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TikTok’s ‘996’ Culture Is Forcing UK Employees to Leave in Droves: FT


  • Former and current TikTok employees in London told The FT the company promotes overworking.
  • Workers quit every week due to overwork, according to a current employee.
  • Former TikTok employees from other countries have also spoken out against TikTok’s work culture.

Employees at TikTok’s London office are reportedly fleeing the company as they struggle to cope with the Chinese social-media giant’s grueling work culture, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

FT spoke with ten current and former UK TikTok employees who said the exodus started after TikTok’s e-commerce division in the UK launched TikTok Shop, a live-


streaming

e-commerce platform, in October. Since then, at least 20 employees have left, leaving behind a team that is now half its size. 

“There are people leaving every week. It is like a game — every Monday we ask who has been fired, who has quit,” one current employee told The FT.

Employees told The FT they must align themselves with China’s working hours, which often led to working more than 12 hours a day. Employees also said they had to file “feedback reports” after livestreams ended in the evening in the UK.

The company celebrated overworking and punished employees who took time off, according to workers who spoke to The FT. TikTok shared, in internal communications, photos of employees who worked overnight and praised them as being committed. Conversely, some who took time off found themselves removed from accounts they used to work on, and even demoted. The company also shamed employees who did not handle work queries out of hours, sources said.

In some cases, according to the article, TikTok turned to financial payments to assuage employees’ concerns over the company’s grueling working conditions. Two employees settled with TikTok after they spoke out about working conditions.

At least one TikTok senior leader seemed to embrace this culture of overworking. Joshua Ma, who oversaw TikTok Europe’s e-commerce division and was a senior executive at TikTok’s parent ByteDance, recently upset his London employees when he said that as a “capitalist,” he “didn’t believe” in offering maternity leave, per The FT.  

Following the revelation of Ma’s comments, a TikTok spokesperson told the FT: “TikTok Shop has only been operating in the UK for a few months, and we’re investing rapidly in expanding the resources, structures, and process to support a positive employee experience.” The spokesperson declined to comment on Ma taking time off from his role.

TikTok did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comments.

Former TikTok employees from other countries have also criticized the company’s grueling work culture

Former TikTok employees from other countries have also spoken out against the company’s aggressive work culture. Employees previously told Insider that Beijing-based ByteDance wielded tremendous influence in shaping TikTok’s working culture.

Chinese tech companies often follow a “996” work schedule where employees work six days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. After China’s top court declared last year that the practice was illegal, ByteDance instructed Chinese employees in October that they could no longer work past 7 p.m.

However, TikTok and ByteDance employees elsewhere still report working around the clock.

Two former TikTok employees in San Francisco and New York told Insider last month that they frequently had to work late hours in order to accommodate working hours in China and the UK. A ByteDance employee in Singapore told Insider on Thursday she often had to work past 7 p.m. even on Fridays, so that she could handle requests from her colleagues in the US and UK.

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