. To borrow a term from modern management language, a change of job is like a ‘paradigm shift’!
  • Once the honeymoon period is over, the focus would shift to your performance. Here, my equation between Energy, Mass and the Speed of Light could come in handy. Always remember that your ‘E’ (Energy and  Enthusiasm) to perform a task is equal to the product of ‘m’ (mental peace) and ‘c’ squared, where ‘c’ stands for mental and physical capacity. When you achieve a better work-life balance, you improve your inner peace, as well as your capacity to do things.
  • Above all, remember that Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere. Best of luck!

Sir Isaac Newton, my weakness lies in not being able to handle people. They do not always agree to what I say. Can your Laws of Motion help in any way?   

For your benefit, let me reinterpret my own laws in this way:

  • The Law of Inertia: If you have a category X employee, he/she will act only when told to do so by you. If he/she has Scientist IsaacNewton-1689been told to perform a task, it will continue to get done ad nauseum until instructed to stop. The law applies to zombies who roam about the work place like headless chickens. Get rid of your team members who fall in this category. Try to become a Y type employee yourself and lead your team out of inertia.
  • Force equals Mass multiplied by Acceleration. For people, Mass denotes their ego level and seniority in the company. The higher the ego/level, the more the force required to get a person to do the work speedily. You may not be able to directly ask your boss to move faster on a project. Probably, you have to get his boss to drop enough hints so your boss catches up speed. Sure enough, you are clever enough to get your boss’ boss in the loop without getting caught doing so, right?!
  • You are already aware that any action results into an equal and opposite reaction. If you praise someone in public and rebuke him in private, he would pay you back in the same coin. When your pet employee – so lovingly groomed by you over the years – decides to leave the company, you have the option of treating him well. This way, he becomes your company’s employment ambassador outside and may even rejoin you after some time!
  • Don’t forget to ask your immediate boss what he thinks of this. If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Here is wishing you the very best in all spheres of your life!

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WEAKNESSES – MARKET THEM!

There are rich rewards to be reaped by practicing transparency at the personal level. Be open about your weaknesses and discuss them upfront. You would get respected for your maturity.

WORK-LIFE BALANCEWORK-LIFE BALANCE

Neglect this vital part of life only at a personal risk of your well-being – mental as well as physical. Take time off for your kid’s parent teacher meeting due next Saturday. Cultivate a hobby which helps you retain your sanity while handling the whirlwind operations that you manage at the speed of light.

Remember, E (Energy and Enthusiasm) = m (Mental peace) X c (mental and physical Capacity) squared. When you achieve a better work-life balance, you improve your inner peace, as well as your capacity to do things.

WORKING HOURS

Those who watch the clock remain one of the hands! For a real growth in career, stop grumbling about long working hours. Work smarter. Improve you productivity. If you follow Parkinson’s First Law (Work increases depending upon the time available), and are prone to spending 20 hours in the office, you could end up having a tendency to defer important assignments for later in the day – you then get into a vicious cycle of low performance and low productivity.

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The other day, I was surprised to run into a friend of mine. He seemed to have suddenly advanced in age. With drooping shoulders, he offered a rather limp handshake, a far cry from his ebullient self and the firm grip I had experienced all along. We sat down to enjoy a cup of tea. It did not take me long to figure out that his long working hours, devoid of any relaxation and exercise, had possibly led to a gradual decline in his well-being. If urgent steps were not taken, he would be soon courting trouble with his heart, a contingency which is best avoided.

Some Corporate Maxims

In the rush of living life in the fast lane, most managers today hardly find time for themselves. A high-octane careerSTRESS would often demand very long working hours at the work place. This is especially true in India, where the feudal mindset still prevails. As per some of the popular corporate maxims prevalent in this part of the world:

(1)                          A manager’s efficiency and effectiveness on the job is directly proportional to the number of hours put in at the work station,

(2)                          Promotions depend upon one’s commitment to company’s goals, where the level of commitment is in reverse proportion to the amount of leave taken,

(3)                          The company culture is designed to enforce a check-in time in the office, but the check-out time is invariably left open. After all, there is a strong belief in the old adage that those who watch the clock merely remain the hands!

(4)                          The manager has no life outside the place of work. More odd the hours at which mails emanate from him, especially those between the stroke of midnight and till about 4 AM, the more committed he/she is!

