Written by Jong Ching Yee

What is 996?

The CEO of Alibaba, Jack Ma, has recently endorsed the ‘996’ working practice on his Weibo account.  ‘996’ refers to working from 9am to 9pm for six days. This means that the worker spends 12 hours at work daily and a total of 72 hours of work per week, which is a sign of overworking.

Overworking is a trend not only prominent in China but also in Japan and South Korea. In some cases, overworking has led to the death of employees such as the demise of a NHK reporter in 2013.

Soon after, Ma defended his post by explaining that he was not supporting overworking. He mentioned that the “real 996” is not overtime work but rather, “real 996 should be spending time learning, thinking and for self-improvement”. Furthermore, the founder of Alibaba added that if someone is truly happy at work, the person would not face the issue of ‘996’. On the other hand, should the employee be unhappy at work, every minute would seem like a torture.

What Do Others Think?

Some furious citizens have responded that if this ‘996’ working culture were to persist, there would be no time to start a family. Others commented that they have a family to look after and as such, spending 12 hours a day at work is too demanding.

Many countries all around the world are trying to adopt shorter working hours and a shorter work week to boost employee productivity. In 2018, a New Zealand firm trialled a four-day work week, allowing their employees to spend more time with their family and relaxing. In the end, workers felt more energised at work and their performance did not reduce. 

For Singapore, reports show that we remain one of the hardest working countries in the world. Technological advancement has played a huge role in blurring the lines between working in the office and working at home. Even after work hours, many employees still bring home their unfinished work. 

Surely there is a need to remain competitive in the world and by working longer hours, one could get more things done. In the future, would you want to work ‘996’?

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