to launch hybrid work policy in first for Chinese tech sector

BEIJING, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Travel giant Group (9961.HK) will from next month begin to allow staff to work from home or elsewhere away from the office for two days a week, becoming the first largest tech company in China to introduce such a hybrid work policy.

Speaking to Reuters, executive chairman James Liang said the practice was good for morale and encouraged other Chinese companies to adopt it.

COVID-19 has driven numerous tech companies abroad, including Microsoft (MSFT.O) and Apple (AAPL.O), to introduce more flexible work arrangements, but the trend has been slow to catch on in China, which managed to bring its epidemic under control relatively early on.

China's technology sector has been grappling with criticisms of its work culture in recent years, in particular for a widespread industry practice, dubbed "996", of asking staff to work 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week. said employees in mainland China would be allowed to work out of office on Wednesdays and Fridays starting from March 1, adding this would be dependent on supervisor approval and that the policy would be rolled out to its overseas offices.

It said a hybrid work trial it conducted last year with more than 1,600 participants over six months resulted in the staff turnover rate falling by one-third with no significant impact on performance, while nearly 19 out of 20 employees said the change helped to improve their efficiency.

"It is a good thing to work in a hybrid way and Chinese companies should try it," Liang said. "We hope more enterprises will join us in adopting this policy which is good for employees, companies and also society."

Reporting by Sophie Yu and Brenda Goh; editing by John Stonestreet

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