The UK is now home to 57 million social media users, or 85% percent of the total population, according to a January 2023 report from media company We Are Social.
With apps like TikTok becoming a part of many employees' lives, it is only natural that they are using it to talk about work, according to Stephanie Kelly, chief people officer of IRIS Software Group.
Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “As social media has become the centre for most social circles, especially younger employees, more are increasingly going online to get a ‘community feel’.
“When employees want to gain information, validation and debate from their peers, social media is where they often go.”
Read more: Social media in workplace investigations
Beth Bearder, legal director at law firm Halborns, said social media also allows employees to amplify their voice when speaking about both positive and negative experiences at work.
Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “We’ve found that employees are turning to social media to share experiences at work more often as they know what they say or do will have an enormous reach.
“They may also feel more comfortable sharing their work experiences on an informal platform. For example, recently dismissed employees often want immediate 'pay back' against their former employer and social media allows them the platform to do this quickly.”
However, #WorkTok can also be used as an opportunity to understand and interact with staff on a different level.
Tim Gilbert, managing director at Right Management, said it could be a useful tool for leaders looking to engage Gen-Z workers.
He told HR magazine: “As we’ve seen with TikTok’s authentic leadership trend, where managers and executives post videos revealing their own vulnerabilities and failures, modern workers (typically the younger demographics) appreciate a more relatable and approachable leadership style.
“Managers would be wise to understand that younger workers generally respond better to those with whom they feel a sense of trust, mutual respect, and personal connection.”
Kelly said HR should take note of the insights shared by employees about their experiences at work while remaining aware of the exaggerated nature of social media.
She said: “Looking at posts on social media is an excellent way to listen to what employees are feeling and act accordingly. Employers, like individuals, know that social media is an exaggerated lens of what is happening and what people are feeling - so will often not be easily offended by any criticism or take what they read too specifically or literally.
“I’ve personally seen a mix of generational stereotypes, such as content outlining rights and funny memes about working from home, but as with most comedy, this is stretched reality.”
The #5-to-9 trend shows what users do during work (9-5) versus after work (5-9). Activities shown can be as commonplace as making dinner and going to the gym, or as adventurous as hiking or paddleboarding.
One video even says that corporate workers are told to be ‘lifeless’ but that they should organise hobbies after work like gardening, yoga or date nights so they don’t ‘hate their life’.
The aim of these videos is usually to emphasise the importance of work/life balance and making good use of free time.
If any filming of vlogging does take place during work, Bearder said HR should be aware of what their policies are.
She said: “HR need to be mindful in terms of clearly communicating that personal social media use should not take place during working hours and the duty of confidentiality in terms of what is actually being recorded.”
One of the more shocking sides of work trends is people either filming themselves resigning or explaining why they resigned under the hashtag #QuitTok. These videos sometimes come with a backstory of a toxic workplace or colleague, but many of them show more supportive reactions from line managers too.
Bearder said videos like this can be a form of whistleblowing.
She added: “This is a platform that users may feel more comfortable to use to voice their concerns as opposed to raising a formal grievance.
“HR can of course use #WorkTok to look out for (and call out) any potential behaviour which could amount to harassment, breaches of health and safety, or whistleblowing and take appropriate action.”
The trend advises employees on how to interact with their manager to set realistic expectations and achieve better career results. Videos under the hashtag include advice on how to respond to questions from your manager when they are rushing you and how to manage up during one-to-one meetings.
Career coach Stephen Adams said managing up can also allow two-way feedback and more effective communication.
Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “It allows you to build trust with your line manager and give them feedback in a positive manner. The clever part of this is understanding your line manager's personality style to enable you to tailor your communication style to theirs.”
TikTok has a number of career coaches who share tips in their videos about all manner of work-related topics.
This may lead employers to worry about their reputation online, but they should be careful not to overstep when setting regulations around social media use, according to Coward.
She said: “Some companies have been known to try to implement a ‘you must like us clause’ into contracts in an attempt to force employees to like, comment and add favourites to company posts.
“This steps way over the line of what is reasonable, encroaching into the personal lives and opinions of employees. HR should not be involved in this way.
“The best way to ensure positive interactions is to focus on creating a positive work culture and following through with promises – this will naturally prompt staff to be brand ambassadors and promote the good stuff.”