back to article Chinese developers protested insanely long work hours. Now the nation's courts agree

China's Supreme People's Court and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security have released a lengthy document condemning China's "996" work culture as labour violations that deprive workers of overtime payments. The 996 work schedule describes working from 9AM to 9PM, six days a week, and is common in the Chinese …

  1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Big Brother


    I hadn't realised it was quite that bad.

    ... and I thought I was being hard done by having to work 48hrs a week in years gone by.

    At least I didn't have to worry about being cheated out of overtime - it wasn't available.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Wow!

      Sounds like a typical developer experience to me. In the US salaried employees are called 'exempt' and are not paid overtime. Working holidays is also normal. In theory you accumulate time off in lieu but in practice the amount of time you can accumulate is capped, you eventually go into 'use it or lose it' mode.

      (US employers now have an even neater trick up their collective sleeves. They've always been parsimonious about vacations but now they're known as "Paid Time Off". What this means is that time off due to sickness now comes out of your PTO allowance -- fall ill and your vacation evaporates.)

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

        Re: Wow!

        As a USAian, I was recently "assisted" by my company in merging my banked sick time and my vacation time into an "easier to manage" PTO.

        In the process, I lost over 90 days of accumulated sick time (can't bank PTO more than a year's worth, you see, and none of that banked sick time could roll over as PTO). I am not a happy camper.

        My solution to the problem is to take time off when I need to do things like doc appts and license renewals, and not report it. After all, I'm "exempt" and what's sauce for the goose (unpaid overtime) is sauce for the gander. If I get sick (rarely more than a day or two), I'm WFH so as not to lose any annual vacation. As long as I do my job, there shouldn't be a problem.

        Yes, the loss of dedicated sick time, the popularity of "open plan" offices and the introduction of "hot desking" all tells me that companies no longer consider their employees "their most valuable asset", because if they did, they'd treat them a whole lot better.

        The one bright spot is that I'm still WFH, so for now, none of it matters.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          That kind of thing is common

          Because accumulated leave shows up as a liability on a corporate balance sheet. If you have a lot of employees who have been around for a long time, as you must have been to accumulate 90 days worth of sick leave, that can be a really big item.

          The beancounters see that and convert to a system where employees can't hold more than a year's worth of accumulated leave and their balance sheet looks healthier. It is worth it for them to do even if a union is involved and they actually have to pay out for any loss of time. Bonuses all around for those at the top!

          That's also why government jobs have typically been immune from such changes, even where unions are not involved. They don't have a balance sheet to care about, so that "liability" is not something someone can cure to get themselves a bonus.

          1. lglethal Silver badge

            Re: That kind of thing is common

            Man, you Yanks are crazy. Seriously.

            Here in Germany, if you're sick, you're sick. You get 6 weeks of sick pay fully paid by your firm and then your health insurance (which everyone has, because you are legally required to have health insurance) will take over (at 75% of your regular wages, I think it is). But you dont accrue sick days. I mean if you only take 5 days off sick, you dont get more the next year.

            But, we also get 6 weeks actual holiday a year. That also doesnt usually carry over (my firm lets you carry it over until February or March of the next year), but then its gone if you dont use it. BUT you are encouraged to use it. I think if people dont use at least 75% of their holidays the firm gets a kicking from the government.

            And then we also have time in lieu. That is sometimes capped at a few hundred hours, but again in every firm I've worked anyone who has come close to hitting that limit has been sat down with their manager and a work plan laid out that reduces their hours bank back to reasonable levels.

            This is not exceptional behaviour over here, I've been through 5 firms in Germany and had the same sorts of conditions each time.

            No doubt I pay more in taxes the you guys, but I guarantee my health insurance costs less (even if its compulsory to have), and I sure as shit have a better work/life balance. No way am I going into work if I'm sick or even doing Home Office just to avoid a sick day. You guys really should open your eyes to the European system, it's a lot healthier for you!

            1. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

              Re: That kind of thing is common

              You guys really should open your eyes to the European system

              As an Australian, I have worked for a European firm and an American company. Let me just say that my first job, I joined a European company and was treated us well.

