TikTok has been expanding its global workforce to help it deal with the stresses that come with being a massively popular social media app.
A number of tech employees in the United Kingdom have decided not to accept or seek employment at TikTok because they are concerned about the company’s harsh work atmosphere and long and exhausting hours.
Six industry insiders said they either backed out of interviews, turned down job offers, or left the company after learning about TikTok’s “996” culture from online reviews or firsthand experience.
In China, several businesses follow the 996 culture. The name comes from the fact that workers must work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week, for a total of 72 hours.
Meanwhile, in the United States and the United Kingdom, the standard workweek is about 40 hours, but many employees work more. Working more than 48 hours a week is unlawful in the United Kingdom on average.
996 Culture certainly a concern
When approached about a communications role in the United Kingdom, one tech worker stated that a 996 culture was “certainly a concern” for them.
“The most common ‘con’ I found from my Glassdoor research was around work-life balance and crazy hours, and that seems to be the same even now,” said the source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the discussion. ”(It) didn’t seem worth it.”
“I stopped conversations pretty quickly when I established they had very little flexibility around working locations and policies,” the source added.
The same individual stated that they were contacted a few weeks later “for a very similar role” at ByteDance. “I established from background reading and Glassdoor reviews that they are one and the same,” the person said, adding that it was “all a bit odd” and “a lucky miss.”
TikTok, which reported on Friday that Shou Zi Chew, the Chief Financial Officer of ByteDance, has been appointed TikTok’s new CEO, might be missing out on some technical talent as well.
Despite the recruiter’s assurances that the pay will be over £100,000 ($139,000) a year plus options, a senior artificial intelligence researcher, who requested anonymity due to the nature of the conversation, turned down a job offer from TikTok.
Though Glassdoor is widely regarded as a valuable tool for researching what it’s like to work for a company on the inside, it’s not perfect, and reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. People may leave multiple reviews, and users will be more likely to do so if they’ve had an extremely positive or negative experience with their business.
One former employee, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject, described TikTok as the most toxic workplace they had ever worked in.
“Everyone there is utterly miserable, and life is too short,” the source said. “During my first year before the pandemic hit, I can count possibly four or five weekends during the year where I did not work.”
Another former employee, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject, said that the average working day at TikTok lasted 15 hours. “It was normal for them,” the source said. “Everybody was complaining but really everybody was accepting it at the end, probably because salaries were good.”
The same person expressed dissatisfaction with the “very untransparent culture.” When the former employee asked questions about the company, he said he didn’t get any answers. “It was very, very difficult to find the right answers, and to really improve the processes we were working with,” the source said.
‘AVOID, AVOID, AVOID’
Two other ex-employees requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the discussion. Their Glassdoor review is titled “AVOID, AVOID, AVOID.”
The individual lists ten reasons why people should “resist the temptation to join (TikTok) and look elsewhere” in the one-star review. The complaints range from “zero work-life balance” to “toxic teams” and “awful management.”
TikTok hired Facebook’s Michal Osman as its head of culture in Europe in January in an effort to improve workplace culture. Her arrival, however, comes after dozens of departures.
While some people appear to be hesitant to join, the company’s headcount in Europe has grown from around 1,600 in September to over 3,000 today, with many coming from Facebook and Google. It refused to provide employee numbers for the United Kingdom and the rest of the world.
Another current employee, who requested anonymity, stated that they have not encountered a 996 culture, adding that there are protected meeting blocks where work meetings are prohibited on Wednesday lunchtimes and no meetings are permitted on Friday afternoons.
Meanwhile, Great Place to Work rated TikTok as the 30th best place to work in the United Kingdom. The survey and consultancy company charges businesses a fee to appear on its lists, but maintains that the rankings are entirely based on employee input and experience.