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Harnessing wellbeing to empower a workforce


How on-site health checks and childcare provision for working parents helped Jessica Yao improve the quality of life for employees at Unilever’s Shanghai office

Jessica Yao

Every year, we recognise pioneering individuals within the company who have brought our values to life and truly embody what it means to be part of Unilever. Our 2019 Heroes with Impact have gone above and beyond their day-to-day jobs. Their stories paint a picture of passion, purpose and drive.

Childcare for working parents is not easy to access in China, even in a big city like Shanghai. There is a shortage of pre-school facilities, few are properly authorised and where they exist, they are expensive. This shortage was having a direct impact on Unilever employees.

Likewise, medical resources are limited in China, and any hospital appointments entail long waiting times.

In both these areas, Jessica Yao, Senior Tax Manager in our Shanghai office, identified practical paths to help counter the shortages in provision. Impelled by a wish and a sense of purpose to help others live healthy and happy lives, she set about realising change.

Childcare and healthcare

As a Unilever manager, trade union representative and the deputy of Shanghai Municipal People’s Congress, Jessica was able to tap into her contacts and find an effective way forward. She helped set up a childcare centre project, with a pilot in Unilever Shanghai.

This involved securing a licence for the centre and finding a qualified third party to manage it. Now it is up and running, and bringing direct benefits to working parents. “Here at Unilever, parents and children are taken care of, and the trade union is like a mother to us,” says one employee who uses the childcare centre.

In the belief that prevention is better than cure, Jessica is bringing health advice into the company. She is the driving force behind health talks that are delivered on-site to Unilever employees on topics such as musculo-skeletal disorders and back pain, sight problems and parenting issues. To promote health and wellbeing, she has helped ensure that sports facilities for basketball, badminton and more are made available to employees.

Tackling commuting issues

And Jessica’s contributions to making working life easier go beyond the company. For Shanghai commuters working in the Hongqiao business district – a development zone near one of the city’s airports – the journey to work means traffic congestion and delay. In her role as deputy of the Shanghai Municipal People’s Congress, Jessica proposed a new overpass to alleviate congestion – an idea that is now included in the government construction plan. She is also working with city authorities to progress the idea of integrating the railway and metro bus systems. An easier commute lies ahead!

The improvements that Jessica brought about are having a tangible impact on the lives of Unilever employees. “This is very much in line with Unilever’s strategic purpose,” she says. It is also in line with her own aspirations. “Small actions can have a big impact. If others can get my help to solve their problems, I will be very happy,” she adds.

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