In China, the “996” and “007” work systems overwhelm office workers. Perhaps, you would think that in the United States on the other side of the ocean, work would be much easier. But in fact, they are also advocating “high-intensity” work, and the Internet giants are no exception.
Right now, Mark Zuckerberg’s life is not easy, his company is facing the front and back. Meta’s main social app, Facebook, has always focused on connecting with friends, but this model is being severely impacted by TikTok, where young people are now going to swipe videos. At the same time, Meta’s metaverse transformation is not smooth, the initial investment is huge, and it will burn $10 billion a year.
This month, Zuckerberg held an impromptu meeting in the San Francisco Bay Area to bring together his top aides. One of the agendas is a “work marathon” to discuss a roadmap for improving Facebook, the main app, including major changes to the way users browse.
In the weeks before that, Zuckerberg sent messages to executives about the overhaul, urging them to work faster and execute better, people familiar with the matter said. Some executives had to read 122 pages of slides about the adjustment. At this unusual intensity of work, they began to sweat.
To attend the summit, Facebook executives flew to San Francisco from around the world. Zuckerberg and his team pored over each slide. Within days, the team released an update to the Facebook app to better compete with top rival TikTok.
Currently, Zuckerberg is leading the $450 billion Meta into a new phase. In the process, he set a ruthless pace of work. In recent months, he has been reining in spending, slashing perks, restructuring his leadership team and making it clear he will lay off underperforming employees. He said employees who didn’t want to stay at the company were welcome to leave. Managers also sent out memos to convey the seriousness of the practice, one of which was titled “Increasing Work Intensity.”
Zuckerberg, 38, is trying to take Meta away from its social network roots and focus on an immersive, so far theoretical “metaverse.” In Silicon Valley, he and other executives created what many call the Web 2.0 era, a more social, application-focused version of the Internet. But after their platforms were plagued by privacy concerns, toxic content and misinformation, these executives are reflecting on and upending their original vision.
It’s a moment reminiscent of what other companies have done to turn the tide, such as Netflix, which ended its DVD-by-mail business over the past 10 years in favor of focusing on streaming. But Zuckerberg did it because Meta had nowhere to go. The company is facing the threat of a global recession, while rivals such as TikTok, YouTube and Apple are closing in.
These initiatives are far from guaranteed success. Meta’s profits have fallen and revenue growth has slowed in recent months as the company has invested heavily in the Metaverse business and a slowing economy has hurt its advertising business. Meta stock plummeted.
“When Zuckerberg is super-focused on something, the whole company goes out,” said Katie Harbath, former Facebook policy chief and founder of Anchor Change, a tech and democracy consultancy. They will quickly drop other jobs and turn to the problem at hand, they are under a lot of pressure and need to move quickly to show progress.”
If you don’t want to do it, go away
To this end, Zuckerberg has sent a clear signal that the company needs to enter a “high-intensity” state of operation, “it’s time to do more with less money.”
This month, Meta lowered its engineering tech hiring target for the year to 6,000 from 10,000-12,000, with some vacancies no longer hiring. Once-rich budgets are being cut. Managers have also been told not to expect unlimited staffing on their teams. Meta chief product officer Chris Cox said in a memo last month that the current economic environment calls for “leaner, leaner, better-executed teams.”
Zuckerberg once said at a staff meeting that he knew that not everyone could accept these changes, which was fine, and he could leave if he didn’t want to.
“I think some of you may feel that this place is not the right place for you, and I think that self-selection is fine,” Zuckerberg said. “In fact, there may be a group of people in the company that shouldn’t be here .”
Another memo circulated inside Meta, titled “Increasing Work Intensity.” In the memo, a Meta vice president said managers should start “taking a hard look at everyone on the team to see the value they contribute to the company.”
“If subordinates aren’t doing their job well or performing poorly, they’re not the people we need, and they’re failing the company,” the memo said. “As a manager, you can’t allow someone to hang around or drag the company down.”
Forget about vacation benefits
Since Facebook’s inception, Zuckerberg has made a habit of confronting employees in weekly question-and-answer sessions, talking about everything. But as the company grew, these meetings became more and more scripted. Instead of coming every week, he has other executives answering the questions employees ask the most.
On June 30, he again participated in an employee Q&A session. At times, he sounded like a general leading his troops to prepare for the coming war. Other times, he’s like a visionary trumpeting what advancing the metaverse might bring to the company over the next decade. But for the most part, he looked angry.
The first question comes from employees in Chicago. The question he asks is whether Meta Days, the extra holiday that Meta introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic, will continue in 2023?
Zuckerberg was clearly frustrated with this question. “Um… well,” he stammered. He explained that he believes the U.S. economy is heading for “one of the worst recessions in recent history,” noting that he has frozen hiring in many areas, that TikTok is taking the company’s jobs, and more.
As for the extra vacation, Zuckerberg said: “From the tone of my voice during the rest of the Q&A session, you can probably imagine my reaction to it.” That said, after this year, Meta Days will be canceled.
Just days after a “work marathon” with Facebook management this month, Zuckerberg updated his Facebook profile to point out some upcoming changes to the app. Facebook will start to follow TikTok’s way of getting people into a stream with more videos and more suggested content.
Currently, Meta has been investing heavily in video and content discovery, aiming to strengthen its artificial intelligence and improve its “discovery algorithm” to recommend engaging content to users without requiring users to find it themselves.
In the past, Facebook has only tested major product updates with a small number of English-speaking users to see how they perform before a wider rollout. But this time, the 2.93 billion people around the world who use Facebook will receive the update at the same time.
Some Meta employees said it was a sign Zuckerberg was serious this time around.