TikTok employees voice frustration over return-to-office tracking system

by Time Doctor
tiktok return to office

TikTok employees in the United States have expressed frustration and concern following the company’s introduction of a tool for monitoring office attendance and the imposition of disciplinary measures for non-compliance with new in-person work mandates. The move is part of an unconventional effort to encourage employees to return to the office, employing custom data-collection technology.

The tracking system

The new tool, known as MyRTO, was notified to TikTok employees, a subsidiary of Chinese company ByteDance. Integrated into the company’s internal software, MyRTO meticulously tracks badge swipes and prompts employees to provide explanations for any “deviations” – instances of absence on days designated for office presence.

The collected data is accessible via a dashboard to employees, their supervisors, and human resource personnel. TikTok is instituting a policy that obliges many of its roughly 7,000 U.S. employees to be physically present in the office at least three times a week, commencing in October. Some teams are even expected to attend the office on all five working days. 

Employees were explicitly informed that “any deliberate and consistent disregard may result in disciplinary action” and could adversely affect performance reviews. TikTok employees have expressed surprise at the stern tone of these messages and the presence of the MyRTO dashboard, which they perceive as a constant reminder of the company’s surveillance of their daily whereabouts. 

Some employees, speaking anonymously, have voiced their concerns about the app and the implied threats of punishment, deeming them unnecessary and causing anxiety among colleagues about the potential consequences of non-compliance.

Zach Dunn, an expert in hybrid work and the founder of hybrid management company Robin, commented on the rarity of companies monitoring badge swipes with such intensity and resorting to disciplinary action for attendance issues. He noted that typically attendance is considered as part of an employee’s overall performance evaluation, rather than being tied directly to disciplinary actions.

Jodi Seth, a TikTok spokesperson, defended the tool’s purpose as an effort to set clear expectations for in-office attendance and to enhance transparent communication between employees and leaders. MyRTO’s ultimate goal, according to Seth, is to provide greater clarity and context regarding employees’ Return-to-Office (RTO) expectations and in-office schedules.

A divergence from tech industry’s hybrid trend

This move by TikTok comes amid the broader backdrop of companies navigating the complexities of return-to-office planning. Many companies have settled into hybrid work arrangements, with just over one quarter of workdays performed by American workers being done from home, according to research from Stanford. Office occupancy nationwide remains under 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels, according to Kastle, a workplace security firm.

Other tech giants like Zoom and Meta have also encouraged employees to return to the office during the summer and fall, with some policies encountering resistance, as seen in a walkout by Amazon corporate employees in May. While some companies are tightening their enforcement of attendance, monitoring badge swipes to ensure employees show up, TikTok’s approach appears more rigorous. Google, for instance, has asked most of its employees to be in the office three days a week, using badge swipes to identify prolonged absences, which may factor into performance review discussions.

Notably, few companies have introduced custom tools and dashboards with daily logs of attendance data for employees and managers. TikTok, with offices in various U.S. cities, has faced challenges in coaxing its dispersed workforce back into the office after significant growth during the pandemic. In a recent email to employees introducing MyRTO, TikTok outlined its intentions to improve in-office work and provide tools and information to better allocate time for optimizing collaboration. 

Furthermore, in August, the company informed New York employees that a lunch stipend would be linked to an app requiring a check-in from the office for access to the funds, a move that some employees found to be another method of location tracking. 

Zach Dunn speculated that TikTok’s stance on in-person work might be influenced by the overseas leadership of TikTok and ByteDance in the Asia-Pacific region. His firm’s data indicates that workers in this region have largely resumed their pre-pandemic commuting patterns, leading to a different expectation regarding office presence.

A better alternative to attendance monitoring

TikTok’s introduction of MyRTO and the associated disciplinary measures have generated employee concerns and sparked a conversation about the evolving landscape of office attendance policies in the context of hybrid work arrangements.

While many companies are grappling with the challenges of balancing remote and in-office work, some are turning to innovative solutions like Time Doctor, a unique time tracking tool designed to facilitate the transition to hybrid work environments. 

Our software offers employers and employees a way to effectively monitor work hours and productivity in both office and remote settings, providing valuable insights into performance without the need for invasive attendance monitoring systems like MyRTO. 

Book a demo and see how Time Doctor can help you achieve efficiency and productivity in your team.

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