Executive Insights

Elon Musk reportedly issued an ultimatum to Tesla staff: return to the office or quit

Business Insider US

Maja Hitij/Getty Images
Maja Hitij/Getty Images
  • Elon Musk reportedly told Tesla's executive staff to return to the office or resign, Electrek reported.
  • Musk tweeted that those who consider offices antiquated "should pretend to work somewhere else."
  • The billionaire has been critical of remote work and the American work ethic in the past.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Elon Musk issued an ultimatum to Tesla's executive staff on Tuesday, calling for the workers to come into the office and stop "phoning it in" or quit, according to a report from Electrek.

The Tesla CEO told the electric-car maker's executives that they would be required to come into the office for a minimum of 40 hours a week, according to two emails that were shared on Twitter by Samuel Nissim, who claims to be a Tesla shareholder, and obtained by Electrek. Musk reportedly said in one of the emails that if staff continue to work remotely, he will assume that they have resigned.

Nissim and Musk did not respond to a request for comment. Insider was unable to independently confirm the authenticity of the emails that were posted on Twitter.

The richest man in the world responded to reports of the emails on Twitter when user @WholeMarsBlog asked Musk how he would respond to people who consider in-person work "antiquated."

"They should pretend to work somewhere else," Musk wrote on Twitter.

Musk titled his first email "remote work is no longer acceptble (sic)" and appeared to address it only to a listserv for executive staff, according to Electrek.

The billionaire said exceptions to the new policy could be made in the case of "particularly exceptional contributors," but he would have to approve it himself, per the cited email.

Musk sent a companywide follow-up email later the same day, according to Electrek. The CEO emphasised the importance of factory workers — who have been required to come into work throughout the pandemic — being able to see senior staff working alongside them, according to the email.

"The more senior your are, the more visible must be your presence," Musk wrote, according to Electrek. "This 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."

In 2018, Musk said on the podcast Recode Decode that his work at Tesla and SpaceX sometimes drove him to sleep on the Tesla factory's floor and work over 120 hours a week. Though, the CEO said later that year that he scaled back to 80 to 90-hour work weeks.

The billionaire has criticised remote work and the American work ethic in the past. In May, Musk told The Financial Times that Americans "are trying to avoid going to work at all" whereas Chinese workers "won't even leave the factory."

The comments came after it was revealed that Tesla workers in Shanghai had begun working 12-hour shifts, six days a week, and sleeping on the factory floor due to the company's efforts to restart production amid a Covid-19 shutdown in the province. On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that the workers would continue to work in the closed-loop system until June 10.

Last month, Musk also said on Twitter that Covid-19 stay-at-home measures had "tricked people into thinking they don't actually need to work hard."

Insider's Isobel Asher Hamilton reported that three economists said remote work had little impact on workers' ability to get stuff done and may have even increased productivity. 

Some tech companies have been hesitant to bring workers back into the office. In May, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky called the office an "anachronistic form" that was "from a pre-digital age" after the company announced that employees could work from home forever.

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