NEW YORK – TikTok employees in the United States expressed frustration and dismay this week after the company introduced a tool for tracking office attendance and threatened disciplinary action for failing to comply with new in-person mandates, in an unusual effort to get workers back into the office with custom data-collection technology.
Employees at TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, received notices this week about the new tool, an app called MyRTO. The app, which is built into the company’s internal software, monitors badge swipes and asks employees to explain “deviations” – absences on days they are meant to be in the office – according to e-mails and screenshots shared with The New York Times.
A dashboard with the data is visible to employees, their supervisors and human resource staff members.
TikTok requires many of its roughly 7,000 US employees to work in offices three times a week beginning in October. Some teams are expected in five days a week. Employees were told that “any deliberate and consistent disregard may result in disciplinary action” and could “impact on performance reviews.”
TikTok’s workers have been taken aback by the disciplinarian tone of the messaging and the appearance of the MyRTO dashboard, which serves as a reminder that the company is monitoring their daily whereabouts, according to interviews with multiple employees, who would speak only anonymously.
One of the employees, who said some in-person work was important, added that the app and threats of punishment were unnecessary and that colleagues were now fearful about the consequences of failing to comply.
Mr Zach Dunn, an expert on hybrid work and a founder of the hybrid management company Robin, said it was “exceedingly rare” for companies to monitor badge swipes so closely and to threaten disciplinary action on attendance.
“We’ve seen folks say, ‘This will be considered as part of your overall performance evaluation,’” he said. “That’s different from saying, ‘If you don’t do this, you will be disciplined.’”
Ms Jodi Seth, a spokesperson for TikTok, said the tool was meant to help set expectations for in-office attendance.
“The ultimate goal of MyRTO is to provide greater clarity and context to both employees and leaders regarding their RTO expectations and in-office schedules and help foster more transparent communications,” Ms Seth said.
More than three years into the saga of return-to-office planning, many companies have settled into hybrid work arrangements. Just over one-fourth of workdays performed by American workers are done from home, according to research from Stanford, and offices across the country remain under 50 per cent of their pre-pandemic occupancy, according to Kastle, a workplace security firm.
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