Gree Electric cancels overtime, shortens work week

Business & Technology

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The world’s largest manufacturer of air conditioners announced yesterday it would ban overtime work and implement a regular five-day work week.

  • Employees should only work 7 hours and 15 minutes a day from Monday to Friday, the appliance manufacturer said, in light of its 30-year anniversary.
  • Gree Electric used to implement a “big week/small week” overtime policy, which required workers to alternate between six-day and five-day schedules.
  • Employees who want to work overtime must now ask permission from their relevant departments.

The context: This is a major shift in policy for a company run by a woman known to lack interest in work-life balance: CEO Dǒng Míngzhū 董明珠 is often referred to as “China’s Iron Lady” (tiě niángzǐ, 铁娘子).

  • Gree Electric joins ByteDance and Kuaishou, which also cancelled their “big week/small week” policies on August 1 and July 1, respectively.
  • In August, China’s top court outlawed the country’s “996” work culture, the widespread practice of working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.

The takeaway: To align with Xi’s common prosperity push, China’s biggest companies are skirting growth priorities in order to deliver more social benefits. That includes earmarking billions to charities, restructuring their businesses, and better benefits for employees.