              My next job was a very big American company and junior staff were given the same respect like a disposable cell phone. The CEO likes to brag about the "difficult life" he lives by sending out emails whilst traveling in one of his private jets.

              That company tried to stop me from leaving. In my first job offer, they called my new job and told them I was a troublemaker.

            2. martinusher Silver badge

              Re: That kind of thing is common

              Here in the USA we don't do any of that Eurosocialist crap. We're manly men (womanly women), we stand on our own two feet. Falling ill is a sign of weakness and even our new mothers are back at work within hours of giving birth.

              The weird thing is, though, that despite us being so hard working and efficient and so on we don't seem to do as well as our European colleagues, both in standard of living and quality of life. Our companies tend to be anemic as well, constantly striving to cut costs because we're just not productive enough. (Those huge salaries and bonuses we hear about that are earned by our leardership have to come from somewhere.)

              Its a myth that Europeans pay more in taxes than we do. You do have VAT, a true creation of Hades, but we have sales tax. Our income taxes can be owed to several jnurisdictions -- states that claim proudly that they "have no income tax" tend to ream you in other ways -- and the long standing custom of being able to write off taxes paid in one jurisdiction against taxes paid in another got capped in 2017 with the last batch of tax "reform".

              We have heard about universal health insurance, its something the Canadians boast of. We much prefer a bloated, cumbersome, system that provides endless employment for innumerable clerks -- filing claims, denying claims, appealing claims and so on -- and there's the delightful lottery of "are you in network or not" (can get expensive....). We've been trying to fix this with the ACA but its been a long fight yielding only marginal success so far. But like everything else, "We don't want any of that foriegn muck, We're #1!".

              1. phuzz Silver badge

                Re: That kind of thing is common

                Don't forget that the IRS will chase US citizens for income tax, even if they live and work in a different country and never plan on returning to the US.

                1. Electronics'R'Us

                  Re: That kind of thing is common

                  My other half is American and has lived here for 16 years; she recently found out that even though she doesn't work, she should still be filing a tax return.

                  She goes back to see family now and then and it hasn't been an issue so far (well, no tax owed) but apparently the paperwork needs to actually be in place.

            3. ICL1900-G3

              Re: That kind of thing is common

              And you live in a great and civilised country.

            4. Man inna barrel

              Re: That kind of thing is common

              I strongly suspect that German workers having reasonable time off enables them to be more productive.

              What happens when you are almost permanently tired is that you spend a good deal of your time fixing the mistakes you made previously.

            5. Shalghar

              Re: That kind of thing is common

              Beware of the Bundesurlaubsgesetz, there is a reason that it is only 2 pages long.

              First, 6 weeks are not 6 weeks, a definiton gap the slave traders of the "Zeitarbeitsbranche" abuse for years.

              The "weeks" are calculated by individual working days per week and the time labour agencies calculate the 6 weeks based on a 6 working day week, no matter if the loaned out worker permanently works in places with a 5 day week. This difference is the reason why the workers get 24 days off in contrary to the 30 days they should.

              If a corporation does not let the employees go on vacation, nobody - especially not "the government" - will have their heads. Tough luck, your free days simply evaporate when the year is over, although this can be prevented if you have different contractual regulations in your company.

              Yeah "Urlaub ist zu gewähren" is a seemingly clear "vacation has to be given" but there is no real obligation to do so - so everyone defrauded would have to got to the respective labour court/Arbeitsgericht.

              Same goes with time in lieu/"Freizeitausgleich". There are no caps except the contracts define them. There is a meager half transformed EU regulation that corporations have to account for any worktime and have to pay but there are still lots of loopholes in it. You may argue with the work time protection law /"Arbeitszeitschutzgesetz" that despite its many loopholes still has some kind of protective effect but again, noone cares until the Arbeitsgericht is involved, especially not the "Gewerbeaufsichtsämter", some kind of theoretical watchdog. (Had it with those guys too often. Instead of helping the workers, they gave tips to the boss on how to exploit regulatory loopholes, quite strange behaviour for a so called "watchdog"...)

              Health insurance is divided. The "Berufsgenossenschaften" (paid for by the corporations) will handle any work accidents and are clearly in favour of shedding any responsibility as soon as possible. The general health insurance/ "Kankenkassen" are a bit more oriented towards the patients but also not too keen on paying what they owe or financing really needed therapies.

