Why is 996 a Really Bad Idea?

I do lots of business in China, and I can tell you, most Chinese work 996, which means from 9 am to 9 pm six days a week. Many employees are compelled to work 997. And people in the tech industry often work even longer hours. Mike Moritz, the famous VC from Sequoia Capital, said US workers should do the same, but I totally disagree.

Managers need to understand that it’s not how long someone works that counts. What matters is the results of the work. They need to focus on measuring results and not hours. Otherwise, workers will stay in the office a long time but produce very little. Innovation requires creativity and motivation. People can’t be creative 996. They need time to relax, exchange information, and absorb new ideas. In a knowledge economy this is very important.

I don’t buy it when Jack Ma says China’s competitiveness depends on everyone working 996. I think everyone should spend less time working. It’s unhealthy to work 996. I just visited a Chinese company jn Shenzhen at lunch time, and the office was completely dark. Everyone was a sleep at their desks because they work so late at night that they don’t get enough sleep.

Chinese are far more workaholic than Americans. In Silicon Valley, employees expect to have the weekends off. Also, most employees are able to spend their evenings with their families if they choose. Leaving work at 18:00 is common. And almost no one sleeps at lunchtime.

Instead, Silicon Valley workers use lunch breaks to bond, share information, and exercise. It’s much healthier and better for the company.

They did a study and found that South Koreans work more hours than anyone else, but they also rank one of the lowest in productivity. It’s not the hours you work but the quality of those hours. This is especially true in jobs that require innovation and creativity. If you are exhausted, you won’t come up with high quality ideas and breakthroughs.

Studies have shown that working all the time leads to stress, psychological problems, and health issues. There are hidden costs to 996 that society must pay for. The medical costs alone are enormous. But there is another cost. Divorce is higher. Children grow up not spending time with their parents. Who can put a price on this?

Life is short. What will a full bank account mean if you have an empty life? I believe we have to prioritize people over profit. After all, when your life comes to an end, what will matter more: the time spent working or the relationships and memories you have? A healthy balance makes a life worth living. That is what I believe, and I think it is what is best for society in the long run.

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