“996” – An Inhuman and Inefficient Working Regime

By Chen Kerun Source:engshow.cn Published: 2019/12/1 14:42:45

Photo: Courtesy of Chen Kerun

Fed up with the grindingly long working hours imposed on them by China's internet giants, programmers have recently complained about the “996” regime, which refers to a work schedule of 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. As far as I am concerned, such regime is unreasonable from the perspective of opportunity cost, working efficiency, and sense of happiness.

The “opportunity cost” of “996” regime is high. A college graduate who chooses to further his study abroad for another 3 years may lose the chance of accumulating working experience and making money. And vice versa. Suppose that he can earn 10,000 dollars per year after studying abroad while working now can earn 9,000 dollars, the opportunity cost of studying abroad will be high in terms of educational expenses and time. Similarly, following the “996” regime, the Internet employees have to work more than 2 extra hours every day, and thus, losing the chance to accompany their families, enjoy their holidays and countless other kinds of things. Apparently, the opportunity cost of doing “996” is higher than working at an 8-hour routine.

Overwork is more likely to make tired employees less efficient. Managers prefer “996” regime because it could bring their business more profits. And it might work within a certain period. In the long run, however, such working mode is bound to have their working force overdrawn. As a result, their productivity will be left behind by those who keep normal working hours. According to a study by University of Lisbon, the employees' working efficiency drops by 60% to 75% as a result of tiredness. For example, an employee earns 80 dollars for 8 hours. But he can only earn 5 dollars in the next extra 2 hours. The low cost-benefit will decrease his working enthusiasm, which will inevitably drag the company down. 

Money is never the only source of happiness. Many companies use various subsidies to encourage employees to spend more time working, but the questions is: does the extra money really bring about happiness? The irony is that Jack Ma, one of the vertical supporters of the “996” regime, once said ruefully that he would spend more time with his family instead of putting his career in first place if he could live once again. For ages, we’ve been thinking about why we struggle tenaciously to make as much money as we can. The answer would mostly come to the sense of happiness. However, overworking kills the chances to enjoy the leisure as well as the satisfaction from work. 

To sum up, a truly outstanding enterprise always attaches more importance to the persistent working efficiency rather than forces their employees to stay in the office from morning till night for short-term benefits. Humans are not robots as our attention would fall short and efficiency would drop. When working excessively, out working passion may decline and pressure would accumulate. “996”, the inhumane and inefficient working regime, will be abandoned by history.

Teacher: Sui Kailun
Linyi NO.1 High School of Shandong Province

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