China: Private firm introduces ‘unhappy leaves’ for those who are not happy to work

Yu Donglai, the founder and chairman of Pang Dong Lai, has introduced a novel concept called “unhappy leave” for his employees, aimed at fostering a healthier work-life balance. This new policy allows employees to take up to 10 additional days off if they feel unhappy or unwell, emphasizing that personal well-being should not be compromised for work. Yu Donglai underscored the importance of this initiative by stating that during these times, employees should not feel compelled to come to work and that management cannot deny these leave requests without violating company policy.

This initiative is part of a broader commitment by Yu Donglai to create a more humane and employee-friendly work environment. Alongside “unhappy leave,” the company’s employment policy includes a seven-hour workday, weekends off, and a generous annual leave allowance ranging from 30 to 40 days, plus an additional five days during the Lunar New Year. Yu Donglai expressed his vision for the company, saying, “We do not want to be big. We want our employees to have a healthy and relaxed life, so that the company will too.” He places a high value on freedom and love within the corporate culture, which he believes are crucial for a thriving workplace.

Further enhancing the company’s progressive stance, Pang Dong Lai recently implemented a job-level certification system. This system is designed to fairly reward employees based on their skills and contributions, regardless of their position. For example, even a janitor at Pang Dong Lai has the potential to earn up to 500,000 yuan (approximately US$70,000) annually, provided they meet certain professional standards.

The response on Chinese social media to these changes has been overwhelmingly positive. Many users have praised the company’s culture and expressed a desire to work there, highlighting the appeal of such employee-centric policies in enhancing job satisfaction and respect within the workplace.

Moreover, these policies come in stark contrast to the prevailing work culture among many Chinese companies, where long hours and minimal time off are common. Yu Donglai has been an outspoken critic of this approach, previously condemning the unethical nature of excessive overtime and its detrimental effects on personal growth and opportunities.

This shift towards more empathetic and flexible work policies could be a significant step in addressing the widespread workplace dissatisfaction in China, as evidenced by a 2021 survey which found that over 65 percent of employees feel tired and unhappy at work. By prioritizing employee well-being and respect, Yu Donglai is not only setting a new standard for corporate culture in China but also potentially inspiring other companies to follow suit.

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