Chinese workers docked pay for walking less than 6,000 steps a day – but they find a hack

  • Employer tracks how many steps its staff walk daily using step counter in WeChat, and makes deductions from their wages
  • Some rig the system by using another device that boosts their total by simulating walking
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 6:12pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 8:50pm

A company in southern China is encouraging employees to keep fit by making them walk 6,000 steps a day and docking their salaries if they fail to do so.

Staff at the property firm in Guangzhou who walked fewer than 180,000 steps each month had 1 fen, or one one-hundredth of a yuan, deducted for every missing step, local newspaper Information Times reported on Tuesday.

The company tracked the totals using the step counter in Chinese messaging app WeChat, which allows users to share and compare the number of steps they walk in a day with those of their friends.

A human resources officer who declined to give her name told Information Times that she had 100 yuan (US$14) deducted from her wages last month for missing the monthly target by 10,000 steps.

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“I understand that the company wants employees to exercise more. But we are very busy at work, and we often work late into the night,” she was quoted as saying. “To meet the walking goal, we may not even be able to sleep. This assessment is an extra burden.”

She added: “Even though 6,000 a day does not seem like a lot, I usually only walk about 2,500 steps on a normal workday.”

However, her colleagues found a way to rig the system, by attaching their phones to a shaking device that can register extra steps by simulating walking. The quoted employee told Information Times she too had used the device, although only at home, to avoid the attention of her bosses.

Comments on Chinese social media were largely supportive of the health benefits of the company’s initiative, but did not agree with docking salaries. “It will help reduce the likelihood of their employees dying on the job,” wrote one person.

Another said: “It’s personal freedom to decide if they want to work out or not, and firms don’t have the right to impose a penalty.”

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The company is not alone in China in including the number of steps walked as part of its staff performance review.

Weijian Technology, which has developed health monitoring apps in the eastern city of Hangzhou, demanded employees walk 7,000 steps per day, Hangzhou Daily reported last year.

According to Harvard Health, the American medical school Harvard’s magazine, walking just 30 minutes every few days can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, among other benefits.