Home-and-office work model a choice in China

Zhu Shenshen
Many jobs in China still need trust and relationship-building in an office setting, but hybrid setups seem to be here to stay.
Zhu Shenshen

Companies in China are embracing a hybrid work model, which brings opportunity to innovate and improve efficiency and is also a passive method for disease control and prevention, industry officials said.

About 45 percent of firms in China are providing remote work opportunities, higher than the average level in the Asia Pacific region of 41 percent. Over 57 percent of employees like the hybrid work idea, with the preferred option as three working days in the office and two at home, according to a survey from LinkedIn, a workplace site with 50 million users in China.

Hybrid work offers benefits such as reduced time and energy spent commuting, lower operational costs, and opportunity to hire from a global talent pool, said Wendy Purcell, Research Scholar at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Purcell, along with Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management Senior Associate Dean Chen Yubo, top executive of Trip Group and Janssen, shared their opinions on future work model in an online panel, host by LinkedIn China president Lu Jian.

Shanghai-based Trip.com, the country's biggest online tourism service provider, has already begun a hybrid work trial period. It asks employees in different departments to come to the office on certain dates, which may become a company-wide policy, said Jane Sun, Trip's CEO.

As long as productivity is not negatively impacted, employees may save two hours of commuting time, and engineers can have flexibility in their work, which "enhances our culture and gives them more job satisfaction", Sun said.

The digitalization of the workplace is "inevitable" and companies have to embrace new models and innovation strategies, which are crucial to the digital-first economy, said Janssen China President Jenny Zheng.

Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, encourages employees to bridge the gap with digital tools.

Jade, a marketing official for a US-based tech giant, likes the hybrid model. She is required to work in the Beijing office for two or three days a week.

"We have to apply for office time as working slots are limited. That makes me fully concentrate and communicate well with collages when we are in the office," Jade told Shanghai Daily.

Hybrid work helps digitally connect employees spread across different regions. It also promotes social equity as relatively less-developed big cities like Chengdu, Wuhan, Xi'an, and Chongqing become ideal destinations for talented employees who may came to Shanghai and Beijing as their first choices now, Tsinghua professor Chen said.

But there is no one-size-fits-all model in hybrid work, especially in China.

Chen agreed to embrace hybrid work but not give up the traditional model, as many jobs in China need trust and relationship-building in an office setting.

"In a big emerging market like China, trust-building sometimes is more important than information and idea-sharing," Chen said.

Hybrid work is "the biggest shift to how we work in our generation," according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

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