CEOs trying to get employees back in the office argue that working from home leads to less engaged and less productive workers. But Tesla CEO Elon Musk goes one step further, calling the practice “morally wrong” in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday night.
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Musk argued that tech workers—whom he called the “laptop class”—were unfair in claiming privileges that others could not have, such as service workers or factory employees. “You’re going to work from home, and you’re going to have whoever made your car work in the factory? You’re going to have the people who make your food delivered to you—they can’t work from home?” Musk asked. “Does this sound morally right?”
He said, “People should get rid of their damn moral horses with the work-from-home bullshit.” “They are telling everyone not to work from home while they are doing it.”
During stay-at-home orders in the United States in the early days of the COVID pandemic, white-collar workers were able to stay home while workers considered essential — often low-income or minority groups — had to get out of the house to go to work. . In-person work has sometimes led to COVID outbreaks in sectors such as the meatpacking industry where working from home was not possible.
Musk has long been a critic of remote work. Last June, Tesla’s CEO ordered employees back into the office full time, even as other companies were trying gingerly — and often failing — to get employees back in the office for just a few days a week. Musk pointed out the fairness in an internal email, noting that requiring company employees to come in for 40 hours a week was “less than [what] We ask factory workers.” (Musk also joked on Twitter at the time that Apple employees who refused to come into the office were lazy.)
Musk also ended Twitter’s permanent remote work policy last November, in one of his first stints as CEO of the social media company, though he later softened his demands when more employees were willing to resign over the issue.
The Tesla CEO also praised those who went beyond normal working hours, and celebrated employees at the company’s Shanghai plant for “burning 3 a.m. oil” even as American workers try to “avoid going to work at all,” in a recent interview. maybe. Tesla’s Shanghai factory at the time was operating under a “closed-loop” system amid China’s strict COVID prevention regime, with workers sleeping and eating on site to prevent any disruption to production due to the outbreak.
Musk claimed on CNBC that he takes two or three days off a year and otherwise works at least seven days a week with only six hours of sleep a night. (Musk was seen partying at a music festival in Mexico last weekend hours before meeting Emmanuel Macron, joking with the French president that he should have “slept in the car” beforehand.)
Work from home
Bosses and employees are still debating how long workers should be in the office. More companies are pressuring employees to come in at least part of the time. CEOs argue that working from home is hurting company culture, and they claim that entirely remote workers are missing out on opportunities for feedback and mentoring, hurting their growth.
Employee surveys consistently indicate that workers believe they are more productive at home.
The fight may come to an equilibrium around hybrid work, where employees come to the office for part of the week. The number of US companies calling for in-person work five days a week has fallen over the past three months, from 49% to 42%, according to data from Scoop Technologies, an analytics firm that tracks workplace strategies.
However, companies try to get their employees to come more often.
On Tuesday, AT&T CEO John Stankey told Bloomberg Radio that the carrier will require managers to work in person three days a week, starting in July in some cases. The company will also be closing some of its offices, which may require some employees to be relocated.
Also on Tuesday, asset manager BlackRock told employees in an internal memo to start showing up four days a week, up from three, arguing that remote workers missed “teaching moments” and “market-moving moments” while at home. .
“See you in the office!” BlackRock Books, according to financial times.
This story originally appeared on Fortune.com
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