"996" , Poison or Honey?
Recently, a programmer introduced a project called "996.ICU" on github.com, the well-known code-sharing website. The project criticized the "996" work schedule where employees work from 9 am to 9 pm, 6 days a week, with the prospect of ending up in an ICU.
Actually, the work schedule is common among Chinese tech companies. On the website, many programmers working for China‘s tech companies shared evidence showing that their companies asked them to work the long hours. Among them were major names like e-commerce leaders Alibaba and JD.com, as well as telecoms equipment manufacturer Huawei.
The relentless nature of the work culture now seems to be taking a toll on tech workers powering the sector. Although toiling for such long hours has become an unspoken rule in the frenetic world of Chinese tech, the overwork culture is rooted in China’s tech industry. Office workers in China still organize a rare online labor movement. I think that the main reason is that more Chinese people have adopted a "work hard, play hard" lifestyle with improved living standards, compared with the older generations’ "work to live" mind-set.
However, several bosses of tech companies have defended "996" as a kind of work culture. “If you don’t do ‘996’ when you’re young, when will you do?” Jack Ma said, according to a post on Alibaba’s WeChat account. “If you don't invest more time and energy than others, how will you achieve the success you want?”
As far as I am concerned, I cannot entirely agree with the idea that being able to conduct "996" is a blessing that we people have earned. No free time except on the weekends, and even then you’re spending one of those days off doing all the myriad work at home that you couldn’t do during the week because you basically wake up, work, and go back to bed. In other words, "996" is indentured servitude: any situation in which you have more than 10 hours a day or an extended commute of 8 hours a day means that you are living to work.
Then how to have one’s own life under "996" working intensity? Here is some advice. First, fine a balance between work and love. For those who work really long hours and are really busy, they should not assume that emotions aren’t important to them. They’d better find a work-life balance. Second, prioritize their fitness. It's important to develop healthy work habits. Go to bed at the same time, get enough sleep, get up in the morning, have a big breakfast, drink enough water, and do some moderate exercises to keep spirits up. Have dinner on time even if one has to work overtime. Last, be more efficent. Everyone needs to work hard, and likewise, everyone needs to work smart. Don't forget the 80/20 rule of productivity -- do things that will get you 80% of the way you want but only cost you 20% of the way, and get as much done as possible but take the least amount of time. Also, talk to your boss and your team. If you're spending a whole week on something your team or boss really doesn’t need, it is a waste of time.
Taking all these factors into consideration, I naturally come to the conclusion that "996" is not really the way to work, we should have a more comfortable choice, and that is to say, I would not accept such a work schedule. Valuing hard work does not equate to forcing employees to work overtime. Tech companies should motivate employees and allow full play of their creativity and productivity. Technology shouldn’t be a labor-intensive industry; it should be a creative industry. Creative people need to take a break from their work from time to time. Meanwhile, the Labor Law clearly states that one should only work eight hours a day and no more than 44 hours a week.
And here I want to talk about the difference between real growths and "996". What is growth? Growth is to avoid unnecessary repetition, to absorb new knowledge, to gain new experiences and to expand horizons. Only new information would hide the possibility of disconnection from the status quo. And what is "996" ? It is to occupy all the time with the known repetition, so that people have no energy to absorb new information, inspire new thinking, and thus cutting off all new possibilities. Growth is a change, and change can only happen outside the cycle of repetition. It is said that work can help people grow, but that work must be creative. But how many people are doing creative work these days? The daily work of most men is but mechanical repetition. Can you learn to manage a factory by twisting a thousand screws?
If the screwdriver wants to be entertained, he can watch TV and play video games when he gets home from work. If he wants to succeed in his work, he has to read more professional books and take relevant courses during his spare time, so as to improve his ability. Or like Jackie Ma to make some entrepreneurial contacts and attempts. If he wants a life that is boring and underachieving, follow the "996" pattern and destroy his own life while believing that daily repetition can somehow transform him.
There is one another question we have to be clear about: what is the real thing that we are seeking for? Real "996" should be spending time learning, thinking and for self-improvement. Those who stick to "996" must have found their passion with their life and their source of happiness besides what money can give. At work, we are just screws, tools on an assembly line. After work, we are ourselves, a living person. Whether it is to relax, to improve themselves, or to spend time with their families, they are embracing life. What else can we do in between the hustle and bustle of survival? We want to live and live as a decent man.