IMO people who work a large number of hours each week get cognitively slowed. They can't tell they've slowed down (partly because they don't have a control to compare against) and so think that if you do 80 hours per week you'll do twice as much as if you do 40 hours per week. You won't, you'll do less.
Executives who think the best way to measure business performance is by how much your employees are sat at their desks are idiots.
But yeah, my "real work" limit for a day's probably like 4hrs tops in any kind of sustained way. I've rarely seen a job that can manage to keep even that much real work slung my way on a regular basis, though. And at this point I provide 90+% of my value just by knowing the right thing or having the right insight, and communicating that info. That top-of-the-value-pyramid work is maybe a handful of minutes a week, on a good week. Most of my salary's justified by a few hours a year—it's just hard to know which hours it'll be.
There's one guy here on 18! Yes, you read that right, prescription drugs. He is so smart and productive and it shows! Fancy car and house. He's smarter than everyone here.
I'm only on 9 prescription drugs. I hope one day to be as rich and smart as him when I work my way up to 18.
And that's for assembly-line work. It's mostly rote. It stands to reason that the number is lower for knowledge workers.
Maybe manual labour jobs may be better for that, but even there I doubt it, and they'll have physical exhaustion before I hit mental exhaustion, if only because it's much easier for me to be present at my work and NOT be largely productive (jokes about people leaning on shovels not withstanding).
Even playing games 12h every day means you start making more and more mistakes than a fresh gamer. I’d say normal work will be even more tiring and stressful given the higher stakes. Especially for a knowledge worker.
Coming from a large corporation with highly diluted responsibility - among other disincentives to actually work - it took some time to adapt to this model, but I think it's a fair arrangement.
Sure some 996er's at a company at say, the senior management level can be worth it since you do actually get more work done. Abliet incredibly inefficiently while getting paid the entire time.
I don't see how its efficient to have the core of your business being nothing but employees who are working at decreased efficiency yet are getting paid the same wages. Theres some benefit in cutting down on communication/management overhead but more employees seems like a better idea overall...
It's also simply a practical reality not everybody in society CAN work like this.
Working 12 hours/day is actually more productive for management. Most people look at it from a coder/developer perspective, where more hours does not mean more work given how mentally exhausting the task is and how non-linear the gains are.
(I do not make my technical staff work more than 50 hours a week, and have forced many to take time off / stop working X hours in the office.)
But speaking as a founder/President of a company that has 40 employees, and someone who basically does 40 hours a week of management tasks alone before I do any of my "real job," there is no way I can make my schedule efficient enough to do all my work in 40 hours over 5-6 days. It just cannot happen. I've delegated literally everything I can (I've probably overdelegated to be honest), but senior management just tends to have way more dependencies and a full schedule of corporate partnerships, external sales, marketing, HR tasks, advisery services across various departments, and observation of work and meetings and blah blah blah. I have to work 60 hours/week to get my work done and push the ball forward while I mentor my direct reports and train them. (Typically work 4x12, 1x8, 1x4 WFH).
Yes, a technical worker crushing 996 demonstrably sees exponential dropoff (though I think someone working 80 hours a week still gets more done than someone working 40 hours per week, they just don't get 2x done, probably more like 1.2x), but management is a much different scenario.
The way I see it is: Bursts of work combined with prolonged pauses because of others' schedules and other issues with coordination
But then I ask myself, where are all the successful 30-hour week companies? Why is it that nearly every single successful organization has a culture of long hours?
I personally know that I can't sustainably work 10+ hours a day. But the observed results in the real world seem to say something different.
It's hard to square that circle, and I'm genuinely interested in anyone who has insight on this.
If you want a humane answer, you might have to reframe the question.
Working at a reasonable, sustainable, pace requires big discipline. It's hard for a computer game studio with a release coming in 12 weeks to stick to 40 hours because that will get them 12 great weeks. They'll tend to slide into 80 hour weeks in panic but end up doing less.
