Why the Jack Ma Approach Is Not Best For Business

Why the Jack Ma Approach Is Not Best For Business

Recently, the billionaire founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, argued for a “996” system. This entails workdays spanning from 9am to 9pm – that’s 12 full hours – and a work week that’s six days long. Woah… that’s a lot to take in. He says that it is best for business, particularly in maintaining China’s economic inertia. But we beg to disagree with Jack Ma and this notion productivity that prioritizes profits ahead of the workers’ wellness and their work-life balance. This is not what’s best for business and runs counter to what entrepreneurs should seek and what they should ask of their employees. After all, don’t startup owners hire Virtual Assistants precisely so they can have more time off? And aren’t people working as VAs to have more flexibility and control over their hours?

Work Less, Get More

Jack Ma’s view flies in the face of developments around us. We are in an age of automation, with increasingly more sophisticated and capable software, and networks that interconnect people across vast distances. These render the traditional workplace setup increasingly obsolescent. These should allow businesses and entrepreneurs to make life easier and better for their workers. But instead they see such advances and think that they’ll get even more out of it by making their employees work even longer and harder. This is not healthy and is inconsiderate to employees. Aside from its obvious moral wrongness, objectively it’s unnecessary because there are other ways to achieve improved productivity. In New Zealand, firms have shown the success of four-day work weeks, in which reduced hours for same pay setups increased successful work-life balance, cut stress levels and boosted employee commitment as well as job performance. We are in an era where employees are hard-pressed to find work-life balance, with Stanford University professor Jeffrey Pfeffer coining the term “dying for a paycheck.” This is despite the efficiency-boosting, work-easing innovations around us. In light of this, employers cannot take their staff for granted, they need to ensure their people avoid overwork and can recharge their energy levels. Employers must also be conscious and mindful of workers’ concerns. They must avoid dismissing legitimate issues as “negativity” or “insufficient motivation,” Because they are the ones serving on the frontlines. After all, companies’ products and services come from the workers and their labor. It is through their efforts that value is created. And at the end of the day, taking care of your people is the right thing to do!

Using Innovation to Improve Lives

Outdated processes must be questioned, entrepreneurs and their staff need to work smarter, not harder. And businesses need to remember that profit and productivity go beyond just numbers on a spreadsheet, their metric must include people’s quality of life and wellness. Here at Virtual BizNest, our VAs not only help clients grow their business, they also help them live better and have more time to be with their families. For our partners who are working parents, our VAs help them find balance. Many Virtual Assistants also happen to be parents themselves. So thanks to the flexibility of the job, they can also enjoy similar benefits that would be unavailable in a traditional “9 to 5” workplace arrangement. (Imagine how much worse it’d be in Jack Ma’s “996” system!) This reflects our beliefs and approach, because innovations should be used to help people as much as possible. Otherwise, what’s the point of all the inspirational rhetoric from supposedly visionary innovators and their acts of charity? They’ll ring hollow if the way work is done, and how the workers are treated, are detrimental to people’s well-being. Business leaders must make wellness a goal in itself and make it a priority for their organizations. Doing right by their employees and upholding an example must be regarded as beneficial for its own sake. It should not be seen as a means to an end, but the end itself. With this, you’ll have a real innovation to change the world for the better! -John Li

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