Experiment at Trip.com shows hybrid work is better

Online travel giant Trip.com and researchers from three universities have concluded a study showing that a hybrid work policy might reduce quit rates without affecting productivity.

In a research paper published in the scientific journal Nature, researchers from Stanford University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Peking University claim that the hybrid work model increases the benefits for both employees and companies.

The experiment took place between August 2021 to January 2022, when Trip.com decided to evaluate the effects of the hybrid work model on job satisfaction and the wish to quit.

The researchers ran a six-month randomized control trial investigating the effects of hybrid working on 1,612 engineering, marketing, and finance employees in the Airfare and IT divisions. The experiment participants included 395 managers and 1,217 non-managers, whose activities are mainly creative team tasks.

Key takeaways from the experiment:

  • The reduction in quit rates was significant for non-managers, female employees, and those employees with long commutes
  • Hybrid work did not affect performance grades over the next two years of reviews
  • Hybrid working improved job satisfaction and reduced quit rates by one-third
  • Researchers found no evidence of a difference in promotions over the next two years
  • Hybrid work had no effect on the lines of code written by computer-engineer employees
  • 395 managers in the experiment revised their surveyed views about the effect of hybrid working on productivity, from a perceived negative effect (−2.6% on average) before the experiment to a perceived positive one (+1.0%) after the experiment.
  • Employees in the treatment and control groups had similar increases in self-assessed productivity.

According to the research paper, after the experiment concluded, Trip.com's executive committee reviewed the data and decided to immediately extend the hybrid work-from-home policy to all employees across all divisions.

The company reasoned that each employee departure cost the company around $20,000 in recruitment and training expenses. Therefore, reducing attrition by one-third would save the company millions of dollars.

Employees demand remote work, but CEOs are not happy

Remote work surged during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, revolutionizing the job market. As previous research from the University of South Australia showed, many workers value remote work so much, that they would be willing to sacrifice parts of their salary to continue doing so.

Executives are less enthusiastic about it and are trying to bring employees back to their desks. Goldman Sachs, the prestigious investment bank headquartered in New York City, previously tried to reinstate in-office work for its employees. According to Forbes, Goldman CEO David Solomon described remote work as an "aberration" and counterproductive to efficiency.

Andy Jassy, Amazon’s chief executive, has threatened to fire employees who do not want to return to the office for three days a week. Elon Musk urged Tesla’s employees to work from the office. "If you don't show up, we will assume you have resigned," he allegedly wrote.

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon claimed that remote work suppresses “spontaneous idea generation,” doubting how managers who work from home can “be a leader and not be completely accessible to people.”

Research on the topic has so far fallen on the executives' side – the effects of fully remote working on productivity are often negative. The most common arrangement, adopted by approximately 100 million employees in Europe and North America, is a hybrid schedule where individuals spend a combination of days working from home and in the office each week.

The productivity of such a model has also been debatable.