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Has Remote Work Run Its Course? Elon Musk Thinks So.

Has Remote Work Run Its Course? Elon Musk Thinks So.

Recently, Elon Musk made headlines with the announcement that all employees at Tesla and Space X would need to return to the office for a minimum of 40 hours per week. What could compel this innovative trend-setter to make such a bold move when society appears to be leaning toward increased job flexibility? Will this influence other businesses to require their workforces to return to the office permanently? 

Here’s what you need to know about Musk’s announcement and what it could mean for your organization.


The Rise of Job Flexibility

The idea of working remotely existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic spurred its popularity by forcing millions of people around the globe to shift their work responsibilities from their office spaces to their homes. 

Two years later, many businesses have already returned to their offices, but many employees have opted not to return with them, as they seek work-from-home opportunities. In fact, Global Analytics reported that two-thirds of all workers wanted to work from home and that 36% of employees would defer a pay raise for this type of opportunity.

As a result of the increased job vacancies, businesses began offering remote and hybrid schedules in order to fill the growing number of available positions. While many employers have recognized the benefits of working remotely and have continued to embrace this pandemic trend, others like billionaire entrepreneur, Elon Musk, have not.


Musk’s Leaked Email

Earlier this month, Musk made headlines when he sent an email to all Tesla and Space X employees terminating all remote work options. In his direct and provocative message, he required that workers return to a “minimum of 40 hours per week in the office” or “pretend to work somewhere else.” 

The leaked email incited a barrage of mixed reaction on Twitter—with many suggesting that Elon could be sacrificing his ability to attract and retain talent, especially since many younger people entering the workforce today are expecting the flexibility to work from anywhere. 

On the other hand, others argue that collaboration happens best when workers are present in one location. Impromptu chats over coffee can spawn great ideas while the iterative process can take place more rapidly and smoothly with team members who are easily accessible.

For Musk, it comes down to creating and nurturing a strong, collaborative company culture where employees “build the business and make it better,” as he said last week while addressing Twitter employees, also adding that remote options, “reduce esprit de corp…” 

He went on to say,

There is some communication impact that one takes when working remotely because if you’re with people, and they’re just a few desks away, it’s very easy to communicate in real time, but it’s much harder to do that if you’re in different physical locations. 

Since nearly 1,500 Twitter employees currently work from home, this news could be concerning. However, Musk did not completely dismiss the idea of remote work, adding, “The bias there definitely needs to be strongly toward working in person. But if somebody is exceptional, then remote work can be okay.” The problem is that being able to do so may pose a challenge.


What This Means for You and Your Organization

Like Musk, Goldman Sachs is requiring employees to be back on site to work the traditional five-day workweek while many others like Apple, Google, and Microsoft are requiring workers to return to the office only several days per week.

The bottom line is that you need to assess your business model and determine which work environment is best for your business goals. If seeking and retaining young talent is your priority—or if there are jobs that can be completed easily off site—then perhaps offering remote opportunities will be a viable solution in this competitive job market. 

However, if the nature of your organization’s work would be best served having everyone perform their job responsibilities on site—or if you’re interested in building a strong workplace culture—then perhaps remote options are not the best fit for your business.

Each organization needs to be making decisions based on what’s best for its success. Begin by fostering ongoing discussions that include management as well as employees to determine your best plan of action.


Additional Resources

You can stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with important HR topics using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news

  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance

  • HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics

  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit

  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics

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