takes 'scientific' approach to hybrid working

The travel firm has been perfecting their WFH policy for over a decade takes 'scientific' approach to hybrid working

Many companies have been embracing hybrid working as a permanent HR policy following a successful trial during the pandemic. But one global organisation has been carefully exploring the work arrangement for over a decade, likely in a bid to perfect the people strategies required to sustain success in the long term. Group, a leading travel service provider of popular sites like and Skyscanner, this month announced that they’ve launched the ‘2021 Hybrid Work Trial’. The latest project will offer leaders data that will supplement insights from previous trials that ran in 2010 and 2020.

“The trial seeks to explore whether hybrid work can be one of the long-term work formats of the company in the future through a comprehensive trial of two groups with hundreds of employees participating in total,” said the group. This is another iteration of research into working practices following the past two ‘Work From Home Trial’ projects.

READ MORE: The hybrid workforce, reimagined

Scientific approach to working from home

The group explained the aim of their latest trial: “to be more scientific and rigorous in terms of design, with full consideration given to the positions, ranks and performance of the trial employees. Extensive research had been carried out before the trial began”.

The 2021 trial will cover a wider range of job functions, including technical, product, business, marketing and functional roles in their headquarter office in Shanghai, China. Previously, the policy only covered customer service staff. The project will run for about six months from August 9, 2021, to January 30, 2022. Employees in the trial group will work from home on Wednesdays and Fridays, and the trial will monitor the effects on the five departments.

“The ‘2021 Hybrid Work Trial’, as with the earlier ‘Work From Home Trial’, serves as a great platform for us to gather insights from the impact of new work processes and potentially serve as a springboard to transform our workplaces across the group around the globe,” Jennifer Cao, head of organization development, talent development and organization culture, at Group told HRD.

Through a company-wide employee survey, leaders found that 76% of employees were keen to volunteer for the WFH trial. They also found that nearly three-quarters (70%) of employees believed that working from home was more flexible and efficient. Also, about 50% of employees said they had clear work goals and that their performance and productivity were easily measurable through their output.

At the end of the trial, leaders will monitor and analyse data on the impact of working from home on several talent-related areas:

  • employee performance
  • the progress of team projects
  • employee experience and reaction
  • talent retention
  • talent attraction

Upon verifying the feasibility of the model, hybrid working options are expected to be offered to more employees, they said.

READ MORE: Hybrid vs Office: Who will win the remote work war?

Applied outcomes of past remote work trials

Insights from the latest trial will come in handy to further tweak their policies – just like how past projects had impacted their HR strategies. The group shared that their nine-month ‘Work from Home Trial’ in 2010 only involved customer service staff. Results from that trial showed performance increased to 22% when employees grew accustomed and got comfortable with working from home. At the same time, employees reported higher job satisfaction and the turnover rate dropped by 50%.

In 2013,’s Group Chairman and Co-founder, James Liang, collaborated with Nicholas Bloom, John Roberts, Zhichun Jenny Ying and other scholars from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business to publish a research paper titled ‘The Feasibility of Working from Home: Experimental Evidence Based on China’. The study further demonstrated the positive aspects of working from home.

Based on this experience, was well prepared to navigate the COVID-19 outbreak. Nearly 70% of their customer service staff across 11 business lines were able to quickly implement work from home, with some departments having nearly 85% of their staff working from home. The results showed that people who worked from home could get more work done because they were not affected by factors such as office distractions and commuting times, they said.

“The pandemic has brought with it many unprecedented shifts in the way we work,” Cao said. “This also presents opportunities for us to review our work processes and adapt quickly to ensure our work model is future-proof and sustainable.

“We are committed to continually innovate our work arrangements without compromising employee satisfaction, productivity and corporate effectiveness. We will continue to closely examine how we can leverage on the advantages of hybrid work arrangements and identify opportunities that will benefit our staff in the long-run.”

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