Stressed worker
Staff at Pang Dong Lai are entitled to 10 days of "unhappy leave" annually in addition to regular annual leave. Ron Lach/Pexels

A Chinese supermarket retailer has recently introduced a new policy allowing staff to take days off work if they are unhappy.

Henan province-based Pang Dong Lai will let its employees take up to 10 days of "unhappy leave" a year to achieve a better work-life balance. This is in addition to their regular annual leave rights.

Pang Dong Lai has employees based out of its 13 stores across Xuchang and Xinxiang.

The policy plans were announced a few weeks ago at the China Supermarket Week event, an annual gathering where opportunities within the nation's supermarket landscape are brought up and discussed.

Pang Dong Lai's founder and chairman, Yu Donglai, proposed introducing the "unhappy leave" arrangement for his workers, commenting: "I want every staff member to have freedom. Everyone has times when they're unhappy, so do not come to work if you're unhappy."

Yu also confirmed that staff can follow the procedure without worrying about any of their superiors stopping them. He stated: "This leave cannot be denied by management. Denial is a violation."

Pang Dong Lai is keen for its workers to dictate when they feel like taking a break from working and to live stress-free when enjoying downtime outside of work.

In addition to the new "unhappy leave" policy, Yu provides a sufficient work-life balance for employees by requiring them to work only seven hours daily. They also have weekends off, can spend five days celebrating the Lunar New Year and are entitled to 40 days of annual leave.

Yu's decision to empower his staff regarding their work-life balance stems from his disapproval of China's culture of supervisors ordering employees to work extremely long hours. He believes this system to be "unethical" and feels it prevents people from developing their careers.

There is a current crisis in China with the fractured mental well-being of the country's workers. A survey centred around anxiety in the workplace from a few years ago revealed that nearly 70 per cent of employees are not happy and feel tired at work.

The fundamental reasons for this severe lack of satisfaction are low salaries, long working hours and complicated relationships.

For the Pang Dong Lai founder, staff satisfaction is a bigger priority than expansion for him moving forward. He 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."

The supermarket's policy has garnered positive reactions on social media in China, with one Weibo user posting: "Such a good boss and this company culture should be promoted nationwide." Another wrote: "I want to switch to Pang Dong Lai. I feel like I would gain happiness and respect there."

Workers at Pang Dong Lai are also taken care of financially, as the average monthly salary at the retailer is 7000 Chinese yuan ($970). Meanwhile, the average wage a worker earns from the rest of China's retailers is significantly lower, at 3566 yuan ($493), as of 2019.

The supermarket does not just place high importance on satisfying its employees, as the chain's customer service standards have remained high since opening in 1995. Customers can treat themselves to roughly 100 free services at the stores, including blood pressure measurements and air conditioning cleaning.

This high level of care has led to national praise and the retailer being dubbed "the ceiling of China's industry."