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‘Not happy, do not come to work’: China tycoon gives workers ‘unhappy leave’

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“I want every staff member to have freedom. Everyone has times when they’re not happy, so if you’re not happy, do not come to work,” said Yu.

Yu wants employees to freely determine their own rest time, and for them all to have sufficient relaxation outside work.

“This leave cannot be denied by management. Denial is a violation,” he said.

Yu Donglai says he wants his staff to stay away from work if they feel unhappy. Photo: Weibo

The “unhappy leave” idea has garnered support on mainland social media.

“Such a good boss and this company culture should be promoted nationwide,” one person said on Weibo.

“I want to switch to Pang Dong Lai. I feel like I would gain happiness and respect there,” said another.

More than 65 per cent of employees feel tired and unhappy at work, according to a 2021 survey on workplace anxiety in China.

Low wages, complex interpersonal relationships and overtime culture are reportedly the main sources of negative emotions in the mainland workplace.

In March 2023, Yu made a speech in which he condemned the culture of Chinese bosses advocating for long working hours.

“Making staff work overtime is unethical and an expropriation of other people’s opportunities for growth,” he said.

Yu’s employment policies stipulate that employees work only seven hours a day, have weekends off, are entitled to 30 to 40 days annual leave and five days off during Lunar New Year.

Speaking about the future of his company, Yu said: “We do not want to be big. We want our employees to have a healthy and relaxed life, so that the company will too.”

Pang Dong Lai’s philosophy is “freedom and love,” he said.

The average monthly salary of employees at the company is 7,000 yuan (US$970).

In comparison, the average salary of retail workers in China was 3,566 yuan in 2019, according to China’s retail news outlet linkshop.com.

Yu’s supermarket chain has earned nationwide recognition for its level of customer service. Photo: Shutterstock

This year, Pang Dong Lai also introduced a job-level certification system.

“Even a janitor can earn up to 500,000 yuan (US$70,000) annually as long as their professional capabilities reach a certain level,” said Yu.

Despite having only 13 stores in Xuchang and Xinxiang – two third-tier cities in Henan province – Pang Dong Lai has earned nationwide recognition as “the ceiling of China’s industry” due to the high standard of customer service achieved over its 29-year history.

The Pang Dong Lai supermarket is equipped with pet cabinets at the entrance, along with dedicated pet water and cooling devices.

It also offers about 100 free services, including free blood pressure measurements, air conditioning cleaning and handbag maintenance.

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