While Elon Musk orders Tesla staff back to the office, many tech companies are doing the opposite

A sternly worded internal email, apparently sent by Elon Musk, asking Tesla employees to return to the office or leave is raising eyebrows at a time when employees are increasingly seeking flexible work arrangements.

In a screenshot of the emailshared on Twitter, the world’s richest man is warning workers at his electric car company that remote working is no longer acceptable.

Musk responded to the leaked email on Twitter and said that people who think that work is old-fashioned “should pretend to work elsewhere”.

The controversial billionaire’s crackdown on work arrangements, who once tweeted “the coronavirus panic is stupidstands in stark contrast to how some other CEOs — particularly those in the technology and startup worlds — are dealing with this latest phase of working in a pandemic. New research also suggests it’s something employees value as much as a pay rise, and that it could even contribute to diversity in the workplace.

Vancouver-based entrepreneur Greg Gunn said he will credit Musk for being very clear about what he wants from his employees.

“It’s a power move,” Gunn said. “Tesla has traditionally been a great place to work and a coveted place to work.”

But he said Musk is eventually “approving an old way of building companies.” He finds the order disappointing in the end.

VIEW | Hybrid work schedules are becoming more common:

Hybrid work the norm as office workers move back

On the streets of downtown Toronto, a number of workers spoke to CBC on their way to the office Monday morning. Although their circumstances differ, they were generally happy to be back and expected that a mix of office life and working from home would be their norm from now on.

Gunn co-founded the Canadian company To connect in 2019, which has always been completely remote. The professional network, which has no physical headquarters, is an online community where startup engineers are paid to find their next career opportunities.

As someone who is a big believer in remote workplaces, Gunn said the approach allows him to recruit the best people for the job, no matter where they live.

He said it also removes obstacles that can make it difficult for some people to integrate into a physical workspace.

“There’s the subtle politics and social capital that you have to acquire in an office that, if you’re a caregiver or maybe have some neurodiversity qualities, creates barriers.”

Ontario public service more flexible than Musk

While remote working is impossible or impractical for many areas of work, such as healthcare and education, different sectors offer workers different opportunities in this latest phase of the pandemic.

Even outside of the tech sector, Musk’s approach to enforcing full-time office work is stricter than some more traditional workplaces.

Ontario’s public service, which to date includes about 60,000 civil servants, requires remote employees to come to the office at least three days a week.

“The OPS remains committed to providing flexibility to employees,” Kyle Richardson, spokesperson for the Ontario Treasury Board Secretariat, said in an email to CBC News.

Some bureaucrats working in Toronto’s Queen’s Park, pictured here on June 18, 2021, have more flexible work options than Tesla employees (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Canadian insurance company Intact Financial has gone even further, recently launching what it calls a “hybrid global model,” which allows teams to discuss and plan when to work from home and the office.

Meanwhile, in the highly competitive technology sector, flexible work arrangements are being used as a way to recruit talent.

Video game company Ubisoft Montreal, for example, is now 100 percent hybrid and has no minimum office hours.

“Our employees have the choice of coming when they want or staying home,” public relations manager Antoine Leduc-Labelle said in an email to CBC News.

At video game company Ubisoft Montreal, employees have the choice to work from home or come to the office as they please. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

AirBnb has taken a similar approach, to announce that the vast majority of workers will be able to live and work wherever they want, as the pandemic ended up being “the most productive two-year period” in the company’s history.

Brian Chesky, CEO of the online vacation rental platform, said limiting the company’s workforce to people who live within a commuter area would only hurt the talent pool.

“Today’s startups have embraced remote work and flexibility, and I think this will become the main way we all work in ten years. This is where the world is going,” he said in an email sent in April. was sent to the staff.

‘This will not work’

Jose Maria Barrero, co-founder of the WFH (Working From Home) Research Project, said his instinctive response to Musk’s approach is, “This isn’t going to work out very well for Tesla.”

Since the start of the pandemic, he has been polling Americans with other academic researchers on a monthly basis to gather information about people’s attitudes toward work arrangements.

Barrero said the data generally suggests flexible work arrangements are just as valuable as a pay increase of about 10 percent for most people. He said the group’s research suggests that women, as well as racial and ethnic minorities, have a greater preference for working from home.

In the tech industry and beyond, many companies offer a variety of hybrid work plans ranging from options with a minimum number of in-office days to fully flexible options. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

He added that a single, generalized approach to work arrangements for an entire company may not be the best.

Instead, he suggested, companies should look at role-specific work arrangements based on whether someone works on a factory floor rather than developing computer code.

“I think companies are asking those people back to work [in office] full-time ignore this and basically set themselves up for the employees to call their bluff,” Barrero said.

Hard to get the genie back in the bottle

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon immediately recognized the new standard in his last annual shareholder letterin which he wrote “it is clear that working from home will become more permanent in corporate America.”

Dimon said he expects about 40 percent of his employees to continue working under a hybrid model with varying flexibility.

Barrero said for many who have desk jobs, things will probably never be the way they were before the pandemic.

“It’s very difficult to get the genie back in the bottle,” Barrero said.

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