Back to Work
Elon Musk, pioneer of the future, wants you in an office 40 hours per week
“Remote work is no longer acceptble” [sic]
Elon Musk is truly an innovator, in that he has a knack for continuously finding new and novel ways to betray his absolute detachment from reality, not to mention a fundamental contempt of a modernized working class. All that said, his latest, most likely calculated, stunt is subtly one of his most egregious offenses yet. As multiple outlets have reported, the CEO of Tesla apparently blasted out an email yesterday afternoon to his executive staff with the subject line “Remote work is no longer acceptble [sic].”
“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,” the alleged email begins. “This is less than we ask of factory workers.”
Although Musk has yet to officially confirm the message’s authenticity, when asked about it by one account on Twitter, he responded by stating that if someone wants to continue remotely, they should “pretend” to work at another job. We could spend hours debating the pros and cons of remote work here, but the simple, ludicrous fact of the matter is that Elon Musk just openly admitted to thinking that even the slightest amount of remote work in today’s socio-political and economic environment is disdainful.
A look at the facts — Before I go any further here, it’s important to acknowledge the actual realities of our current, transformative moment in global labor. It is absolutely true that access to remote work remains a privilege mostly afforded to wealthier and more educated demographics. People in construction, agriculture, and the gig economy — often those paid comparatively the worst for what is expected of them — are much less likely to encounter remote or hybrid schedule models. The perennial class disparities on display in these situations are real issues that need addressing.
That said, countless economists have made it abundantly clear that a transition to remote and hybrid work models do not appear to be disrupting economic productivity much, if at all. In fact, there’s a great deal of evidence pointing towards a net increase in productivity for people able to work from home. A recent study analyzing 2,000 tasks across 800 jobs in 9 countries from McKinley Global Institute found that between 29 and 39 percent of industries could continue transitioning to hybrid-remote models with little-to-no change in output.
Reality versus reactionaries — You won’t ever see billionaire oligarchs like Musk cite the already considerable amount of data in favor of continuing to support remote work potential. On multiple occasions, Musk has repeatedly let it be known that he thinks being away from physical offices promotes nebulously negative things like “laziness” in a “pretend” job environment. But to call remote work “pretend” is an unequivocal insult to the millions of people who struggled to earn a living during the worst months of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Musk has yet again laid bare a running implication we’ve heard from “traditional” bosses and managers for years — they need to literally see you working, because they don’t trust you are responsible or motivated enough to do what is expected of you. It’s condescending, offensive, and above all else, delusional.
If Elon Musk is truly the futurist visionary he wants everyone to see him as, he’d go above and beyond an embrace of remote work hybridization. He’d work with his team to find creative measures to boost both output and flexibility, expand healthcare options, and *gasp* even unionization. That will probably never happen, though, if Musk can’t conceive of what success looks outside of offices and factories teeming with overworked, and mistreated, employees.