Healthy employees

making safe products

Thematic story: Healthy employees making safe products

Try to visualize this scene: Before an office building, a gardener is casually trimming branches off the line of trees, doing his part to maintain the green corridor that connects the building to the factory. When the flowers reach full bloom in the right season, their subtle yet unmistakable fragrance looms in the air, delivering a sense of comfort that one would associate with peace and serenity. And now, picture the same location, but with rows of festive lanterns hung along the green corridor, with familiar tunes of Chinese New Year faintly coming from a distance. That is what you can expect to see when you visit YOKE’s office building, which is nothing like the typical factory one would expect

Situated in Taichung Industrial Park, YOKE is a manufacturer of safety products and accessories that recently celebrated its 35th anniversary. Before you set foot in the office area, you’d be reminded to change into indoor slippers. Once you get inside the lobby, your gaze will probably be drawn by the grand piano that does more than just being a fancy piece of decor; inside the warm and brightly lit office space, one will hear the upbeat tune played by the automatic piano once each hour. The audio cue is meant to remind employees to get up from their seats for a quick washroom break or simply enjoy a sip of water at the bar for a brief respite from their work. When you are inside the building, you will soon realize that the part of the lobby where the piano is located is connected to all the office space, meaning one will have to pass through it to get to the bar at the pantry.  “This layout is intentional. The idea is for employees to walk just a little bit further and go by the piano just so that they can enjoy the leisurely atmosphere at the lobby before they can get to the pantry from the office and vice versa.” As it turned out, everything at YOKE - the lawn, the trees, the windows and the vista - had all been the fruit of creative thinking from the Chairman. The General Manager also remarked, “What we want is to break free from the stereotypical assumption that being “grease monkeys,” we would care little for being presentable. Just because we are in the business relating to tools and machinery, it doesn’t mean we can’t be elegant about it. “

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In a business where a hook could determine the fate of a worker, it is vital for us to pay close attention to the safety, health and well-being of our employees so that they can stay fit and focused on manufacturing safety hooks and fittings that embody personal safety as we distribute our products around the world. In essence, our employees shoulder the responsibility of spreading and distributing safety.

“A hook represents the life of a worker, and his life could determine the fate of his family.” Steven Hong is known for uttering that analogy, almost by force of habit. But he has every reason to remind others about the nature of YOKE’s business because the company deals in safety, not merely products. And as such, Steven also believes that “we won’t be able to make products that are safe without employees who are healthy.” 

Having been established for 35 years, YOKE currently has approximately 400 employees, two-thirds of which are male. And one out of every five employees would be a foreign worker from the Philippines. In other words, YOKE falls under the category of a typical labor-intensive business comprising mostly mechanics. Nevertheless, everyone at YOKE gets to wear their chic and smartly tailored uniform whilst working in a spacious and well-lit environment. And that is a radical departure from the conventional facility belonging to the machinery industry. According to the Chairman, it probably began with the first employee YOKE had whereby everyone simply took care and watched for everyone else, as it felt like a natural thing to do. Without being conscious of it, he began paying attention to employees’ mental and physical health. When YOKE grew into a company operating at a respectable scale, he started introducing rules and systems relating to employees’ health. And thus, “Safety Value” sat at the core of YOKE’s corporate culture. Ever since the Company began promoting ESG back in 2015, the crucial component had been the creation of safety value, which corresponds to the issue of concern for different stakeholders. As it turned out, employee care happens to be a significant part of what we do at YOKE. Starting more than a decade ago, it became customary for all employees at YOKE to take basic health examinations once each year and advanced health check-up once every five years, regardless of employees’ age or job rank.

The “Dreamer Band,” which has been established for more than 10 years, was a gesture of consideration by the Chairman for his illness-stricken family member by making his dream come true. When the ensemble was created, interested employees were called on to join the band so that the habit of practicing a musical instrument would help alleviate the tension and stress from work. The original intention of spreading love and hope has remained true until today. The Dreamer Band had given charity performances at Taichung Veterans General Hospital and took part in Veterans General Foundation’s charitable concert, which involved members of the disadvantaged minorities in being a part of the celebration of music. In recent years, the Dreamers’ Ensemble has been involved in various educational and charitable events promoted by the Company by performing during the events or at graduation ceremonies at schools.

At YOKE’s employee cafeteria, a different set of rules and requirements has been enforced, making it different from other companies in the area for group catering. With equal emphasis on satisfying employees’ needs and keeping them healthy, we have gradually found a delicate point of balance between eating well and eating healthy for our employees.

