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Coronavirus prompts work-from-home experiment across China

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As employees return from the Lunar New Year holiday, Chinese companies across the mainland are embracing the ‘work from home’ concept on an unprecedented scale. Flexible working is no longer the novelty, it’s the norm.

The number of people working from home in China is set to explode. Currently, most employees in China are still on holiday for the Lunar New Year. However as companies on the mainland resume operations, it’s likely to trigger the globe’s biggest-ever work-from-home experiment.

That means organisations will need to get creative to ensure their employees can stay in touch with clients and colleagues, and that businesses can still tick over.

Organising client meetings and group discussions via videochat apps, or talking business strategy on software platforms such as WeChat Work will become de rigueur – at least until the coronavirus outbreak subsides.

While shops, hotels and restaurants in China are concerned about a plunge in customer traffic, and factories remain closed, businesses across the country are trying to come to grips with how to stay functional and competitive in a virtual world.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to test working from home at scale. Obviously, not easy for a creative ad agency that brainstorms a lot in person. It’s going to mean a lot of video chats and phone calls,” Alvin Foo, managing director of Reprise Digital, a Shanghai ad agency with a headcount of 400, told the SCMP.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong – where the Lunar New Year break concluded a week ago – companies are also embracing a work-from-home approach for employees.

Hong Kong’s 170,000-plus army of civil servants were among the first to be directed to work remotely, while many private organisations have since followed suit, giving employees the option to work from home – as the city strives to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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