While some employees welcomed the change, which they said would increase their incomes, Kuaishou’s new work schedule faced heavy criticism on Chinese social media, where related hashtags racked up millions of views and negative comments were rampant. “Some people in foreign countries see Sunday as the start of the week due to their religious beliefs. Monday is the official international standard. What does religion have to do with Kuaishou’s desire to exploit employees?” a Weibo user quipped (in Chinese) back then.
Is work-life balance becoming a thing?
Like most Chinese tech companies, working staff overtime is a critical part of Kuaishou’s identity. Launched in 2011, the firm started out as a mobile app called GIF Kuaishou, which let users create animated images. A year after its founding, the company removed GIF from its name and invented the first short-video social media platform in China. In recent years, Kuaishou has been playing catch-up with ByteDance’s Douyin, which has 600 million daily active users versus Kuaishou’s 262.4 million users.
The pressure to find its place in a Douyin-dominated market propelled Kuaishou to impose a crunch on its employees in the past. Perhaps the most outrageous act by the company was to install digital timers above toilet cubicles in its office buildings. Although it insisted that the devices were “intended to help with long lines and overcrowding in bathrooms,” critics believed that they were used to increase employees’ productivity by monitoring the length of their bathroom breaks.
Kuaishou’s reversal of its “big week/small week policy” has been met with a groundswell of positive feedback on the Chinese internet, with many praising it for following the lead of Tencent in combating employee burnout and taking a stance against the overwork culture in China’s tech sector.
And all of this also throws ByteDance’s superficial efforts to appear to care about the well-being of its employees in an even more embarrassing light. Earlier this month, ByteDance conducted a company-wide survey asking employees how they felt about its big week/small week practice. On June 17, Liáng Rǔbō 梁汝波, the new CEO of the global tech powerhouse, disclosed the results of the poll, saying that because only one-third of its workforce opposed the policy, the company decided to maintain the status quo.
But the objectivity of the survey was questioned by some ByteDance employees, who later revealed that they were unaware of the voting and speculated thatit was just a “performative stunt” pulled off by the company to push back on internal complaints about its corporate culture.