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Here at YOKE’s employee cafeteria, no processed food may be used as ingredients of dishes served. Examples include sausages, ham, pork blood, duck blood and so forth. Not only that, the cafeteria can only serve fried food once each week, while whole-egg dishes (i.e. hardboiled egg, braised eggs or sunny-side-up) are served three times per week. The idea is to preserve the nutrients of the ingredient by avoiding overcooking. The Chairman’s taste and insistence for food even extend to the use of seasonings and condiments, as he had instructed that food served at the cafeteria may not contain too much seasoning. But to accommodate some employees' preferences, relevant seasonings and sauces are also provided at each table (rather than being provided collectively from the kitchen) to avoid specific issues relating to health and hygiene.

As most of YOKE’s employees are required to perform physically demanding labor at the factories, meals served at the cafeteria have been meticulously prepared to contain anywhere between 850~900 calories per serving portion. However, in light of the needs for the minority of employees, the cafeteria also serves “3-Low Boxed Lunch” (i.e. low calories, low fat and low GI) twice each month, with caloric content kept below 600 per serving portion. It is worth noting that foreign employees tend to prefer more flavorful dishes with more seasonings, and it is difficult to control what they choose to eat after they got off work each day. In an effort to help foreign employees change their perception of health, the Company has translated the results of their health check-up into English, coupled with various training and health concepts disseminated by the infirmary and occupational health promotional personnel in the hopes of bolstering health care for all employees.

Caring for employees as our own family members and working over the years to promote employees’ health not only enabled us to reduce our turnover rate but also boosted our per capita output, benefiting us in several tangible and intangible ways. Both the Chairman and General Manager have taken upon themselves to serve as role models for all employees. Through exercising regularly and controlling their diet, they have led our employees to join them in the exercises and to facilitate the ideal balance between body and mind within the working environment.

The two largest employee clubs at YOKE are the roadrunners’ club and mountain climbing club - both of which are related to health and physical activities. Not only that, located on the 2nd floor of YOKE’s office building is an impressive gym that occupies more than 528 square meters of floor area, furnished with a generous variety of professional fitness machines, complete with recreational sports equipment such as a ping pong table and snooker table. Due to the appeal of road runs organized by the Company, the club has attracted more than a quarter of the entire staff pool to join, with a significant portion of our foreign employees in their midst. In addition, YOKE has also hired professional coaches to offer classes at the gym and our foreign employees have been the most enthusiastic visitors at our 528 square meter gym. By facilitating better health and fitness through sports, we have been able to close the gap between foreign workers and local employees and changed the habit of foreign workers to go downtown for meet-ups during weekends.

As for the Chairman himself, he returned to his habit of working out that he used to have during his high-school years. Now, he swims for an hour a day and performs weight training twice per week. And naturally, he is a member of both the roadrunners’ club and mountain climbing club. He successfully lost close to 20kg in weight (going from close to 100kg to just slightly above 80kg). By shedding the unwanted weight, he certainly became much more confident. “Whenever I run into my employees, instead of asking them to get back to work, I would remind them to take care of their health.” As for the General Manager, he had maintained his habit of exercising over the years and he always makes a point to run 5km during the weekend. In fact, he is the founder of both the roadrunners’ club and mountain climbing club. In addition to helping him relieve stress, physical exercise also enabled him to maintain his stamina and clarity of thought.

By focusing on promoting better health for employees, coupled with relevant management measures for human resources, YOKE’s efforts on employee retention and productivity enhancement began to deliver the anticipated results. The Company’s average monthly turnover rate fell from close to 3% to about 1%; and the per capita output value grew from NTD 6.11 million in 2016 to NTD 7 million in 2019. The general manager believes intrinsic values to be drivers of extrinsic values and sometimes, they can be difficult to quantify. But he also believes that if we take no action, we could never benefit from such values.

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“We understand that nurturing a skilled worker takes a long time and if our workers see the factory as their home, everyone at the factory would all be members of a big family. This is why everyone in the management team is primarily concerned with one thing - what can we do for our workers so that they can enjoy stability and security without being distracted by worries?” The Chairman remarked, “I think I can speak for most proprietors of traditional industries and other small and medium enterprises in Taiwan by saying that we probably think and perceive things in similar ways - This is home to us and a home where many of us spend our lives together as one. “

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39, 33rd Road, Taichung Industrial Park, Taichung 407, Taiwan

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+886-4-2350-8088 

#39, 33rd Road,Taichung Industrial Park, Taichung 407, Taiwan