Work hours in China kill CEO

Chunyu Doctor
Chunyu Doctor

The death of a tech firm CEO stirs up a debate about Chinese Techies’ 70-hour work week.

Talk about irony, the founder/CEO of a prominent mobile health app, Zhang Rui, had a premature death at the age of 44-years.

This sudden death has spurred about much talk on the long working hours in the hope of making a quick fortune which has become a way of life in the Chinese tech community, sadly.

Zhang Rui, the founder of the startup Chunyu Doctor, died from a heart attack on Oct. 5. Chunyu spokesman Tan Wanneng informed there seems to be no evidence that Zhang’s death was due to overwork, as heart attacks can have many causes.

But let’s be honest even though there are many reasons for a heart attack one of the main reasons can be stress related. Therefore the month of October has seen many tech executives in China questioning about the intensely competitive environment of their industry and the potential health hardships they may face.

Motivated by the growth of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which raised $25 billion in a 2014 IPO. China’s new generation of entrepreneurs has been occupied in a fierce battle for capital and talent.

The country saw an enormous growth of 1.2 start-ups of internet companies every day in the second quarter.

Silicon Valley which is also notable for its aggressive culture and long hours suffer a similar predicament, China’s entrepreneurs, however, face an unprecedented set of challenges since the tech industry is more new, and regulations and funding are in constantly evolving.

Chinese startup society is under a lot of stress, even more so than in the Valley,” states Dave McClure, founding partner of Mountain View, California-based venture firm 500 Startups. “It is unfortunate; people don’t consider about health issues as much.” Tragically among more than 3,000 founders he has invested in globally, at least six have passed away, one even committed suicide.

Chinese executives have for years expressed about the challenges in balancing work and life.

After fighting cancer, Kai-Fu Lee, a long-time tech executive, published a book about his illness and how the cancer was a protest by his body for the crazy 15-hour workdays during a high-flying career.

Jean Liu, president of the taxi-hailing app Didi Chuxing, has supported her staff at Didi to exercise more and take responsibility for their health, which is a start, but are people given the time to do so is the question.

Those who work for more than 55 hours a week face an increased risk of stroke and coronary heart disease when opposed to those working the usual hours of 35 to 40 a week, as per a study which examined data from more than 600,000 individuals, published last October in the medical journal The Lancet.

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