'Pay me enough' | Viral TikTok star protests cost of living by moving into office cubicle

Viral TikTok star protests cost of living by moving into office cubicle

A worker claims he was sacked after bosses found out he had moved into his work cubicle, because he said he wasn’t earning enough money to afford an apartment.

As was reported on by the Independent, Simon Jackson’s situation went viral after he posted a TikTok video in which he announced his plans to live in his office cubicle in a video as “a matter of protest”.

In the video, Jackson said: “I’m moving from my apartment into my cubicle at work. They do not pay me enough to do both, so, as a matter of protest, I am just going to live at my job,” Jackson said, adding: “We’ll see how long I can get away with this.”

The viral clip shows Jackson unpacking bags of belongings and turning his tiny office cubicle into a small living space, complete with a sleeping bag.

Read more from us

At the time the videos were filmed, only a handful of people were working from the office due to the pandemic, Jackson claimed, which allowed his plans to go largely unnoticed for several days.

The original video has garned around 14million views at the time of publication, but unfortunately it hasn’t all been good news for Jackson. He later revealed that, after four days of living in his office, bosses found out about his protest, and sacked him.

But despite the quirky nature of the incident, there are many serious lessons that HR can learn about the growing need to help employees with financial struggles.

Staff protests

When it comes to issues surrounding pay and working conditions, the first step for most staff would be to approach HR, though it is unclear whether Jackson had reached out prior to his protests. However, he is not the first worker to resort to unusual measures to get the attention of his bosses.

In 2021, disgruntled Condé Nast staffers reportedly turned up outside a boss’ house in protest over issues including fair pay. Reported at the time by the New York Times, staff working for The New Yorker, a title within Condé Nast’s portfolio, marched from a university campus to the home of Anna Wintour – the famous magazine editor who has since become a symbol of Condé Nast.

Protesters were said to have carried signs that read: “You can’t eat prestige” and “Fair pay now”.

The protest was said to be an escalation to The New Yorker staff’s two-year battle with the firm regarding wages, healthcare benefits and work-life issues – all issues that HR might normally be involved with.

Cost of living crisis deepens

While the viral TikTok highlighted issues affecting US workers, the matter is far from limited to the States. In fact, experts have expressed concern about the cost of living continuing to outpace wage growth in the UK, with many wondering how HR will handle the pressure of supporting staff while also competing in the labour market.

Latest figures of the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that wages rose between October and December 2021, but when taking inflation into account, average pay fell by 0.8% from a year earlier.

As reported by the BBC, the new ONS data also found that employees' regular pay, excluding bonuses, grew by 3.7% during this time frame.

However, the rising cost of food, energy and household goods has pushed inflation up by 5.4% in the 12 months to December, the BBC said, meaning that real wages fell by 0.8%.

And the Bank of England has warned that this squeeze will continue, with inflation set to rise above seven per cent in 2022.

Jonathan Boys, Labour Market Economist for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, commented: “There is no doubt many employers will be under more pressure to raise wages this year as they face the twin pressures of helping workers deal with rising cost of living and further tightening of the labour market.

"The playing field is level here as all employers face this same pressure. However, not all are able to raise pay. Encouragingly, the CIPD’s research shows that many employers are thinking about the employment offer in the round, including opportunities for training and development.”

How can HR support workers’ financial wellbeing?

Many have suggested pay rises as a quick solution to the cost of living crisis.

However, Hannah Copeland, HR Business Partner at employment law and HR support firm WorkNest, previously told HR Grapevine that while competitive wages are "undoubtedly up there" when it comes to engaging and retaining good people, it may not always be practicable for employers to keep up with inflation.

So what can employers do to try and ensure money is less of an issue?

WorkNest recommended the following:

  • Benchmarking salaries – Whilst cost of living might outweigh increases, ensuring you are informed on the latest market trends will mean that you can make informed decisions about remuneration and reward.

  • Employers must be open and transparent when it comes to pay reviews – even if the review doesn’t lead to a pay rise then it is vital that this is communicated and some thought has gone in to looking at salaries and considering whether a pay rise could be applied.

  • Flexible/hybrid working – can you permit employees to work from home more often to help reduce their cost of travel whilst also having a positive impact on work-life balance?

  • Employers may feel more able to consider whether they can support individuals financially on the basis of their broader benefits offering.

  • Review other non-financial benefits related to employee wellbeing, engagement and development – soft skills training/development for example can help keep people engaged whilst keeping costs low. Whilst it is not directly comparable to a pay rise, we know that employees are motivated and engaged by a number of different factors. You could conduct a pulse survey of your employees to find out what they value the most as an employee within your organisation.

  • Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) are a key investment for many businesses – somewhere that employees can go to get support in a huge variety of areas such as mortgage advice, financial planning, debt management alongside many other unrelated issues.

Be the first to comment.

You are currently previewing this article.

This is the last preview available to you for the next 30 days.

To access more news, features, columns and opinions every day, create a free myGrapevine account.