              Still, the german health mess is quite more acceptable than what i hear from the US but its far from perfect and decidedly not "european" if my limited knowledge of the french and italian systems does not mislead me.

        2. Adelio

          Re: Wow!

          Very little i hear about the USA makes me want to live there. I might in some distant future post Covid period visit again. I like the people. But live there. Where too many employees are treated as a cost centre rather than an asset. No way....

          In the UK we get a min of 4 weeks paid holidays plus 8 days national holidays. If someone tried rolling up sick leave into "vacation" time I think there would be a revolution.

          Americans just seem to take it on the chin and accept it. For a suposed first world country most people are treated like third world surfs.

          Only those people in work get health care, and not nessesarily very good health care.

          The UK NHS is in no way perfect, it has many issues but at least everyone is entitled to healthcare, and people do not get bancrupt because of medical charges.... How can that be a thing in America. "Go broke or die"

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            We're kind of screwed

            The way our healthcare system evolved was during WW II there were price and wage controls in place, so companies couldn't give employees raises. So they gave them benefits like free healthcare (and pensions and other stuff) instead.

            That model persisted after WW II, it became normal for companies to provide health care. Over time our healthcare system has evolved around that system. The reason our healthcare is such a large percentage of our GDP compared to any other country is because there are millions of middlemen who have grown around that system. A doctor's office needs people whose only job is to deal with patient's health care claims, handling the categorizing/coding of various procedures so the doctor can get paid. That overhead is why the office for a single doctor is a thing of the past, they have to team up to spread the overhead around.

            There are a lot of different insurers, and they all do things differently. Insurance companies have thousands of such people who deal with all the doctor's offices, hospitals, and customers/patients. A lot of that stuff has been outsourced from both ends of it, so there are third party companies that specialize in basically being middlemen.

            If the US wanted to go to a single payer system, millions of people would lose their jobs overnight and those third party outsourcers would become irrelevant and go out of business. That means there's a huge lobby against any such change, which is why we get stuff like the ACA that leave all those people in place. Now given that the ACA was passed in the aftermath of recession, doing something that would cause millions more to lose their jobs may not have been smart. Even doing it during a time of very low unemployment would be politically difficult - it would cause a lot of pain and take years for the benefit to show.

            While a clear majority of the US is now in favor of the ACA (despite its faults) so even republicans have been forced to give up trying to repeal it, that took years to happen and cost the democrats dearly. And the shakeup it caused was minor compared to what switching to a single payer system would do. But it can only save money by eliminating all the middlemen, so that's the dilemma.

  2. H in The Hague

    Long hours <> productivity

    "... that a job you love enough to work 12 hours a day six days a week or more is a blessing."

    That strikes me as totally bonkers, and an idiotic approach to managing a business. If you work long hours your productivity simply goes downhill. Even worse, quality will suffer, creating further problems downstream, which will again reduce the productivity of the business.

    I associate a culture of regularly working excessive hours with crap, macho management, focused on appearances rather than actual benefits to the business. Now, I'm no psychologist but I do wonder about those managers. Do they feel insecure, or feel the need to assert themselves by bullying others?

    I've been self-employed most of my working life and although I'm happy to put the occasional longer week in, I make sure I never work excessively long for an extended period. That helps to promote productivity, efficiency, quality and work satisfaction - benefiting both me and my business (which are basically the same as I'm a sole trader).

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Long hours <> productivity

      "or feel the need to assert themselves by bullying others?"

      Having recently watched a number of Korean dramas on Netflix, and marvelled at the values dissonance where it seems almost normal for bosses that fail to take it out on their underlings, usually physically, I would say very much this. The owner kicks the director who kicks the manager who kicks the assistant who kicks the dog.

      The examples come from above, that's where change needs to come from. The problem is, convincing those at the top of the need to change. Because if you can get a sweet bonus for grinding your employees for six twelve hour days, there's not going to be much incentive to change anything.

      "your productivity simply goes downhill"

      So very much this too. People burning out just aren't effective. Better to work less to be better rested to concentrate more. Especially in a job where a good degree of concentration is necessary.

