China’s “996 Schedule” Debate: Tech Tycoon Zhou Hongyi Weighs in On Industry Balance

China’s technology sector has long been known as an extremely rough industry for anyone trying to balance their work and home life.

In fact, the controversial “996” schedule adopted by many tech companies across China leaves much to be desired for many. The schedule involved people working from 9am to 9pm, six days a week.

The 996 concept became a nationwide discussion last month after a group of software developers complained about it on Github. They said the long working hours was making them ill and that they may even end up in intensive care from overworking.

Zhou Hongyi, chairman and chief executive of Internet security for Qihoo 360, recently noted that finding balance while working in China’s technology sector is impossible.

He said, “I’ll call you my big uncle if any of you seated here can say you truly balance family and work,” with the term “big uncle” being a mark of high respect.

Zhou was recently in the news for suggesting that hi-tech companies can make their employees feel better about working longer hours by making them shareholders in the company.

On Hong Kong’s Pheonix TV website, he suggested, “Make them feel like they are working for themselves. Then they won’t mind about the 996 schedule.”

Zhou’s comment came after Jack Ma, the Alibaba Group’s founder and owner of the South China Morning Post, came out in support of long working hours. He said that the 996 hours are “a huge blessing that many companies and employees do not have the opportunity to have.”

However, there has been a lot of online backlash to their 996 support.

One user said: “It’s hard to have a future in a company with a 996 culture because it’s not sustainable, either mentally or physically. Such companies just benefit from one batch of young employees after another.”