Last week, Elon Musk said in a leaked email to Tesla executives that Tesla employees should stop working from home and spend at least 40 hours a week in the office.
"If you don't show up, we'll assume you quit," Musk wrote. When asked on Twitter about the email, he replied, "They should pretend they work somewhere else."
The executive order was shockingly inconsistent with what we have learned in the last two years about remote work and the employees who now insist on it.
A few days later, he announced that Tesla had to reduce its workforce by 10% (about 10.000 employees). Chance? I do not think so.
Turns out Musk wasn't delusional. Instead, he was deliberately trying to get rid of the employees.
Why Musk's remote work attitudes are dishonest and wrong
Musk said on Twitter that working from home is "simulating" work. He is dishonest. He really doesn't think so.
Tesla's corporate culture is based on employees working more than 40 hours a week. In fact, the company's success and dominance in the electric car market depends on employees working 60 or 70 hours a week. (Musk himself claims to work 80 to 90 hours a week.)
And yet Musk intends to demand only 40 hours a week in the office.
Is there something beyond that just "fake" work? If Musk really believed that working from home was just a fake job, he would have required that the 60 or 70 hours be spent in the office.
No. Musk knows that employees who work 40 hours in the office and the rest at home are highly productive working remotely.
In fact, by now everyone should know.
According to new data from Stanford University professor Nicholas Bloom, employees who work from home are more productive now than they were at the start of the pandemic. (This conclusion is drawn from self-reported data and objective measures of productivity.)
It turns out that employees adapt behaviorally and psychologically to remote work. And companies are adapting their management systems, technologies and workflow systems accordingly.
An added factor, according to Bloom, is that we are no longer under the oppression of lockdown: employees are re-engaging with their social support systems: daycare, school, friends and everything in between.
Remote workers are also happier, according to the mental health research website Tracking Happiness. This means they are more committed to company goals, less likely to quit, and more productive.
Why Musk will change his tune
I predict that Musk will loosen his tenure when he sees who is resigning and where these valuable employees go for their new jobs. All the major Silicon Valley companies that have established internal edicts have changed their minds.
Apple backtracked on a similar requirement: It had announced that employees should work in the office at least three days a week. Employees rioted and a top AI leader quit and went to work for rival Google.
Google itself recently waived such mandates. Google Maps Group told contractors they must work in the office full-time starting June 6.
After threatening to strike, Google extended the deadline for three months.
Musk is a capitalist. Therefore, he must know that the labor market is a market.
Employees, including high-value employees that Tesla depends on for its success, will resign and go to work for Tesla's competitor.
While you may think that forcing office work hours will relieve Tesla of the burden of layoffs, a blanket mandate takes away control over how many employees leave and who walks out the door.
Overall, I expect the company's most valuable employees to get the best offers from the competition and be the first to go.
Elon Musk is many things: a Twitter troll, a hip shooter, and a renegade, but he's not stupid. Therefore, he will change his mind about the mandate.
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