Being able to supersede labor laws by forcing^Wasking employees to sign a contract that nullifies them is suspect at best. I get that office tech workers aren't the factory assembly line workers for which these laws were originally designed but the exclusions need to come from the other direction.
> Huawei Technologies employees work on the last Saturday of each month, and that earns them an extra 12 days by the end of the year that they can take in pay or days off. A year into their jobs, Huawei’s Chinese staff can sign a “dedicated employee agreement,” voluntarily forgoing paid vacation days and overtime.
That quote links to a different article explaining this further:
> A year into their jobs, Chinese staff may sign a “dedicated employee agreement,” voluntarily forgoing paid vacation days and overtime. One Huawei engineer said he signed the agreement four years ago to start receiving shares as part of his compensation. The closely held firm says its shares are owned entirely by its executives and employees.
So the deal is "Work an extra 12 days per year for 12 days of pay/vacation. Then give it up along with all the rest of your vacation days and maybe we'll give you some equity. Also, we can probably claw back the equity. Also, you'll probably never be able to actually cash it out.
Maybe they're not operating the machines, but even in the U.S., white-collar engineers at a fab will often find themselves working north of 60h every week. Because you're salaried, there's no overtime pay. Also, you'll carry a pager and be responsible for answering it 24 hours a day, every day. And since the fab doesn't stop on weekends, you either work a shift or rotate weekends with your team. PTO is usually approved, but using a substantial fraction of it will result in a bad review. A capped portion of the remainder gets cashed out at the end of the year, and the rest evaporates.
And that's the United States. I'm sure China takes this to a whole other level.
(Source: recovering semiconductor process engineer.)
I nearly had a panic attack reading this. Exactly the same background and experience working in FABs. I honestly had a moment where I thought I may have had a had some form of break and written this under a different account.
On call at family weddings, asked to cancel vacations at the last minute (that was the final straw for me), working 6-6 followed by calls at 1am...yeah, no more.
US employment laws leave a lot a lot to be desired. I can't even fathom those in China.
My 'favorite' story was three years after I left the industry having to leave a movie theater because a characters ring tone was the one I had on my on call phone and it caused a panic attack.
After I ended my employment they seemed shocked when I asked for that compensation to be paid out. They then denied that I had been 'actually on call' (note: managers, don't lie to your HR department - especially the investigations people). Thankfully I had documented all the listings of me being on call and pointed out that their policy required an on call engineer to be available and noted that no one else in the group was certified to be on cal.
We settled before I had to take it to court.
UK brought in laws to protect workers from unpaid excessive overtime but employees were asked to sign waivers. Those who didn’t sign or didn’t work OT would not progress.
Canada. Tech employees are exempt from normal overtime laws whether they like it or not. Tech employees being applied very broadly.
USA. Company requires straight up rejection of employment law in the form of At Will Employment.
That’s not to condone or justify the 9 9 6 thing in China and the culture in many asian countries in general of long hours at the office. I hope they move away from that in time
That line is hilarious. How exactly are they "earning" anything? They're just getting deferred pay for those days or deferred day offs, which were supposed to be day-offs in the first place, as they were saturdays.
Well done, trying to claim/protect rights for Huawei engineers who just happen to be the best paid tech workers in China getting 20 times of the national average.
Have a look at their online discussions which are free to view, just check the sheer number of Groupon style shopping frenzy for investment properties -
there are hundreds more, if not thousands more.
Trust yourself one thing - when their average pay is like 20 times of the national average, they don't need you to jump up and argue for their annual leave related rights.
Pointing out such semantic plays isn't fighting for their rights, it's calling a spade a spade. Which can be entirely self-interested, given how such schemes are imitated wherever possible.
You can paint it whatever you like. The point here is clear - you don't jump up and argue Wall St analysts deserve better pay and more annual leaves, for the exact same reason, when Huawei engineers are getting 20 times of the national average pay, it is not a smart call to point out such stupidities seen in one of Huawei's internal docs.
Nowhere did the grand-poster do that for the Huawei folks. And Huawei paying "outrageous" money doesn't exempt them from questions and/or ridicule when doing stupid stunts (even if related to the very same money) like promoting deferred vacation as "extra". I'd expect Huawei execs to be able to count.
Which horse do you have in this race?
I don't see how anyone performs well under these circumstances unless they are horribly overqualified for the job.
In order for a programmer to be even 60% effective at this kind of schedule, the work has to be essentially trivial. I don't see any debugging happening in this kind of situation.
The only explanation I see is that there is a 'social status' for bosses to have their employees work a lot. Because I do not believe this actually yields decent commercial results for anyone.
I worked with a team of Korean engineers (Samsung) to integrate one of my employer's products (MobiTV) into their first true touch screen phone. This was in 2007 at Sprint's headquarters in Kansas.
They all worked very very long hours, will get in around 9-10am and stay until 10pm in the office, with Saturdays being half days. It was cultural to show you working hard, and "sleeping" in your desk was seen as a badge of honor: (so tired form working hard, that I have to sleep on the desk).
The code they produced was shit, and full of bugs. For every fix, there was another bug introduced. But whatever, they eventually ended up shipping an "ok" product, but they way they went to it was horribly inefficient.
I personally would not recommend.
In addition, now that I am working on my own app full time, I have seen that once I start spending a lot of time coding/in front of the computer, my efficiency (amount of work down per hour) goes down.
It seems that there is a natural limit on how much 'intelectual' work can be done in a week, and spending more time is counter productive.
On the other hand, if the tasks are easy and don't require brainpower (i.e. small UI tweaks, adjustments, etc), spending more time doesn't necessary reduce efficiency.
