- TikTok recently unveiled MyRTO, which is designed to monitor office attendance through badge swipes.
- This move, meant as a unique attempt to coax employees back to their desks using custom data-collection technology, has been met with disapproval and concern.
- TikTok spokesperson Jodi Seth has defended the tool, stating that MyRTO was designed to provide clarity and context regarding in-office schedules and expectations, aiming to foster more transparent communication.
For a user-friendly app of endless entertainment, TikTok’s latest move certainly isn’t entertaining its employees. The TikTok American workforce has found themselves grappling with an unusual mandate this week.
The company unveiled a novel tool called MyRTO, designed to monitor office attendance through badge swipes — which has caused quite a stir amongst its employees. This move, seen by some as a unique attempt to coax employees back to their desks using custom data-collection technology, has been met with disapproval and concern, according to the New York Times.
TikTok’s U.S.-based staff, numbering approximately 7,000, were taken aback when they received notifications about the new tool, which is integrated into the company’s internal software. MyRTO not only tracks badge swipes, it also requires employees to justify any “deviations” or unaccounted absences from the office.
The collected data is displayed on a dashboard accessible to employees, their supervisors, and human resources personnel. Starting in October, TikTok will expect many of its teams to clock in at the office at least three times a week, with some required to be present five days a week. Non-compliance could lead to disciplinary action and negative performance reviews — a fact that has sparked unease among the workforce.
Multiple employees (speaking under anonymity) expressed their apprehension over the strict tone of the messaging and the omnipresence of the MyRTO dashboard. While acknowledging the importance of some in-person work, they deemed the app and associated punitive threats unnecessary and anxiety-inducing.
In an email introducing MyRTO, TikTok emphasized the importance of in-office collaboration. The company also linked a lunch stipend for New York employees to an app requiring an office check-in, seen by some as another method of location tracking.
TikTok spokesperson Jodi Seth has defended the tool, saying that MyRTO was designed to provide clarity and context regarding in-office schedules and expectations, aiming to foster more transparent communication.
Is this a unique policy?
As the return-to-office saga continues more than three years into the pandemic, many companies have adopted hybrid work models. American workers now perform just over a quarter of their workdays from home, according to Stanford research. However, office occupancy remains below 50% of pre-pandemic levels, as per data from workplace security firm Kastle.
Tech giants like Zoom and Meta have also requested employees to return to offices this summer and fall, with some resistance from the workforce. Like TikTok’s new policy, Google also plans to use badge swipes to monitor prolonged absences, which could factor into performance reviews.
However, TikTok’s move to create custom tools and daily log dashboards for employees and managers is a rare one. With significant growth during the pandemic, the company has struggled to bring its dispersed workforce back to its offices in cities like Los Angeles, Washington, and New York.
Monitoring employees can harm company culture
As we know, the constant monitoring of employees through technology can have a detrimental impact on company culture. This invasive surveillance often signals to employees that their employer lacks trust in them, leading to a decrease in morale and an increase in work-related stress. The fear of being constantly watched and evaluated can errode trust and increase resentment between employers and employees.
Productivity surveillance has doubled since the pandemic due to hybrid working arrangements. This increased monitoring can actually lead to counterproductive work behaviors and heightened worker turnover due to increased nervousness and mistrust of the employer.
The use of monitoring can contribute to decreased job satisfaction, increased stress, and increased turnover, as reported by SHRM.
While technology can offer benefits in terms of connection and values, its misuse for constant employee monitoring can significantly harm company culture, employee morale, and overall productivity.