As TikTok surveils staff's office hours, research indicates WFH is good for planet

Not leaving home for work cuts an individual's carbon footprint by 54%, says research

As TikTok becomes the latest tech biz to demand employees return to the office, deploying an app to monitor this, research indicates that working from home is good for the planet, in addition to staff morale.

The ByteDance owned entity recently told staff on the US payroll they'll be expected in the office three days a week – for some roles it is five – from October, and it will be checking in to make sure they comply.

To do this, TikTokers received notices a MyRTO, a new app-based tool integrated into the company's internal software. According to the New York Times, it records swipes of corporate badge and will highlight "deviations" from the agreed routine in the office.

The information will be accessible by employees, their managers and overlords in Human Resources. Staff were reportedly told that "any deliberate and consistent disregard may result in disciplinary action," and may well have an "impact in performance reviews."

We asked TikTok to comment on the initiative, whether it will be imported to Europe, and what happens to those that ignore the rules.

In a statement, the company said: "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 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."

This sounds like a draconian solution by the app biz but is not entirely an isolated one. Google is using badges to track office attendance, as is Meta. Amazon staff, asked to return for a three days a week too, are worried about potential workplace surveillance in corporate offices.

Meta has even tried to sweeten the deal of a three-day office week by offering staff free haircuts and corp-swag such as t-shirts.

Such is the productivity paranoia – when bosses can't see staff and so assume they are not working – that IBM, Dell, Salesforce, and many others are also making the decision to demand staff return to the office.

Yet conversely, research indicates some executives who mandated the return then regretted it, others lost key staff, and research by DevOps darling Atlassian indicates office mandates are bad for morale and stifle innovation.

Now research by boffins at the Clark University, Massachusetts, found that working from home is also good for the planet, which maybe isn't entirely surprising. Working in PJs can effectively mean an individual's carbon emissions are lowered by 54 percent in the US, the study says.

It analyzed five elements of fully remote, hybrid and fully onsite work, these included ICT, residential energy use, office energy use, multimode computing and non-commute travel.

The research found office energy use was the major contributor to someone's carbon footprint, while increased use of tech to allow remote work didn't have a big influence. Reducing trips to the office from one to three days a week lowered greenhouse emissions by up to 29 percent.

"Office energy use is the main contributor to the carbon footprint of onsite and hybrid workers, while non-commute-related travel becomes more significant as the number of remote work days increases. In contrast, the effects of remote and hybrid work on ICT usage have negligible impacts on the overall carbon footprint. This highlights that people should shift their focus from ICT usage to commute decarbonization, facility downsizing, and renewables penetration for office buildings to mitigate GHG emissions of remote and onsite work," the study states.

So maybe staff have a "morale" imperative to work from home. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below. ®

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