For corporate workers, the frustrations of the remote office are well known, from hours of virtual meetings that could easily have been an email to that one colleague who always has their camera switched off. Now, dozens of workers are venting their frustrations online – and gaining plenty of followers in the process.
#CorporateTikTok is the place to be for bored office workers now doing their jobs from home, those embracing hybrid working or even employees slyly tuning in at their desk in the office (we know who you are). The #corporate hashtag currently has 1.6 billion views, with #CorporateTikTok and #CorporateLife at 377.9 million views and 618.7 million views respectively.
"Accounts that create content relating to the workplace have seen a spike over the last few months," says Sophie Fresco, a TikTok specialist at Hotwire Global Communications. "Some videos have seen tens of thousands of shares, showing how many people relate to this content. Being able to share TikTok video scenarios that happen in the workplace actually allows colleagues to bond in a way which isn’t traditional."
Fresco points out that although there is a perception of TikTok as a primarily Gen Z space, data suggests that almost 70% of users are over 25 and many creators in the space are millennials. Most of the top influencers are based in the US: content creator @rod from Chicago has gathered 1.2 million followers with videos that riff on millennial anxieties in the workplace, while @corporatenatalie, who describes her niche as "corporate America by day, aspiring TikTok star by night", has attracted 10.6 million likes. In one of her most popular clips, which racked up 3.9 million views, she jokes about the conundrum of taking a phone call from her boss when grabbing coffee on a walk. The caption jokes: "I’m at my desk I promise."
For creators uploading to the platform, TikTok is a way to bond over the challenges of the corporate world and the daily pain points of their home office. The pandemic – and the resultant shift to widespread remote working – meant that people participated in an unusual yet shared experience. TikTok offered a way to connect and feel less alone about career struggles, even when working in relative isolation.
"I first started using TikTok during lockdown and I became obsessed," says Chloe*, a 29-year-old who works in business development. "The first person I discovered creating corporate TikTok videos was @Loewhaley. She would make light of the whole working from home situation. The videos made me realise that I’m in a very similar position to a lot of other people – and it also made me feel like my company is better than some others!"
As well as being the perfect fodder for funny videos, the trials of remote and hybrid work have also been essential for the growth of #CorporateTikTok content. After all, in a pre-COVID workplace it would have been tricky to film funny videos with your boss peering over your desk.
"I think that the videos are so popular because working from home culture has grown so rapidly," says Chloe. "It’s brought a whole host of new experiences and challenges for people, and new things to make fun of. Everyone also has more time. The people gaining traction are at home, they’re not commuting as much and so they’re able to make videos, and it’s the same for me – I’m working from home and spending a lot more time on social media."
As the boundaries between work and life have blurred, social media has become ever more embedded in our daily routines and is no longer reserved for our downtime. And although Americans dominate the top TikTok spots, British creators are beginning to jump on the trend. Raquel Pinto, 24, currently lives in Leicestershire and works in PR. After enjoying watching corporate videos on TikTok she recently decided to start posting her own creations. Her following on the platform is currently small but she is determined to grow it, posting up to three videos a day about everything from answering the intern’s questions on Slack to being sent tasks just before logging off on a Friday afternoon.
"At first I didn’t seek out corporate content," she says. "But I began relating more and more to the funny videos about office life. The little quirks, annoyances or mundane day-to-day situations resonated with me. It’s a bit like being on the inside of a joke. The relatability of other creators, even when working in another part of the world, bonds us."
Raquel posted her first #CorporateTikTok at the start of November 2021 and says that sharing work-related content has been a confidence boost for her. She believes that the rise of videos that poke fun at corporate life is part of a broader trend that has seen social media users craving authenticity over highly curated feeds.
"The most successful creators have real personality," she says. "They’re one of us, which means that we can also be one of them. #CorporateTikTok shows how we want a friend, not a salesperson, on our For You page. We want to see people like us, who can understand our daily struggles and make us feel less isolated in a world where isolation has reigned."
Yet some organisations have decided to get in on the trend, leading to a recent rise in official company TikTok accounts making fun of themselves by posting irreverent videos based on office life. Duolingo has attracted 2 million followers by posting clips of its mascot twerking on meeting room tables and reenacting viral trends, while the individual behind smoothie company Innocent’s TikTok achieved online fame by joking about being fired for the content of their videos by an irate boss. "We make healthy drinks," reads the company’s TikTok bio. "Please buy them so we don’t get fired."
“As employees return to the office, I think that corporate TikTok will only continue to get more popular," says Fresco. "While the trend gained popularity in people’s home offices, it is transitioning into the workplace. Employers are becoming more open to their employees filming what goes on behind the scenes and are even using this as a new way to target potential workers."
It seems that the return to the office might not kill off corporate TikTok, and that the trend could even be co-opted by brands to push their own promotion and recruitment. It remains to be seen whether office workers will keep watching once their employers are in on the joke.
*Name has been changed