TikTok owner ByteDance limits work day to 9 hours in blow to '996' culture

Under the new policy, employees can apply to work overtime no more than 3 hours on a weekday or 8 hours on a weekend. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - ByteDance ordered its employees to end their day by 7pm, becoming one of the first tech companies in China to officially mandate shorter working hours.

Staff in China should work only from 10am to 7pm on Mondays to Fridays, and will need to seek permission to stay beyond those hours at least one day in advance, according to an internal document on Monday (Nov 1) that was seen by Bloomberg News.

A representative for the TikTok and Douyin owner declined to comment.

The country's gruelling work pace - known as "996" because employees often labour from 9am to 9pm six days a week - was long celebrated by tech billionaires, from Alibaba Group Holding's Jack Ma to JD.com founder Richard Liu.

But it has come under renewed scrutiny this year, fuelled by deaths associated with overwork and a growing chorus of social media complaints.

With Chinese President Xi Jinping calling on the country to work towards "common prosperity", the authorities have stepped up warnings against employers to refrain from unreasonable overtime and other violations.

Under the new policy, employees can apply to work overtime no more than three hours on a weekday or eight hours on a weekend, according to the document.

They will receive extra compensation of up to three times their normal wage for the overtime.

The new policy is the latest effort by ByteDance to improve worker welfare.

Earlier this year, the social media giant, along with rival Kuaishou Technology, cancelled an alternating system where employees just take one day off per week every two weeks.

A short-lived campaign last month saw some private sector workers, including those from ByteDance, come together to share their working hours in protest against the country's excessive working culture.

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