What happened: Youzan, a Hangzhou-based mobile e-commerce platform, announced at its annual meeting on Jan. 17 that the company would adopt the “996” working schedule, in which workdays start at around 9 a.m., finish at 9 p.m., and extend into the weekend. When asked how employees are supposed to balance family and work under such a tight schedule, a company executive said they could refer to Huawei, which reportedly told its employees that divorce might be an optional solution. Youzan founder Zhu Ning responded in an open letter on the media outrage, saying that the incident could be a good thing because it gives the public a chance to learn about the company before joining.
Why it’s important: 996 is the new norm for Chinese internet companies, which are competing to move fast and stay ahead in the market. Companies like 58.com, Xiaomi, and a handful of others have adopted this new practice. The changes in policy at many of these companies have angered staff members, especially millennials. There are also concerns about whether the work regime is against China’s laws, which prescribes eight-hour workdays and more importantly, whether working extended hours means improved efficiency.