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Gift coupon allows employees to be late

01-21-2012 11:39 BJT

By Shi Yingying (China Daily)

SHANGHAI - Worried about being punished for showing up late for work?

Yue Xiao isn't.

The architect for Guangdong Jiangong Design has permission to arrive late.

Once, that is.

The 27-year-old won a coupon that allows her to be late one day this year.

"The coupon is a creative invention, and it's a smart way to remind employees not to be late," she said.

Such an "unpunctuality coupon" is quickly becoming a popular gift in China.

"It was a headache for me to come up with something special for every year's lucky draw," said Tan Guoliang, 35, general manager of Galax Logistics, who claimed he invented the coupon.

When he reviewed the attendance sheet of his 30 employees earlier last year, he found that the penalty for those who came to work late, starting from 5 yuan (80 cents), failed to push employees to begin the day on time.

An idea struck him - why not turn punishment into an incentive, and that is how the unpunctuality coupon was invented, Tan said.

Tan's company made the coupon a prize at last year's lucky draw and he said he was glad to see the idea become popular across the country this year.

Employees liked the coupon, too.

One of Tan's employees, who only gave her surname Xu, got coupons in last year's draw and said they helped her a lot.

She has to spend an hour to travel from the Baoshan district to central Shanghai, where her company is based - and even longer on rainy days.

"With the unpunctuality coupon, I feel much better," she said. "It provides a great psychological relief to me."

The growing popularity of the coupon relieves the rushed life and poor traffic young urbanites have to endure, especially in big Chinese cities.

Beijing residents spent an average of 52 minutes traveling between home and workplace, putting the Chinese capital on the top of a list among 50 Chinese cities, according to a survey by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Guangzhou ranked second with 48 minutes, followed by Shanghai at 47.

Experts said the coupon also reflects employers' "soft" approach to retaining talent.

Chinese companies have been backward in maintaining a good relationship between employer and employee, said Yu Hai, a professor of sociology at Fudan University in Shanghai.

But the old-fashioned management style that sees employers seldom communicate with employees has gradually changed in recent years thanks to fiercer competition to retain talent.

"The coupon, a goodwill gift from the boss, conveys a sense of care. It works better than material benefits, and shows the flexibility of a company's policy," he said.

But the coupon is not a panacea for employees who are never punctual.

Guangdong Jiangong Design allows coupon holders to be only 20 minutes late, according to Ou Yang, a human resources manager at the company. And the coupon is not transferable.

The company gave a total of three unpunctuality coupons at a lucky draw on Jan 13.

Other employers are now coming up with more innovative ideas for coupons.

Beijing Ebrum Advertising invented the "leave-early" coupon, according to Sun Ran, an assistant to the company's general manager.

"An advertising company like ours does not require employees to come to the office at a fixed time, so we came up with leave-early coupons to allow employees to finish the day earlier or have a paid one-day off."

Other innovative coupons ask the boss to give coupon holders a free lift or cover part of the holders' housing rental.

Editor:Wang Chuhan |Source: China Daily

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