For those in the senior echelons, the communication revolution has made the task of “switching off” even more challenging. Laptops and cell phones are invariably present, even though they may be supposedly on leave with their near and dear ones. It is fashionable to answer a critical mail while on a vacation. We now have an entire generation of managers and executives who have developed an addiction to the latest gizmos. 24 by 7 connectivity is the buzz word. If you are not in the e-rat race, you just do not count!

The path of Least Resistance

The result is an early burn-out for most managers. With no time to spend with the family, let alone any quality time,WORK-LIFE BALANCE stress builds up pretty fast. Hobbies and extra-curricular activities get relegated to the background. If at all any health issue crops up, there is no time to see a doctor. Finally, when the visit to a medical specialist does fructify, a brief spell of pill popping provides instant relief and, voila, the problem is solved! A wise doctor would always work on a mix of drugs, diet, relaxation and exercise. But, as a patient, a manager is happy to find his own path of least resistance – focusing only on drugs but totally neglecting diet, relaxation and exercise.  

As to physical exercise, a “busy” manager could not care less. The physical bodies are taken for granted. If a gym is joined, the work-out keeps getting deferred on one pretext or the other. After all, the body is a sturdy one, so why pay any attention to it? On a daily basis, it is imagined that one is doing one’s duty by performing the morning ablutions, by providing the run down body with nourishment which could well be junk food, and by allowing oneself some sleep, howsoever disturbed it might be.

Recharging our batteries

It is rightly said that we are what we eat. If alone we were to focus on developing correct eating habits, with a large dose of fruits and vegetables, good results would ensue. When we eat junk food, do we realize that the same amount of money would allow us to buy fruits which we would not be able to consume in one go? When we continue to flush our digestive system with acidic foods, we cause irreparable damage to our delicate organs. Meals could also be irregular, depending upon the pressure of work at hand. The result is heartburn, upset stomach, ulcer, pancreatic malfunction and, in extreme cases, even cancer.

Why do we detest physical activity? In some cases, sheer lethargy, lack of time management skills and an over-ridingYoga Dhanurasana_Yoga-Asana_Nina-Mel addiction to desk work prompts us to lead sedentary lifestyles. Diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases soon follow. Quite a few of us end up facing the surgeon’s scalpel, with dietary restrictions and exercising regimen which we are then forced to follow.

Undoubtedly, managers perform under tremendous pressure. But what is more important is as to how they take the pressure. For a thick-skinned manager, the going may be relatively easier; for a thin-skinned one, the same assignment could involve a high degree of stress. Possibly, the solution lies in transforming one from with-in, so as to change the way a manager perceives stress because of the circumstances with-out. Regular meditation, a healthy diet and a positive frame of mind could work wonders in the long run, keeping the manager always charged up!

Need for innovative HR policies

Far-sighted managements would surely take notice and fine tune their HR policies to ensure that a healthy work-life balance is maintained for all senior employees. In one of the evolved companies I happened to be associated with some time back, an annual master health check-up was made mandatory for all those above the age of 45. The top guy resolved not to disturb his team members on weekends, unless absolutely unavoidable. A planned annual leave of 15 continuous days was made compulsory – the experiment demonstrated that the company did not collapse during the 15 days’ period! Managers learnt to plan in advance and also delegate their tasks better. Every six months, an in-house yoga camp was held. Two years down the road, employee satisfaction levels had improved, and so had white-collar productivity!

To quote Stephen Covey from his much celebrated book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”: The physical dimension involves caring effectively for our physical body – eating the right kinds of foods, getting sufficient rest and relaxation, and exercising on a regular basis. (7th Habit, page 289).

The Divine has granted us this life and given us a body to live it through. The soul strives to evolve by gaining newer experiences in this life time of ours. But it can do so only through the medium of our physical body. Should we not respect it, take care of it and remain physically fit? Just like our vehicles and household gadgets need preventive maintenance, our bodies also need to be looked after well, so as to fulfill their purpose – that of supporting our soul, the Divine presence within us, to experience what this wonderful gift of life has on offer for us.

Surely, we can summon our will power and plan as well as execute a plan to achieve this worthy goal?

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/of-offices-and-vacations

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/achieving-work-life-harmony)

 

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