China tech workers sleep on the job – with the boss’s blessing

he Wider Image: Working, eating and sleeping at the office

BEIJING (Reuters) – Dai Xiang has slept his way to the top.

The 40-year-old Beijinger got his start as an engineer, pulling 72-hour shifts at a machinery company while catching naps on the floor.

After a switch to the tech industry and around 15 years of catching naps on desks and other flat surfaces, Dai co-founded his own cloud computing firm, BaishanCloud, last year.

One of his first orders of business – installing 12 bunk beds in a secluded corner of the office.

“For technology, it’s more of a brain activity. Workers need time to find inspiration,” Dai said. “Our rest area isn’t just for sleeping at night, the midday is also OK.”

Office workers sleeping on the job has long been a common sight in China, where inefficiency and a surplus of cheap labor can give workers plenty of downtime in many industries.

But China’s technology sector is different. Business is booming faster than many start-up firms can hire new staff, forcing workers to burn the midnight oil to meet deadlines.

“The pace of Chinese internet company growth is extremely fast. I’ve been to the U.S. and the competitive environment there isn’t as intense as in China,” said Cui Meng, general manager and co-founder of start-up data company Goopal.

The company’s programmers, in particular, work overtime every day, he said. To get them through, they are allowed to sleep around lunchtime and after 9 p.m., either facedown at their desk or by commandeering the sofa or a beanbag chair.


At its most extreme, some tech company employees even live at the office during the work week.

Liu Zhanyu at DouMiYouPin, a recruitment and human resources platform, bunks down in a converted conference room Monday-to-Friday to avoid the daily commute of more than an hour to his home in Beijing’s far eastern suburbs.

The head of the “large clients” department usually retires to the room shared with one or two others between midnight and 3 a.m.

“We have to get up at 8:30 a.m. because all our co-workers come to work at 9:30 and we wash in the same bathroom everyone uses,” said Liu.

While workers across companies said the potential pay-off of working at a start-up was worth the long hours, they aren’t without a social cost.

“My kid misses me, I get home and he lunges at me like a small wolf,” Liu said, speaking about his three-year-old son who he only sees on weekends. “That makes me feel a bit guilty.”

Programmer Xiang Shiyang, 28, works until 3 or 4 a.m. at least twice a week at Renren Credit Management, which uses big data to help firms manage financial risk, leaving little room to socialize outside of work.

“I don’t have that many opportunities or much time to find a girlfriend,” he said.

The company provides cots for workers like Xiang to sleep on during late nights.

“Actually working overtime is a very casual thing,” he said. “Because I’ve invested the whole of my being into this company.”

(Writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Alex Richardson)

New Study Shows Losing Sleep Kills Brain Cells

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania is showing that ignoring sleep for work or other activities can do more than just make you feel tired:  it can actually kill brain cells.

This is the first sleep study showing permanent brain damage from lack of sleep.  Previous studies had only shown a drop in cognitive abilities, strength and focus without focusing on long term damage.

Dr. Sigrid Veasey, the study’s author, said that neuroscientists knew certain neurons in the brain that did not sleep as long as the person was awake.  They focused on those cells because they believed fatigue in those cells impacted long-term brain health.

“This gave us an indication that maybe [the cells] needed their rest,” she says. “We hypothesized that the cells that were going to be the most likely to get injured would be some of the cells that are active during wakefulness.”

The study showed a loss of as much as 30 percent of neurons in the studied group that was kept sleepless for the longest period of time.

“You can push the system a little bit, but you can’t push it too hard and for too long or you’ll have irreversible consequences,” she says.

Electronic Devices Harming Sleep Quality and Patterns

A new study shows the prevalence of smartphones, tablets and laptops are causing a problem among children with sleep patterns and quality.

The devices emit what scientists call “blue light” that works against the sleep process by hampering the body’s ability to produce melatonin, the chemical that causes the body to feel tired and enhances sleepiness.

The National Sleep Foundation has released a study showing that youth who use smartphones or computer devices before bedtime have a lower quality of sleep and sleep less than peers without the heavy use of electronic devices.

“To ensure a better night’s sleep for their children, parents may want to limit their [children’s use of] technology in the bedroom near or during bedtime,” Orfeu Buxton, PhD, of Harvard Medical School told The Fiscal Times.

The study also showed that the sleep patterns of parents have a direct impact on their children.  If the parents are using electronic devices in the evening before bedtime, the children will follow their parent’s patterns.