China's work culture may be forever changed by the pandemic experience.
In the nearly two years of economic disruption caused by the pandemic, remote working became a worldwide norm. In the US, tech giants such as Amazon, Google and Apple adopted a hybrid work model that lets employees work from home on the days they choose. The hybrid model was favored by over 70% of the participants in a Microsoft survey across 31 markets.
In China, the government advocated for people’s livelihood according to the 14th Five-Year Plan, which it released at the end of 2020, and echoes the worldwide social-equality movement. The “work from anywhere” culture continued to gain traction with the Chinese people throughout the pandemic.
Chinese online travel giant Trip.com ran a hybrid-model trial for more than 1,600 employees in 2021. It received strong support from participants, with positive feedback regarding employee satisfaction and job efficiency. Trip.com will soon make the hybrid model available across the company, which has 45,000 employees; and more companies in China plan to follow suit.
Before the broad adoption of a hybrid work model, numerous companies aimed to cancel the “996” work model that was used by notable companies such as TikTok parent ByteDance and video-sharing app developer Kuaishou Technology. The 996 model consists of a 72-hour workweek (9am to 9pm, six days a week), which many giant Chinese technology companies adopted over the past decade, despite violating Chinese labor laws. The model has received public criticism and fueled an anti-996 campaign in 2019.
As Chinese authorities have enhanced enforcement since 2020 to crack companies’ “too big to fail” myth, ensuring labor rights for tech and gig workers has found an advocate in the Chinese media ecosystem. As a result, the 996 work culture is facing increased pushback from the public and the regulators.
As the flexible model becomes more embedded, an added benefit is that it will significantly reduce commuting time for employees, allowing them to spend more time with family while reducing their carbon footprint.