      1. GuildenNL

        Re: Long hours <> productivity

        I've been working in Korea for 30+ years. I wouldn't say it is an across the board norm in the society, but it certainly is prevalent in certain industries, mainly not in the roles where knowledge is a key component.

        And I am speaking of the hours worked. However on the "stuff rolls downhill" side, it definitely is a cultural attitude.

      2. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Long hours <> productivity

        I use the assumption that working 60 hours a week and working 40 hours a week for six weeks each produce the same results - no gain from the 20 extra hours. After that, the first employer is too tired.

      3. Paul Kinsler

        Re: Having recently watched a number of Korean dramas on Netflix, ...

        e.g. Kkondae Intern?

    2. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Re: Long hours <> productivity

      When I was younger, I was happy to work all the hours needed to complete whatever project I was assigned to. I still am to some extent, often staying a little late if needed. Sadly I don't get paid overtime.

      I would frequently work 12 hour days, sometimes being tired enough that I'd go straight home, have my evening meal then go to bed.

      That, psychologically speaking, isn't good, IMO. II don't think I ever got a great night's sleep, as I wasn't really relaxed when I went to bed. Even if I work late now, I prefer to go home, spend an hour or two doing something I enjoy at home, then go to sleep.

      One project I was involved in was setting up an exhibit for a local artist. She used our equipment and rooms, and I was providing equipment, technical support and some staff.

      We worked from 9am to 9pm, 7 days a week for nearly three weeks. By the end of it, I could barely think, or even remember what day it ways, let alone do anything remotely productive.

      As a thank you, the artist concerned, who had been apparently handsomely paid for this exhibit, made a big thing that we was taking all the staff out for a few drinks after the first day of the exhibit. I, and the technicians helping me, gratefully accepted the invitation, hoping she'd take us to the local pub, and say we could order whatever we wanted in reason. Most of us would have taken a pint of beer or lager.

      Nope. She did take us to a local bar. The ponciest, most expensive bar in the area. She also insisted on ordering Gin and Tonics. Not being a fan of either Gin or Tonic, I downed mine, made my excuses and left. I only downed it because that drink was the closest the Artist came to actually saying "thanks", and I was damned if I was going to let her get away without showing some appreciation.

      Anyway, I digress. I took a few days off because I don't think I would have been productive without being rested. There have been times since where I've had to work excessive hours for a few days, but I always try and take time off.

      In fact, I would argue that any business that relies on it's staff doing that day to day isn't being run efficiently, because those staff probably aren't working to the best of their abilities.

      1. jason_derp

        Re: Long hours <> productivity

        "...I would argue that any business that relies on it's staff doing that day to day isn't being run efficiently, because those staff probably aren't working to the best of their abilities."

        If you don't have to stack up bodies for daily removal and the shareholders are happy, why bother changing anything? Do 996 and die at age 40 of a heartattack in an apartment with a spouse who hates you and child you'll never see. Cattle are cattle regardless of the style of their mouth noises.

      2. Adelio

        Re: Long hours <> productivity

        As far as i am concerned if I work overtime I get paid. No if or buts. The odd half an hours i was never bothered about....

        If you work for free you are fool, the only people who benefit are your bosses, NOT you.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Long hours <> productivity

      During my grad school years, I saw a strong correlation between excessive long hours, and poor outcomes.

      Yes, yes, sometimes we had a couple crazy weeks around a deadline. But the guys and gals who were "working" 60-80 hour weeks endlessly were:

      1) Rarely actually working all that time, they were just present that much

      2) Were almost always an unproductive, neurotic mess

      The ones who didn't burn out and leave without a degree almost always took quite a bit longer to finish, (6+ years versus the usual 4-5)

      And I'd add the group I worked with was not known for being slave drivers so it wasn't driven from on high by the profs running the labs. They were actually relatively good at telling people, especially after a big deadline "Go home, take a break."

      Obviously mileage may vary, but outside a few weeks here and there, I kept to a pretty set 40-ish hour week, kept my weekends, etc and landed a solid PhD, several pubs, and a dandy career path. So this idea that you have to work excessive hours to get ahead and succeed is just bloody bonkees.

