Have you heard of the new working model for time at the office? No longer “nine-to-five” or 24/7 but 996: twelve hour days (9am-9pm), six days a week.
According to the head honchos at Alibaba and Tesla, long work hours are a necessity for company growth and success. Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma wrote on a Weibo post, “To be able to work 996 is a huge bliss...If you want to join Alibaba, you need to be prepared to work 12 hours a day, otherwise why even bother joining,” He has also encouraged young people to work more than forty hours a week, until the government pointed out that working employees over a forty hour/week is against the law. Yet he has also been known to say, “ I'm coming to this world not to work. I want to come to this world to enjoy my life. I don't want to die in my office. I want to die on the beaches.” Seems like he is a little confused over his work/life balance.
Tesla’s Mr. Musk has scoffed at those people who think forty hours/week can contribute anything to society. He is an advocate of long working days. “Nobody has ever changed the world on forty hours a week.” He advocates people to work 80-100 hours a week.
There has also been controversial employment practices at Amazon. According to a New York Times’ insider report, “Many of those workers said Amazon had provided them with great work opportunities and found its boldness and inventiveness addictive. But they also said the culture at Amazon seemed almost punishing by design, and described a workplace characterized by frequent criticism, often excessive workloads and expectations the company itself calls ‘unreasonably high.’ “ Those who had worked for the company and have left describe their feelings as similar to the soldier or civilian who has witnessed battle and has come through it: a pride in going through hell and surviving yet glad it is over.
In all these companies, working longer does not allow for any type of work/life balance. If anything, there is a total imbalance. Zhou Hongyi, the chairman and chief executive of Internet security firm Qihoo 360, said striking the right balance was an impossible task.
Speaking at a media briefing last week, he said, “I’ll call you my big uncle if any of you seated here can say you truly balance family and work,” . (Referring to someone as “big uncle” – or da ye in Chinese – is a mark of great respect.)
However, there are other working models ones that seem to have more of a balance between work and life. According to the World Happiness Monitor (who knew?), the countries with the happiest people seem to be the ones who have this balance in order. They work forty or fewer hours a week and have a livable wage in order to spend time with family and friends when not working. Granted these are companies in countries that have a different set-up for health care, childcare and other employer and employee-type expenses. Do these countries have a lower expectation of what constitutes happiness? (https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/worlds-happiest-countries-united-nations-2019/index.html)
Is it only in the innovative companies and environment that we push ourselves over the limit? Do we have to subjugate our individual desires/needs/happiness for the greater good of company/innovation/advancement of society? Are we advancing society when we push the limits at all costs? Does that strategy backfire in the long-term of society or does it propel it forward?
I guess it comes down to what you want out of life? What do you feel is important? What is your purpose? Are you answering a higher calling or a greater good other than yourself?
At this stage of my life, I do find that I am questioning how I spend my time. Does it serve a purpose beyond myself? Does the activity align with my goals which I try to align with God’s calling?
In Ephesians 5: 16, Paul reminds us to “make the most of every opportunity”. Of course all scripture can be used for any and opposite arguments (making the most of every opportunity could mean for some to work ALL the time). The intention is that we make the most of our days- to live out our lives to benefit God and others. The Psalmist says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I think that when we recognize our priorities for our time, we do gain wisdom.
Here are some tips found online regarding work-life:
1. Prioritize what’s important to you and let go of everything else. That is where my three stones come in. I have three stones in my office that remind me of my priorities: faith, family, friends. Stephen Covey would use the visual of filling a jar with stones, pebbles, sand and water. He would ask his audience in which order to fill the jar with all fitting and nothing spilling. In order to get all the solids and liquids in, one has to first put in the big rocks. Those are your priorities each day. Although lately, I have been wondering about my third “big rock”-friends and if, for the sake of analogy, I might need to trade that one for two smaller sized rocks. I am in the midst of reprioritizing. Another blog….
2. Pursue activities and opportunities that energize you. Frederick Buechner’s quote helps keep this point grounded for me: “ Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need.” While there are some activities and opportunities that energize me, they may not necessarily be ones that encourage others and glorify God.
3. Set your own boundaries (no one will do it for you). This has been one of the hardest things for me to learn. It makes me feel incredibly selfish yet I recognize that I have to be the one who does it.
4. Embrace work-life integration. Trying to compartmentalize work and life separately can sometimes cause more stress. Depending on your job, you might have to have some overlap. Setting overlapping boundaries can sometimes take the stress out but also keep from both work-life melding into one mess. This one may take time as you assess how the balance is working.
The fact is- we all get twenty-four hours a day, one hundred sixty-eight hours in a week to accomplish whatever…
What about you? How will you spend it?