A Chinese real estate company has been accused of taking an overly coercive approach to pushing employees to exercise. In fact, workers are fined if they do not reach the “monthly quota” set in 180,000 steps.

It must be said that the fine is relatively small (0.01 yuan for each step missing on reaching the quota – about 0.0013 Euro), and that the quota is not completely unattainable: in fact, 6,000 steps a day (for comparison, the most fitness devices set a daily goal of 10,000 steps). But it is the principle of fine that raises the controversy, not to mention that for some people the goal is objectively difficult to achieve.

china walking

Exercise has become a big problem in China. Some health insurers use apps to track their customers’ daily walks, offering discounts on future plans if they meet their goals, and many schools require students to walk or exercise tax every day, regularly checking the pedometer app on their phones. Even private companies are encouraging workers to take a minimum number of steps a month, but it seems that some employers push things too far.

There are several examples of cases in which exercise has “economic consequences” for workers, but normally everything is tied to premiums, not fines. In the case of this company in the city of Guangzhou, in the south of China, workers who fail to achieve the established goal must pay each non-cash step.

An employee of the company said that he had missed the goal of 180,000 steps by 10,000 steps, and so he was deducted 100 yuan from his salary. They are the equivalent of about 13 euros, but for people who are struggling to get to the end of the month every little difference is important. In addition, the woman complains that the goal is difficult to achieve for her, since she works for the human resources office and spends the whole day sitting at her desk, and spends much of the rest of the day on public transport to go and come back from work. “I can understand that the company hopes that employees can exercise more and become healthier, but we can not walk during work hours, and in the evening we have to work overtime,” she said. “After going home and having dinner, it’s already past 9 o’clock. Having to walk only to reach my daily quota has become an additional burden, and has affected my sleep“.

She added that in addition to putting pressure on employees, the company’s idea would not even work, as many employees use rocking devices to trick their smartphones (long developed by people looking to get discounts on health insurances). The woman admits that she has considered using them too, but working closely with the management is likely to be discovered, and using them at night is not possible since the time of the “walks” would make evident the attempted manipulation.