I think two real issues are that you can't compare against a control version of the company and you can't tell you are slowing down because you are tired.
Another issue is management. Most managers think hours in means more productivity out, it's hard for them to not fall into that seeing as it is so widely held as true.
Would they develop products faster if the employees worked less?
* Get a new job at game studio
* Start off OK-ish, then get pushed to crunch more and more as release date nears and then slips (probably by design)
* Release game
* lay off most staff
* They're broke for a while but the time without work is nice
I can't find a source but I understand the average length of a career in the industry is 5-6 years. Also, I couldn't help but notice at my last place that those of us doing more general work (python, data engineering, etc.) were a hell of a lot more relaxed than those with video-game-specific skillsets (Unity3d).
From what bloggers say online, this is how Japan works in general.
On a typical day I average 2-3 hours. Hitting 4-5 hours or more I feel burnt out.
But often I'm solving architecture or features and I get blocked trying to solve or make risky decisions. That's the time to go for a walk. Then the relaxed brain drifts around the problem and solutions pop up.
Do they have heavy PMP-managed work with meeting paralysis or is it just sitting at your desk and being expected to magically perform, or is it just sitting around doing nothing and not being able to leave?
All of those are their own types of hell, but they're all different. What are they doing in those 12 hours?
The happy ones seem to be the ones that are well paid and get to sit and write code, while the unhappy ones deal with red tape and meetings. Which is what usually happens in my experience in the west as well.
So honestly 996 means nothing for a lot of people (esp new grads). Even though there are protests now, I’m pessimistic it’ll shake anything eventually
Some people I know where unable to get anyway near code for years after a burnout.
Another person gained deep seated anxiety that they are unable to get rid of.
“We can deliver this in two weeks with the same team size”
And we where physically not allowed to be in the office (BT Princess street) outside normal working hours because embarrassing security cockups six months before involving the Queens unlisted numbers :-)
And then shortly thereafter we both got laid off, and the slower folks kept their jobs.
It is a mistake to believe that the only requirements are the ones that the developers get to see.
Even in the US now children are getting more and more homework and stressed out about getting into the most prestigious universities. If that is normal when growing up, spending all your time in the office is just more of the same, except you get paid more than everyone else so society loves you too.
The best chance I'd have of finding a place to nap in private would be finding a crate of packing peanuts in dispatch and hoping I get shipped off to France.
In practice the typical "996" day would usually go something like this:
- ~9:30 - 10am Arrive, commutes could vary as you might imagine
- 10 - 11:30am Morning meetings, usually a team stand-up or two
- 12 - 1:30pm Lunch, typically 1.5 hours
- 1:30 - 7pm Most work is done during this period, with some meetings later in the day
- 7 - ~8:30pm Team dinner, sometimes in the office and sometimes at a nearby restaurant*
- 8:30 - 9/10pm People start to leave
* - I was a visitor in the China offices so that could've affected how long we spent at dinner or how often we actually left the office for it
On top of the large breaks it was fairly common that the work day was filled with breaks and naps and such, so I didn't really observe people actually working for much longer than most western offices but it did tend to increase the bonds of teams by keeping them together for the entire day. As for working Saturdays... I asked various colleagues about it and was told that it was rare, only when it was absolutely necessary to ship something on a set schedule.
Another thing I found interesting was that our office in the US had Tue/Thur work from home days and when folks from the China offices would visit they were just as surprised as I was when I first heard about 996. Some of them asked me how I would get any work done from home or how management could enforce it. In general I saw that management in China placed a lot of value in office time even though the levels of productivity seemed to match it even less than in western offices.
It's an issue when the so-called tech heavyweights don't understand the basics of worker productivity in the industry.
EDIT: This post is not in support of 996. Does anyone do Socratic dialogue in comment threads anymore?
So while the examples in this story sound good, but majority of people don't really have a choice.
Talk about out of touch
It's just your DUTY?
The fact that 996 has become a norm among business lines is REALLY terrifying.