      1. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Long hours <> productivity

        Quote from actually a Microsoft manager: “You can make people be in the office 80 hours a week. You can’t make them work more than 40 hours a week”.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Long hours <> productivity

          I think 40 is optimistic. The true figure is probably nearer 30.

    4. Adelio

      Re: Long hours <> productivity

      The only time i worked long hours was in my youth doing a temporay job. it entailed doing 8 hour shifts plus another 4 or 8 hours shift on top. All my choice and it was for a limited amout of time before i went to college. Since then, I have rarely worked overtime, I value having a life....

    5. Dom 3

      Re: Long hours <> productivity

      Productivity doesn't just go down downhill, it goes negative (for coding at any rate). You end up writing such crap that you then spend ages fixing it. Or if you have the sense, you throw it away and start again.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Life in the Chinese tech business is pretty awful

    For many, it’s get up, work out, breakfast on the move, on the way to the office, work, lunch at the office, work, evening meal on the go, while travelling home, then bed. Food and transport is cheap. Napping at the desk is considered acceptable. Society is pretty much structured for mobility and long hours. I don’t see how that is productive or sustainable because it is week in/week out rather than an occasional sprint to a deadline*.

    * Which many of us will put up with, from time to time, especially if the bonus or equity scheme is decent, transparent and delivers.

  4. Potemkine! Silver badge

    employees often do so – either because they don't see any other option, or on the promise of future pay-offs in the form of stock options. The options rarely materialize, despite the tech companies themselves often thriving.

    China is a capitalist country in many aspects, isn't it?

    allowing three children per couple

    That isn't a good thing, until we are able to export people to another planet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "That isn't a good thing, until we are able to export people to another planet."

      The number aims merely at maintaining the population at its current size, not increasing it. Their current fertility rate is way below 2, which means their population is only increasing because it's getting older.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        The rest of the world is rapidly approaching the same point. There are far more pensioners per worker in eg Europe than there have ever been before, and the ratio is getting worse.

        If you're under 50, don't plan on ever retiring unless you are a politician, civil servant or "top" banker. You won't be able to afford to.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        We could do with less people on the planet though. The world population when I was born was about 3 thousand million, and back then estimates of the "carrying capacity" of earth that I saw ranged between 1 and 5 thousand million.

        On the plus side, we have low-power technologies that weren't available back then, and we understand a lot more about climate and ecology than we did then. On the down side, power usage per individual, overall has gone up, and our impact on the climate and ecology is worse than we realised back then.

        Given that , globally, we have shown ourselves to be incapable of taking long term problems seriously until its far later than would be desirable in order to make preventative action non-disruptive and relatively cheap, then, collectvely we need to pull our fingers out and start addressing the problems NOW, not several years hence, and that includes discouraging people from having more than 2 children per couple.

        But I doubt that enough effective measures will be taken in time before things go horribly awry. Which is frustrating, as we have the knowledge and technologies to actually do something about it already. just not, apparently, the collective will, as a species, to do the sensible thing.

        Mines the one with the little ray of sunshine in the pocket!

        1. gandalfcn Silver badge

          Indeed. Hosever, you should read Agenda 21, UNCED/CSD and subsequent documents. All described as plans by the Marxist, Masonic, Zionist, globalist elite illuminati to hide the truth by right wing godbotherers, i.e. self described woke people with a cancel culture.

    2. VicMortimer Silver badge

      China is a fascist country. They've got all the components, official discrimination against ethnic minorities, concentration camps, slave labor, government in bed with big business, nationalist propaganda everywhere, arbitrary changes of laws coming from a dictator at the top, military buildup, the whole thing.

      And it's cute that they call themselves 'communist' or 'socialist' because they're about as far from it as they could possibly be. They've got virtually no social safety net, no single-payer healthcare, very limited free public education, and wealth gaps as extreme as anywhere on earth.

      And the rest of the world is still in the 'appeasement' phase.

      1. jason_derp

        "They've got all the components, official discrimination against ethnic minorities, concentration camps, slave labor, government in bed with big business, nationalist propaganda everywhere, arbitrary changes of laws coming from a dictator at the top, military buildup, the whole thing."

