Elon Musk orders Tesla execs back to the office

Bosses can always work from home – after they've done a minimum of 40 hours a week on site

Tesla supremo Elon Musk has declared that executive staff at his battery-powered vehicle biz shall not work from afar.

In an email sent to Tesla underlings and obtained by the New York Times, Musk tells Tesla execs that remote work is no longer acceptable.

"Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean minimum) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla," Musk's missive mandates. "This is less than we ask of factory workers."

Musk, the world's richest person at the moment, allows that he may, at his discretion, bend his rules for "particularly exceptional contributors" – if you have to ask, that's probably not you. The billionaire poly-boss and Twitter influencer further stipulates that "office" as he defines it means main office, not some remote branch unrelated to one's duties.

Tesla, which does not maintain a PR department, did not immediately respond to a request to confirm the authenticity of the directive. But Musk did not challenge its authenticity when responding to the Whole Mars Catalog's request, in light of the position he outlined in his memo, to offer his thoughts on "people who think coming into work is an antiquated concept."

"They should pretend to work somewhere else," Musk responded.

The Register asked Tesla whether Musk would spend his CEO hours henceforth in a company office or whether he would do some work remotely. We don't expect an answer.

Musk's marching orders appear to be unlikely to reduce annualized executive turnover at Tesla, which in 2019 was estimated to be a staggering 44 percent for those reporting directly to the CEO, according to Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi. That's compared to an average of 9 percent at other Silicon Valley companies.

The "olly olly oxen free" memo might even make retention worse. Remote work, a matter of necessity at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, has won over the majority of workers. According to staffing firm Robert Half, 66 percent of job candidates aren’t willing to return to the office. And a survey of 1,000 US hiring managers conducted by Upwork last year found that 40.7 million American professionals, or about 28 percent of respondents, are expected to be fully remote in the next five years.

In contrast to Tesla, other Silicon Valley firms have made waves by granting workers more flexibility rather than less. Airbnb, for example, last month declared employees could work from anywhere.

When companies offer employees less flexibility, it seldom looks good. IBM's decision in 2017 to order staff to work from one of its six main offices was seen by company critics as a way to encourage older workers to leave. And Yahoo!'s 2013 ban on working from home did little for the company's image.

But Musk's position at least dovetails with Tesla's interest in selling cars – those who aren't commuting to the office may be less inclined to buy a vehicle to make that daily journey. ®

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