Reflections On 996 Work
Published: Dec 01, 2019 02:51 PM

Photo: Courtesy of  Zhang Shijie

In the 1980s, the work schedule was 8 hours a day and 6 days a week. There was only Sunday for the weekend, and a famous magazine was called “Beyond 8 Hours”. Now the universal acknowledge is that we work 8 hours a day and 5 days a week. If you work beyond this time schedule, you are legally overworked. So it is quite hard to determine how many hours should be spent on work and how many hours should be spent after work. From my point of view, the work schedule may be varied according to the nature of work, the requirement of the work and the free will of the worker.

I think we should be more objective to face the prevailing 996 phenomenon. It is no use to say whether it is good or bad. If you are working in the company of 996 work schedule, and you find you can derive some kind of satisfaction from your work, from the mere salary which supports your family, and you can meet your goal, fulfill your ambition, build up your character or whatever, the 996 work schedule may not construct a big burden to you. I suggest that we should not put the blame on what kind of situation we encounter. It depends on what you think; it does not depend on what they think. My advice is: if you take the job, take it whole-heartedly, never do things that caught you between. If you take it, try your best not to blame, taking it as a life experience, helping you to understand what is life, what makes you grow up, and what helps you feel no regret. As the famous Japanese entrepreneur Inamori Kazuo says, “It takes a lot of energy to do a job. Energy can motivate oneself and burn passion. The best way to burn yourself is to love your job. No matter what kind of work, only going all out to do it can produce a great sense of accomplishment and self-confidence, and it will generate enthusiasm for the next goal. In the process of repetition, you will love work more. In this way, no matter how hard you try, you will not feel hard and will eventually achieve excellent results.”  So, if we take the job, we just take it as a merit. Your energy, passion, devotion and persistence may arise from the experience. It is better to be thankful than to be grumbling. 

However, if the work load goes beyond your ability, or you find yourself not confident with your work, feeling exhausted or tiresome either physically or mentally, you may need to adjust your work goal. The famous Japanese artist Kōtarō Takamura says, “Of course, we should do some necessary work under the premise of maintaining physical strength. Some people may  over consumee the bodily functions, and in the end, they don't know why they suffer from these hardships, and become desperate. Aren't there a lot of such examples? It's a pity! I always think that when I start doing something, I still need to reduce the amount of work within my ability.” Bertrand Russell also says, being tiresome in work may result in jealousy, which may lead to a worse result. In the end, I want to quote another famous Chinese entrepreneur Mr. Li Kaifu’s experience. He once wanted to be the best he could be and announced loudly that “the world will change because of him”. Later, he got cancer and he reflected, “In my previous career, I have always believed in the belief that “paying always pays off”, so I have been burdened with my own weight. I even insisted on trying to squeeze out three sleeping hours to work every day. I also competed innocently with people on “Who sleeps less", "Who can reply to the mail in the early morning"... Try to use "Desperate" as a label in work for myself. Now, I calm down and reflect: Such kind of persistence at the expense of health is not necessarily right.”

As for me, since I’m young, I may choose to take the 996 work wholeheartedly first, trying my best to absorb the goodness than the badness of any kind of 996 work. I agree that the more important as a source of happiness in work is the element of constructiveness, and ultimately the element will lead to self-awareness, which constitutes the element of a work worth doing. A worthwhile work should embody the element. If it loses it, I may make another choice. 

Teacher: Dong Yi
Beijing No.55 High School