996 Schedule: Employer’s Gain, Employee’s Pain
Recently, plenty of companies prefer a culture of working overtime, many of which are having their employees work around the clock, with the internet companies in particular. With that comes such expression as 996 (a schedule where the workday starts at 9am, ends at 9pm and lasts for 6 days a week without overtime payment). This reveals some daily routine of those people at their workplace.
The debate over the 966 working schedule went viral last week as the Chinese programmers collectively and openly articulate their concerns over their working schedule by launching a project called 996.ICU, which means if you follows a 996 work schedule, you might end up in the Intensive Care Unit. This received instant response from some Internet tycoons. “To be able to work 996 is a huge bliss,” said Jack Ma, co-founder of the Alibaba Group. He continues to argue, “If you do not spend more time than others, how can you be successful?”
To spend more time on work might be a blessing, but it might also be a malaise in disguise. China was reputed for its culture with good work ethic that tends to prioritize work over life. Many people view it as a virtue, given China’s long-held tradition and its current status as a developing country. However, due to the 996 schedule in the cyber industry, workers have far less leisure time, which is detrimental not only to their daily life but also to their health, not to mention that many workers are not even paid for their extra working hours. The borders between working and daily life has been blurred, leaving the workers gasping for a moment of rest. Consequently, the tech workers are on the verge of burnout, physically and psychologically. An overload schedule can drain a person so seriously that he or she may become unfocused and start making mistakes. In addition, China’s technological industry should not become a labor-intensive one. As China pursues high-quality growth, the cyber industry should climb the technological ladder and become intelligence-oriented rather than on labor-intensive. Therefore, to guarantee working results by working overtime might be rewarding in the short term, but it will surely become unsustainable in the long run.
For 996 victims, I would simply suggest them to keep the working time in check. Working overtime may indicate better results, but to let go personal life and leisure activities is self-defeating. Therefore, employees themselves should take measures to eliminate extended working time, either through improved efficiency or enhanced capacity. They are advised to strike a balance between work and life. When workers’ legitimate rights are denied, they should not wait or expect others to be their spokespersons. They should articulate their wants and needs; otherwise, their voices will be submerged in the crowd. They can resort to legal means to safeguard their interests as the Labor Law stipulates that employees should work for no more than eight hours a day or forth-four hours a week on average. They can preserve evidence of their workload and submit it to legal authorities. They can ask the civil organizations such as the workers’ union for help. They can also call for more supervisions over the labor exploitation on the website spearheaded by advocates of employee rights.
As the merits of 996 schedule was obviously overshadowed by its disadvantages, I, as an potential employee in the future, would probably not take a job with such a schedule, unless the job appeals to me to the extent that I would like to work overtime voluntarily. As afore-mentioned, excessively extended working schedule not only deprives workers of their legitimate rights and interests but also drains their energy and creativity. Then why should we, employees, be under long-term pain to trade for employer’s short-term gain?