I think by now almost everyone has heard the news about Elon Musk requesting all his employees to return to the office or quit. Below are the two emails he sent to his teams in full:
Subject: 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. This is less than we ask of factory workers.
If there are particularly exceptional contributors for whom this is impossible, I will review and approve those exceptions directly.
Moreover, the “office” must be a main Tesla office, not a remote branch office unrelated to the job duties, for example being responsible for Fremont factory human relations, but having your office be in another state.
Subject: To be super clear
Everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week. Moreover, 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.
The more senior you are, the more visible must be your presence. That is why I lived in the factory so much – so that those on the line could see me working alongside them. If I had not done that, Tesla would long ago have gone bankrupt.
There are of course companies that don’t require this, but when was the last time they shipped a great new product? It’s been a while.
Tesla has and will create and actually manufacture the most exciting and meaningful products of any company on Earth. This will not happen by phoning it in.
This was headline news, and all sorts of op-ed pieces ran with folks chiming in and providing their two cents on the matter. To be honest, I think he said what most all Founders, CEO’s, Presidents, and other C-Suite executives want to say. Get back to the office. But the current wellness culture, the great resignation, and a variety of other factors outside of their control prevent them from saying it. The Great Resignation has led to the Great Resistance, and it has become a battle of wills between senior management and everyone else.
Believe me, I’m the first to beat the ‘Inspire Engagement, Don’t Mandate Attendance’ drum, but I also think he makes some interesting and insightful points. Tesla, Google, Apple, Amazon, etc., and other tech companies did not become the innovative giants they are today by leveraging a remote workforce or by collaborating over Zoom over via a conference call during the pre-internet startup era. We’re seeing that an office is no longer a productivity tool. An office is a connectedness tool.
The office is a way for people to get to know each other and to be able to share thoughts, ideas, and experiences in a way that makes everybody better. It builds trust and Rick Warren once said, “The most essential quality for leadership is not perfection but credibility. People must be able to trust you.” Trust builds speed and productivity because it feeds into collaboration, connection, loyalty, and, ultimately – results and innovation.
A workplace leader’s role should not be to control people and stay on top of things or mandate all their staff to be in the office for forty hours a week, but should be to guide, energize and excite their staff. I’m sure there was a time and still are times when Elon and others are energizing and exciting their employees with innovative breakthroughs and ideas, but a lot can be said for having some tact and compassion and meeting people where they’re at and not where you expect/want them to be.
As Ken Blanchard described, “The test of your leadership is not what happens when you’re there, but what happens when you’re not there.” Don’t follow Elon’s lead but instead, be an empathetic and compassionate leader and meet people in the middle and be open to having some flexibility with your teams. Build trust and it will ultimately generate the connectedness, productivity, and innovation we’re all seeking from our workplace environment.
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