Best Practices

The 996 Work Week, a Blessing or Blunder?


Business Insider recently published an article discussing Jack Ma’s statement of how workers being able to work a 996 work week was a blessing. His explanation, reported by CNBC, explaining his comments was the following:

“I understand these people, and I could have said something that was ‘correct.’ But we don’t lack people saying ‘correct’ things in the world today, what we lack is truthful words that make people think” and “if you find a job you like, the ‘9-9-6’ problem does not exist, if you’re not passionate about it, every minute of going to work is a torment.”

996 Worker

The concept of finding and working for a company with which you are passionate is something that everyone is looking for now, yet pushing a 996 workweek on everyone who works for you goes completely against the North American concept of the standard workweek, regardless of passion. While many entrepreneurs and even some employees can understand the need for this kind of schedule as they themselves are extremely passionate about their own business endeavours, the 9-9-6 ethos does take away from a large swath of the population who are only looking for the standard 9-5 schedule.

The 996 schedule is diametrically opposed to the concept of “work-life balance” that most North Americans desire. While many business owners would love the idea of instituting a 996 work week and having the employees who are just as passionate about their job that will work these hours without a loss in productivity, that just isn’t the case. Many people get jobs simply because they need a paycheque in order to survive, and are willing to do just about anything so long as this is provided to them, while others are looking for jobs that fit what they’re interested in but is mainly just a means to an end of fulfilling whatever side project they may have going on.

Going above and beyond, or offering discretionary effort, is what the 996 workweek is trying to attain. While every employer wants it from their employees, there is only one real way to achieve it: offering the right kind of Employee Value Proposition (EVP) in order to motivate your employees to provide these hours on their own, willingly, and enjoy what they’re doing. Jack Ma’s response to needing all employees to work these hours often leads to intolerable workplaces and bad managers. The most motivating thing, if these kinds of hours are wanted, is to inspire your employees through recognition and rewards. Establishing an environment that supports your employees’ ambitions as much as it does your business goals, and of course, leadership over management.