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TikTok Employees Recoil at Return-to-Office Tracker App

ByteDance has deployed a new badge tracking app called MyRTO that monitors workers' days in office and asks them to explain absences.

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Image for article titled TikTok Employees Recoil at Return-to-Office Tracker App
Photo: Martin Meissner (AP)

TikTok is reportedly deploying a new employee badge monitoring app as part of a renewed effort to pressure its workers to spend more days in the office, according to a recent New York Times report. The attendance app comes as other big players in tech like Meta and Google similarly continue to clamp down on flexible work schedules introduced at the onset of the covid-19 pandemic.

Employees at TikTok told the Times they received notices about the new tool, called MyRTO, which reportedly monitors badge swipes into an office and may ask employees to explain absences on days when they were expected in the office. The staff were reportedly informed that “any deliberate and consistent disregard may result in disciplinary action.” These “deviations” could also impact the workers’ performance reviews which could impede a path to promotion.


MyRTO, the Times notes, is built into TikTok’s own internal software. The attendance and absence data compiled by MyRTO is reportedly made available to employees as well as human resources staff. Many TikTok employees are reportedly required to show up in person at least three times per week, with a smaller percentage expected in five days per week. Like other tech companies, TikTok has increased enforcement of this policy over the past year and even threatened to fire employees whose home address did not match their assigned office addresses. A TikTok spokesperson confirmed the existence of the tool with Gizmodo and said it was intended to improve transparency and clarity about return-to-work requirements.

“The MyRTO tool, which was announced and rolled out this week, allows employees to view their own personal data, capture valid out-of-office business reasons, and correct inaccuracies when needed,” the spokesperson said. “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 as well as help foster more transparent communications.”


Largely unfounded anxieties from managers concerned with productivity declines caused by the transition to remote work have rejuvenated an industry of workplace surveillance tools. While some companies use software to track badge swipes and tie them to productivity quotas, others have deployed on device monitoring tools capable of tracking when employees log into their device and the amount of time they are supposedly idle. Business is booming. Search results for employee monitoring tools reportedly shot up 75% in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic compared to March 2019. A 2021 study of remote and hybrid workers conducted by ExpressVPN determined 78% of employers used some type of employee monitoring software.

TikTok isn’t alone in its campaign to reel in remote work. Meta’s Head of People sent a memo to staff last month informing them that they could be fired if they repeatedly ran afoul of the company’s requirements for workers to spend three days per week in the office. Apple is also tracking attendance, with some organizations reportedly threatening to terminate workers who fail to comply with the company’s three-day in-person requirement. Google, which once embraced remote and hybrid work, recently said they would consider new remote work requests “by exception only.” Those not already designated as remote workers are now being tracked for attendance as well.