        So do a lot of countries not normally considered "fascist". China's not special unique in that regard. Either many modern countries are fascist, or it's a meaningless word.

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Replace "concentration camps" with "prisons"and "slave labor" with "economical slaves" and you've got the USA.

        So China is progressing !

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Seems like this is the right time to link to this.

    4. TheMeerkat

      China is a capitalist country, but the “heroism at work” is part of tradition that came from Communist ideology.

      Look up “stachanovite”

  5. A.P. Veening Silver badge

    And the really stupid thing is, that it doesn't even work. Doing that much overtime just means you are making more mistakes which you will have to fix the next day, completely negating the overtime productivity and usually even more. I once managed to convince an employer that structural overtime wasn't worth it by showing him (the next day) some mistakes I made by being too tired. Subsequently he checked with some of my colleagues and found the same problem. After that, structural overtime was not allowed anymore instead of promoted.

    1. Adelio

      I have to agree, the worst code is usually that done near the end of your work day, overtime included. You always have to go back the next day and re-check what you have done, just to make sure you have not written a lod of rubbish.

  6. martinusher Silver badge

    China's just copying the US

    I've had to work extended hours from time to time back when I worked in the UK but it was nothing like the kind of hours I used to work in technology companies in the US. A combination of over-optimistic scheduling and labour shortages meant that you were always behind (and it didn't help that a large part of a project's schedule would be eaten up by people messing around evaluating stuff and generally not focusing on the work).

    Unlike China there was no government agency or court interested in the social ramifications of this culture. There weren't unions either -- the prevailing culture in the US is adamantly anti-union -- so the choice would be to either suck it up or quit. Since the social safety net is effectively non-existent in the US (not to mention other issues like health insurance) there really isn't a choice, especially if you have dependants. You're only hope is that you either get to the point where your skill level allows a bit of leverage or you get a stock option windfall that allows you some flexibility. (There's also the negative impact this work regime can have on family life.)

    Its counter productive, of course. Burnt out developers don't generate good product (not an issue for entrepreneurs that are looking for the swift killing rather than a sustainable business). It also promotes a culture of job hopping, a sort of musical chairs where the goal is to get the next job before the present one (and its company) implodes.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Have an upvote

      for using the words

      Burn Out.

      The last paragraph is so true.

    2. Adelio

      Re: China's just copying the US

      The Only time i joined a union was when i got my FIRST job at a printers (1978). I had no choice as it was a closed shop. "join the union or do NOT work there".

      I understand and accept that unions have had and can have a positive affect for workers. But I have also lives though the "union" years when the unions of one sort or another appeared to be on strike every week for years. Brown outs, blackouts, it was relentless, at that time the unions were ALL about power. They had a lot but they wanted more.... The NUM and Mr Scargil were the Apex of that movement and people wonder why Mrs Thatcher got elected, when the alternative was a Labour government that was so powerless they had to ask the unions if they could unzip there flys for a pee!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seen it, done it.

    GDPR was coming in. Huge, national organisation. Very much at the forefront of data holding.

    About a week before it comes in, the penny drops and people very high up realise we've done nothing for it.

    A team of three gets created, led by one very, very capable, very fit and healthy man.

    The team work pretty much all week, through nights, developing processes and writing papers and developing systems, with all the required functions being told to stand by to get drafted in to support as needed, such as ICT, Legal, etc. So you had the core of three with bodies dropping in and out over the course of the week as they were needed.

    Deadline hits, we have a functional GDPR process.

    The chap in charge of the team goes home the first night of Day Zero of it all being live, sits down in his living room with his wife and promptly has a stroke at the age of 44. Several years on, still can't speak and is out of the job.

    I've worked ridiculous hours, but I've also made hay when I've had the chance. The 'Company' doesn't treat us that well, so we always try and get one back on it when we can - it turns into a game. An important business meeting in the city might be scheduled for two hours, when in fact you know it lasts an hour, so you spend that extra time in a local retro arcade eating Japanese food.

