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Elon Musk tells Tesla, SpaceX workers to go back to office or go away

The CEO wrote in an email that employees must be in the office at least 40 hours per week

Elon Musk told Tesla and SpaceX employees they must be in the office at least 40 hours per week. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg News)
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SAN FRANCISCO — Elon Musk appears to be over remote work.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO sent an email to employees at both companies on Tuesday saying everyone must spend 40 hours per week in the office.

“If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned,” according to an email to Tesla workers, which was posted online, the contents of which were confirmed to The Washington Post by a Tesla worker who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the message was internal.

“The more senior you are, the more visible must be your presence. … There are of course companies that don’t require this, but when was the last time they shipped a great new product?” Musk wrote in the email.

Musk sent a similar email to SpaceX workers, which was obtained by The Post.

Another similar email sent to Tesla executives, with the subject line “Remote work is no longer acceptble,” was shared on Twitter by a Tesla investor, and re-shared by another account.

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Musk replied to a tweet asking what he would say to people who think coming to work is an “antiquated concept,” and appeared to confirm the executive email.

“They should pretend to work somewhere else,” he responded.

Musk said in one of his emails to Tesla employees that he would hand-approve exceptions to work remotely for “particularly exceptional contributors,” though he did not explain that category further.

The Tesla worker who spoke with The Post said some groups of employees expect to continue to be exempt from returning to the office. Tesla recruits heavily from Silicon Valley’s vast pool of software engineers — workers who have been granted perks such as free meals and flexible work. Some were under the impression their status would not change.

Musk’s hard-driving policies on remote work fly in the face of the workplace culture at social media company Twitter, which the billionaire is working to buy for about $44 billion. That deal is expected to close later this year, and already employee tensions are running high about the coming leadership change.

Twitter was one of the first large companies in 2020 to announce that workers could continue to work from home — forever. The company is known for a flexible workplace where employees regularly work from home, the office or on the go.

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Musk’s companies are better known for rigid, process-based workplaces. The entrepreneur pushed back against shelter-in-place orders in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, but told employees they could stay home if they felt uneasy.

Still, two Tesla workers said at the time that they received termination notices alleging a “failure to return to work” after they chose to take unpaid leave in May 2020.

And in Shanghai this week, Tesla told factory workers they would need to stay isolated at the facilities to prevent the spread of the virus, according to Bloomberg News.

In his email to Tesla executives, Musk called on the managers to get back to the office 40 hours a week.

“This is less than we ask of factory workers,” he wrote.

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