Trip.com Group will give employees the option to work remotely on certain days of the week from March 1. The move will make the group the first internet company in China to implement a hybrid work model.
The new model will be rolled out to all of the group’s employees, starting with offices on the Chinese mainland.
Implementation of the policy came after trial periods in 2010, 2020 and 2021. The latest data from the 2021 trial shows that 93% of employees felt they used their time more efficiently and 75% reported feeling an improvement in their wellness.
Trip.com Group's findings in support for the new hybrid work model. Image via Trip.com
“Hybrid work will profoundly impact the future of work-life balance, with huge potential and advantages,” said James Liang, Chairman of the Board at Trip.com Group. “This is not a reactive measure in response to the pandemic but a proactive decision we are making for our employees based on years of research. Trip.com Group will continue to explore our hybrid work model in the long term and drive global change.”
However, Trip.com Group stated that working from home at fixed times during the week is “subject to management discretion.”
In the aftermath of many countries’ initial COVID-19 outbreak, many companies in the West and other parts of the world encouraged work-from-home and have since continued the practice. China, on the other hand, has largely avoided implementing any work-from-home policies, and recently the brutal 996 work culture has again come under intense scrutiny.
The 996-work system refers to employees who work from 9am-9pm six days a week. Earlier this month a 25-year-old Bilibili employee died of a brain hemorrhage. A hashtag which trended on Weibo started by his colleagues claimed his death was related to overwork. Bilibili denies such claims.
The case bears similarities with the death of a tech worker at ecommerce group Pinduoduo in December 2020. A 22-year-old employee collapsed at 1.30am while walking home from work in the city of Urumqi. Many netizens were quick to criticize Pinduoduo's handling of the case.
Previously, Alibaba founder Jack Ma came out in support of the 996 system. The brutal work regime is common amongst China’s big technology firms.
Jack Ma. Image via Weibo/@张化学
Last year, the Chinese government stepped in to regulate the 996 culture, deeming the practice illegal. According to Chinese law, a standard workday is eight hours long and the maximum number of hours one can work per week is 44. Any work beyond that constitutes over time, and should be paid accordingly.
However, this is not being enforced. Little to no punishments are being imposed on employers that force workers to work such long hours. Within companies themselves, there is a culture that to get ahead of your fellow employees and be in contention of a raise or promotion, you have to work longer hours than them.
Last year, the Chinese government imposed strict regulations on after-school training centers. The move was implemented not only to reduce pressure on children, but to also decrease the financial burden sending their kids to training centers put on parents.
Some said the move was implemented to encourage more people to start a family after last year’s census found that fewer Chinese people were having children than before.
Should the government want to encourage more people to start a family, it might be worth implementing tougher restrictions on the 996 culture, which destroys any possibility of a work-life balance.
[Cover image via Weibo/@热门生活头条榜]