    Today I worked an 8 hour shift, roughly three and a half hours of that was what you'd called 'work'. At one point I had my chin in my hand as I drew out a flow chart for a process. Next thing I knew I woke up to find a puddle of drool on the desk with the long, continuous strand of saliva leading back up into my mouth.

    An hour spent for lunch, two hours spent getting to and from a cancelled event that the organiser never told me was cancelled, and then about an hours worth of chat with my colleague. There's an hour unaccounted for.

    So I'd agree with working shorter, far more productive hours. I'd achieve a heck of a lot more if I had the mindset of "This working day is so short, I simply can't fuck about in it or I'll fall behind."

  8. DS999 Silver badge

    I remember my first corporate job

    Just over 25 years ago. My boss told me on my first day "a work week is 50 hours a week". I ignored that and didn't get much pushback from leaving at 5 or shortly thereafter, but during my first review my "lack of commitment" was brought up and in my yearly end review it was suggested I wasn't getting enough hours in to deserve more than the minimum raise.

    Fortunately other issues at that job had already led me to apply at a University where the work week was 35 hours a week so I left about 13 months in, and I'd later become a contractor/consultant paid by the hour so I didn't mind long weeks because I was getting paid for it!

    1. Denarius

      Re: I remember my first corporate job

      familiar. Long ago, not far away, working for a now dead US multinational. Corporate group lecture masquerading as company meeting. Local CEO informs local peons that a minimum of 70 hours a week is expected if one wanted to move into manglement. For some reason job enthusiasm plummeted from that moment.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    The US should follow China's lead

    There is nothing in this policy on work hours that I would not support as a US law.

    Our corporate attitude towards work hours and compensation is abysmal.

    Ma's comments could just as easily come from Bezos.

  10. Nick Gisburne

    "Do you think never having to work 996 in your life is an honour to boast about?"

    Yes it is. Of course it is. Why would anyone ever want those kinds of hours? I have never worked those kinds of hours and never will, and I will gladly boast about it. Time is more important than money.

  11. Ashto5

    Overtime is just bad management

    Overtime is the personification of bad managers.

    I was asked to not bill for hours over 8 as it was part of a professional day, I replied I am here to clean up your mess, you did not start out being professional so why should I lose time or money to correct your mistake.

    I remained for many renewals getting the company back on its feet, the mangers slowly left.

    Overtime === BAD MANAGER

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, capitalism sucks, communism sucks, fascism sucks,...

    We're running out of isms.

    1. Alumoi Silver badge

      We'll always have corporatism, no worries!

    2. Psmo
      Paris Hilton

      But the suck remains.

      1. A Nother Handle
        Paris Hilton

        Foot fetishism next?

    3. gandalfcn Silver badge

      A mix of capitalism and socialism works. The problem us getting the balance right and that is what the PRC is doing and why it is successful. Similarly with the EU and Scandinavia.

      The USA doesn't stand a chance as it is still trying to pretend any and all social policies are evil.

      1. Shalghar

        The fictitional issue seems to be in the wording, not the function.

        Any kind of rudimentary welfare is somewhat "social", institutionalising it would be "socialism".

        Whats always ignored: even if you are officially in a not creativity dependant job, killing creativity by making a workers existence all about worrying to keep the job, feed the family, be alive, etc. will prevent the worker from actually improving their own procedures and skillsets and from improving the company by sharing ideas.

        The more anyone has to worry about keeping the family fed, the more pressure is applied, the less loyalty is generated, the less anyone will try to think of improving the workplace or the procedures.

        Basically, the more you press on the workers the more you loose loyalty=quality and potential=ideas to improve your business.

        I remember a documentary concerning toyota with worker oriented healthcare and the culture to get anyones ideas reported as fast as possible and implemented as fast as possible if the idea seems to be good. The documentary was aired a few years in the period where toyota cars moved up the ADAC (something like an automotive lobby club) breakdown/quality statistics from bottom to top.

        If you understand german, search out Wolfgang Grupp on youtube. Thats a manager who constantly curbs so called "market liberals", tells them that he treats his workers well so that no union gets a foothold - and not due to socialistic tendencies - and generally makes a stand for personal responsibility for managers and "good enough" treatment for workers, so one might say he stands for some kind of capitalistically oriented "symbiotism".

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