Elon Musk is dead wrong about working from home

Just because someone is smart about some things doesn't mean he's smart about everything. And, yes, I'm looking at you, Elon Musk, and your attitude towards people working from home.

Oh, come on, Elon! Get with the 21st century already.

In a recent infamous leaked memo, Elon Musk told his Tesla staff, "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 continued, "This is less than [what] we ask of factory workers." Well, yes, but white-collar workers aren't working on assembly lines, either.

In a follow-up memo to the entire company, Musk continued, "the office must be where your actual colleagues are located, not some remote pseudo office. If you don't show up, we will assume you have resigned."

Oh, and don't think because you're high up in the company that you'll be given a pass. "The more senior you are, the more visible must be your presence."

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This move isn't surprising. Musk is reputed to work a hundred hours a week, and he's very demanding.

As Dolly Singh, SpaceX's former head of talent acquisition, has said, "Diamonds are created under pressure, and Elon Musk is a master diamond maker."

Now, Musk is very good at some things. His combination of intelligence, hard work, and vision has revolutionized both space travel with SpaceX and the electric car with Tesla.

He will go down in history as this century's Henry Ford or Thomas Edison.

But — and this is a big but — sometimes he's wrong.

Studies show that people simply work better from home. Estimates vary, with productivity increases ranging from 3% to 5%. Stanford University professor and remote work expert Nicholas Bloom has found that 40% of American work hours are currently from home. And more people want to work there. For example, in March, only 20% of job listings were remote on LinkedIn, but they saw over half the applications.

People flatly don't want to go back to the office.

A survey from Zapier, a work automation company, found that 32% of respondents said they've already quit a job because they couldn't work remotely, and 61% say they would leave their job for a fully remote opportunity.

Sorry, Elon, you may lead us to a brighter technological future, but your work attitude is trying to pull us back into a dark past.

He's not the only one. Many C-level executives want people back in the office.

Bad Apple! Bad!

Is it any wonder that in the most recent LinkedIn Workforce Confidence survey, employees' optimism about their employer's business outlook skidded six points for the next six months?

There are many reasons for this decline. Inflation, wages not keeping up, and a shaky stock market all come to mind.

But another major player is that people simply don't want to go back to the office again.

The more leaders insist they do, the more workers grow unhappy. And in this economy, unhappy staffers can always walk out the door to find better — or at least remote — jobs.

The Great Resignation is not — I repeat, not — slowing down.

Now, maybe Elon can get away with it with his companies. SpaceX, Starlink, and Tesla create things that get people excited.

The engineers I've spoken to there tell me they feel overworked, but they're thrilled to be doing work that will make a real difference. They're building the future.

But most of us don't have businesses like that. Instead, we're building a product, providing a service, or connecting companies together. That's all good, necessary work. But is it enough to make employees agree to come to the office? I doubt it.

I think you'd be much better off keeping your workers happy by letting them work remotely.

It makes them happy, and happy workers are productive workers.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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