Feeds

The biz of biz in China (Part 1)

Avoid the fried squid

Boost IT visibility and business value

Prepare to be a jiabanist

How many times have I asked fellow Mac user group people to come to a meeting? And how many times was the answer, "Nope, I'm jiaban right now!"? If I could get a penny for every jiaban excuse (lame or well-grounded they may be), I could easily be on my way to a Porsche Boxster.

Jiaban (加班) - Chinese for doing overtime work - is, in essence, an almost-inalienable part of working in China, in particular for locals. Locals type away at their office computers on Saturdays and, at times, on Sundays as well. Social events are sacrificed in favour working overtime, as overtime pay can bring that extra yuan or two in.

To many a Westerner - a committed nine-to-fiver - overtime work is probably something more close to an emergency break - pull (and work overtime) only if you must. The Chinese pull this break, however, at an alarming rate. A Western jiaban "emergency break" (so to speak) remains in almost pristine condition through the course of a year, while the Chinese version looks like the kid toyed around with it too much.

Jiaban is likely to happen more in startups and SMEs as they have quite a bit of work to deal with. This is not to say that big, established companies don't do jiaban, but as with all things - starting up is hard to do (or to do well, at that), so it's not really that much of a surprise if a startup has to work excess hours just to get something rolling.

Much do about nothing

So what happens inside the average Chinese office? As yours truly experienced it in person, surprisingly little in terms of real, decent work being done. While refilling his cup of warm tea at the work place this time last year, he found his co-workers watching Taiwanese comedy shows, lying on the sofa, or chatting with friends (not fellow colleagues) using MSN/Windows Live Messenger or QQ.

Scarier stories come from state-owned enterprises, where the über-unproductive idea of "paying you something even if you do nothing" holds true. If you're on an internship, you pretty much get the lion's share of time free, but stuck inside an office.

This apparent low rate of productivity could turn into something meatier (and it's not good for China), and could put the brakes on the whole system. In fact, the whole thing's gone to such an extent that some companies spy on what their employees are up to (privacy is not that big of a term in China as is the case in the West).

When the you at work transcends into the private you

In the West, we're used to keeping at least two boxes of contacts; those we meet at the workplace, and those we meet back at home. If it's 5pm (or 6pm), you leave the office, and that's the end of you in employer/employee form. You return home to your wife or husband and kids, and that's you in your private (secluded?) version.

In China, however, it's not rare that the nine-to-five you continues after 5pm. Weekend calls from fellow colleagues are only recently being targeted as somewhat intrusive, and working on Sundays is not forbidden - some people (including yours truly!) work non-stop, seven days a week!

The only time that the nine-to-five you is concealed is during week-long holidays, in particular Chinese New Year. Right before the start of the New Year, new projects are concluded, work is finished at incredible speed, and when the fireworks light up the sky, Chinese biz people know that they have at least seven full days to tune out of their 9-to-5 selves.

Yours truly mixes both worlds. On Sundays, of course, he phones nobody except for his fellow Mac group friends (as he presently considers this a hobby) and his close friends. However, if he gets a work-related call (he never initiates one), this call is answered immediately and without delay. Work continues on an individual basis on Sundays with nary a hitch, but no new business-related correspondence is written; a day is given to everyone else to take a break, and plug out, while he continues with reduced work.

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.