My strategy has been work on the hard tasks first (usually 3-4 hours), then spend the rest of your time on low intensity items.
In addition to decreasing efficiency at code-production (ie fewer lines being written), the major killer with tired coding is that adrenaline takes over and you get into 'go mode'... suddenly you're punching out widgets and no longer stopping to question your approach. It's doubly bad because that kind of work tends to mate with deadlines to create higher stress and a feeling of having no time to try out alternatives...
Head down and plowing though is a good approach to some problems sometimes. But for IT work? There's a good chance that OT work isn't just poor quality and slow, but also contains a lot of unnecessary effort that never needed to be done at all.
A good Engineer will solve your problem in 5 days. A great Engineer will spend 4 days figuring out how to solve your problem in 1... A tired Engineer under a deadline will work a 110 hour week cranking out a half-assed bare-minimum solution only to find it replaced in less than 10 hours by someone who was awake enough to consider some alternatives and needed something that worked :/
It seems common for people writing novels to consider 4 hours of actual writing a day to be a maximum, beyond which their productivity plummets. Sure, they may be thinking about the novel outside that, but they're not actually sat at a keyboard typing.
"Then, from about nine to one, unless he was
giving a lecture, he worked at his own mathematics.
Four hours creative work a day is about
the limit for a mathematician, he used to say."
Been doing this for over a year. My clarity and productivity haven’t suffered that I notice, but I do not anticipate doing this forever. I’d burned out once before ten years ago doing even more hours and days. This is about my limit.
You have a point though. Look at the crap China churns out.
Edited to add: Having experience the burnout lesson the hard way, I do pace myself. Sundays are for friends, church, and family. I get all the sleep I want. I stop at times to read YC news and talk to others :-) I get bike rides and watch a movie now and again. Life is not all about work.
In the case of 996, it's almost as if the employees are being asked to behave as if they are wildly passionate about what they do, as if it is their destiny and calling. I can only presume that they will burn out all the more quickly.
Although I suppose, if, as others have implied, the job is actually a non-complex assembly line-ish thing, then perhaps employees are easily replaceable, and it makes economic sense to use one up until it is empty, and then proceed to the next one.
On the other hand, if the job truly is easily represented by some simple algorithm, why not teach a machine to do it cheaper and more consistently?
Seems more likely that they are fooling themselves, and that the entire setup is there to give upper management a sense of satisfaction rather than to create actual productivity.
Because in a country with a large population of poor people such as China, unskilled and semi-skilled (as in a typical factory job) labor has got to be dirt cheap, such that it makes sense to have humans performing trivial tasks that could be easily automated.
I'm just speculating, I've no idea how they are reasoning. But I do suspect it's more cultural/personal rather than practical or to maximize productivity.
Now, if my title were 'Co-Founder' or some equivalent such that excelling at my job could very well translate into financial freedom for myself (and my family), that would be different :)
I seriously doubt these companies pay these guys that much. At the end of the day, these are just jobs and businesses shouldn't expect their employees to sacrifice so much for something they don't even own.
I don't know that building a large CMS tuned to a specific vertical is trivial, but it wasn't the most technically challenging problem I have ever worked on. There were a boatload of details (especially in the analytics and traffic arbitrage modules), very tight deadlines, and entirely new technologies to learn. I was getting normal amounts of sleep per night (5-7 depending on how I felt) and when I was tired, I'd take a half day or day off. I communicated mainly via SIP phone, IRC, and email with my cofounder and both of us understood when the other needed some time to decompress. The thing was, working for ourselves building something we wanted to exist, we didn't need much time for decompression.
I made enough off that business to be debt-free (from a starting point of about -140K USD), build up savings and retirement accounts I ignored before, and coast for the next 18 months doing whatever I felt like (which was a self-directed study of computer science and a lot of Magic: the Gathering). I didn't get rich, but I did improve my situation substantially. If I didn't have commitments to my family, I would jump at a chance to do something like this again.
It's not effective. As you mentioned, it's about social signalling.
Multiple speculative causes:
- Social pressure. The bosses want to be able to say "look at how hard I can make my workers work", probably without comparing productivity in any way
- Social pressure. People competing with each other for how hard working they are. This seems prevalent in many cultures. "Oh I am so tired / stressed". When you claim those things, you can stop worrying about other issues, like doing good work. I have always noticed that the busier I appear, the less people would hold me to account for problems. Ridiculous.
- A tired / overworked populace doesn't have the energy to get any revolutionary ideas. The status quo is maintained, no matter what the cost. This suits almost nobody, other than a select few. But, we do it to ourselves. Like the herd of bison running from the lion, we do not realise our power and instead accept whatever the oppressors (companies) force on us. So, we made our bed and are lying in it. No point complaining unless we are willing to do something about it. See points 1 and 2, this has never been about productivity.
“ If we go to work at 8am and go home at 5pm, this is not a high tech company and Alibaba will never be successful...If we are a good team and know what we want to do, one of us can defeat ten of them.”
It's even more incredible watching him say it: https://twitter.com/humanismusic/status/963714910269079552
The developers who don't log extra hours don't have to be less motivated, sometimes they are just a lot better at prioritising their work.
IMHO the secret of success of China, if there is one(China is way poorer than EU or USA), is accepting capitalism after centuries of stagnation with systems that worked very bad for most people(worked for Emperors, communist dictators and people in power thought).
To say that working 996 is the secret to success is just manipulation of the wsj, which does not surprise me coming from this newspaper.
Not accepting patents in practice like US did with England could be the secret of China industry advancing very fast but working too much is not.
Chinese spend a long time in work, they even sleep there but the energy they have most of the time is very low precisely because of that. European system is far superior.