A few friends asked me how I would feel in an environment where everyone works 996. Of course, many of them have heard this from one of the main proponents, Jack Ma.
Well, as I lead the tech team – I probably work not 996, but 007, or even more. However, this is definitely not the norm.
Bigger tech companies, such as Alibaba and ByteDance, can enforce more working hours, because they carry the brand name (you want them on your CV, and more people want to join than they can accommodate), and they pay well (in both cash and stocks).
So paying good talent double the market rate, and expect them to deliver triple market output – the same tactic that consulting companies and investment banks globally have been using for decades.
For small companies like us – if we did mandate 996, all the good talent would have left us. Our cash is not as attractive as that of Alibaba, neither are our stock (options). And do not forget State-owned enterprises are fighting for the same talent – they offer not only comfortable jobs with good pay, but also a lot of data engineers and data scientists can play with.
That said, the Chinese tech and operations teams I have worked with are generally more tolerant towards extra hours, compared to teams I’ve worked with from many other countries.
So as long as we are reasonable, accommodating, and treating the team well, they will work hard with us in times of peak demand, even round the clock.
But we do not mandate 996 – same for many other good, earlier stage tech startups I have seen.