More than 13 million TikTok users watched as a Seattle man, who goes by the handle calm.simon, unpacked bags full of clothes, books, snacks, and kitchen supplies in his office cubicle. “I am moving from my apartment and into my cubicle at work,” he says in his now-viral TikTok video. “They do not pay me enough . . . so as a matter of protest, I am just going to live at my job.”
Only 57% of working families in the U.S. earn above a living wage. And in the meantime, rental prices have been rising nationally; in Seattle alone, they’ve gone up more than 28% year over year, according to Redfin.
Many TikTok users cheered the employee on, as he posted more videos of himself using a makeshift cot under his desk, dancing shirtless, stocking the office fridge with ham and pineapple, and wearing a romper covered in eggplant emojis as he wandered through the office—which, he noted, was empty because of COVID-19. “This gonna be a mess, and I’m here for it,” one commenter posted on the video, which has amassed over 1.4 million likes. “If you’re not letting me work from home, I’m gonna home from work,” wrote another.
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The living arrangement only lasted four days until management got wind of the situation, and the man, Chibuzor Ejimofor—who says he goes by the professional name Simon Jackson—was “evicted” from his cubicle. Jackson says he was told to take down the videos and apologize, or he could be faced with disciplinary action up to and including termination. He tells Fast Company that he didn’t see the benefit of quitting social media to keep “a job that doesn’t allow me to pay the bills. Even if I was to apologize, it’s not gonna work over time. They have a bad taste in their mouth, and I’ve had a bad taste in my mouth.”
A few days later, he was fired from his associate project manager job at the company, which he identified on TikTok as Arcadis, a consulting firm. The company declined to comment and would not confirm that he was an employee. “Due to privacy concerns relating to personnel information, the company is not at liberty to disclose any matters regarding current or former employees without express employee permission.”
Despite the outcome, Jackson tells Fast Company that he is happy with the response to his videos. “I feel good,” he says. “Finally the situation is done, and I can move on with my life.” He says his only regret is that he didn’t plan well enough to take advantage of his viral moment, particularly when it comes to his side hustle selling patterned rompers. “I would have had a website ready to go and a whole bunch more rompers ready to go,” says Jackson, who is currently living in an Airbnb. He says he is interviewing for other jobs and has received donations from TikTok users, some of whom expressed interest in doing something similar. “Just check my employee handbook—no rules against living there. I’m gonna do this,” wrote one commenter.
“So what’s the limit of the number of hours you can stay there then?” asked another commenter. “My company had no problem with me working 90-hour week.”
“We are not surprised by this,” wrote Rey Ramirez and Jason Walker, cofounders of Thrive HR Consulting, in an email to Fast Company, when asked to weigh in on the situation. “People in high-cost areas of the country are living in mobile homes, vans, etc. due to not being able to afford a place to live. . . . Someone moving into their office and using the gym to shower is the next logical extension of this issue.”
That said, employees shouldn’t assume it’s permissible to move into the office just because it’s not explicitly forbidden in the company handbook, they noted. They recommend that employees in this situation speak with their employer: “As remote working is more accessible than ever, there may be a solution that can be achieved through a dialogue between employee and management.” Ramirez and Walker, who are currently recommending their clients look at compensation every six months to help with retention, said that HR teams should help employees in situations like this, whether that’s reevaluating compensation or finding alternative solutions on where to live. “Find a solution, they said, “before employees start to move into conference rooms with more space and a TV with cable!”