Elon Musk’s Forced Return to Office Policy Will Harm Tesla (Video & Podcast)

6 min read
Elon Musk’s Forced Return to Office Policy Will Harm Tesla (Video & Podcast)

Musk’s authoritarian stance on hybrid and remote work undermines Tesla’s future as employees want autonomy and flexibility. That’s the key take-away message of this episode of the Wise Decision Maker Show, which describes how Elon Musk’s forced return to office policy will harm Tesla.

Video: “Elon Musk’s Forced Return to Office Policy Will Harm Tesla”

Podcast: “Elon Musk’s Forced Return to Office Policy Will Harm Tesla”

Links Mentioned in Videocast and Podcast


Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the wise decision maker show where we help you make the wisest and most profitable decisions. I’m Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, the CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts, the consulting firm on the future of work that sponsors the show. Today we’ll talk about Elon Musk’s return to Office diktat, his authoritarian order for everyone at Tesla and SpaceX, to return to the office. This is, of course, a form of authoritarianism. Now, he’s the founder of SpaceX, and he is the CEO and CEO of both companies, Tesla and SpaceX. And he has the ability to do so. But is this a wise idea to have that authoritarian attitude toward returning to the office? So this demand for all staff to return to the office full time not even hybrid work, not even three days a week, but full time? 40 hours plus, he says that you need to return to the office full time or you go work somewhere else? Well, I’m here to tell you that authoritarianism will backfire. It will hurt productivity, it will hurt engagement, it’ll hurt innovation, it will hurt retention and recruitment at Tesla. Really, really important things, if you’re running an innovation based company like Tesla is and of course, manufacturing, high tech manufacturing, right? Well, let’s think about what’s going on. So Musk said that, hey, staff only pretend to work from home, but they’re not productive, essentially, is what he said. And I’m quoting here, they pretend to work. And he said that they’re phoning it in. So he is making those claims. Well, extensive research of all sorts, shows that he’s simply wrong, factually completely wrong. Work From Home does not reduce productivity. People don’t pretend to work from home, they’re not simply phoning it in, that actually improves productivity. When people work from home. There’s a wide variety of studies. So surveys extensively show that people report being more productive from home 75% of people on surveys like Gallup, Harvard Business School, report equal or higher productivity in working from home. And it’s not simply surveys, you might sell well, a survey, you know, employees like working from home, so maybe they’ll report working from home more just to stay working from home. But it’s not simply surveys. It’s also employee software monitoring data. So monitoring software that employers install on employee computers, to monitor their productivity shows that employees are quite a bit more productive, from five to 10% more productive at home. And that’s, again, factual monitoring data, employee monitoring data, not surveys by employee. So both surveys by employees and employee software monitoring data, shows employees are more productive, and HR leaders agree. So Sherm, the Society for Human Resources, surveyed employee versus HR leaders, and it found that 94% 94% Find that employees are equally or more productive at home compared to in the office. Moreover, work from home productivity is getting better over time, not less. There was a Stanford University study that showed that work from home efficiency in May 2020. So a couple of months after the shutdowns when transitioned to work from home, it’s except the central employees here in the US. It was up by 5% in 2020. So work from home improved productivity by 5% in 2020. So work from home employees were 5% more productive. How did they change over time? Well, most recently, in the summer of 2020, to work from home, productivity improved to 9% 9%. Wider it improved from 5% in 2020, in May 2020, to 9%, in the summer of 2022. Simply because we got better at working from home, we know how to do it more employees got better at doing it collaborating with each other, employers got some backend software collaboration software, and got their policies and policies and processes in place. managers know how to manage better from home workers from home. So we’re better at working from home. And you know what, it’s not surprising, right? If you’re working from home, you don’t need to do the commute. And that commute takes over an hour counting driving and transition time putting on clothes, makeup, all that stuff, and getting back home, you know, setting up yourself in the office and then doing all of that in reverse. So we’re an hour per day. And we have quite a bit of research that employees are willing to put some of that time from unpaid labor into their work over a third of the time they’re willing to put into their workday, so they’re willing to work quite a bit more per day. Do Not work on the commute. And so let’s think about that that’s over an hour per day, that’s over a third of the time, that’s at least 20 minutes, let’s go into add up to over an hour per week, and over an hour per week, that’s if you think about it, you know, that’s one hour per week, out of 40 hours, that’s going to be already 2.5% improvement in productivity, right over 2.5% improvement in productivity. Now, there is an additional boost in productivity that comes from focus time, people are able to focus when they’re working from home in a way they can’t in the office, when there’s so many interruptions, especially from many employees who are working in a cubicle without private offices, or even in open offices, right, there’s a lot of interruptions, people are less focused. So that is a problem. So people are able to be more productive. Another component of productivity comes from that focus time. And the additional component productivity comes from energy levels of flexibility, that people are able to work when their energy levels are higher. Different people are night owls. Some people are morning birds, so they can work better in the morning, some people you know, at 5am, some people work best at 7pm. And the traditional nine to five doesn’t fit their needs. But if they can work flexible hours, and at various times, they’re able to work more productively. All of that adds up to 9% more productivity by the summer of 2022. Now, what’s the psychology I mean, this is all known, you know, this is not a surprise to musk, anyone who Googles this, you know, Google work from home productivity, you’ll look at the first page of Google, you’ll see all of these results, you know, this is all available the researchers out there. So why is Musk saying this stuff which is really made up and really not true? What’s the psychology behind it? It’s the gut intuition. He feels it should be true, he feels that if employees are visible, they’ll be working harder. And that’s what he feels. And unfortunately, many other managers feel this way. They feel that employees who are managed, surveilled, if you see them, will work harder. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. And it’s actually the opposite of what happens with employees. There’s a cognitive bias, a dangerous judgment or a mental blind spot called the illusion of control. It’s our predisposition, our tendency to overestimate the extent to which we control external events, including other people. This bias leads more authoritarian managers, executives to assume that if you see people, if they’re in the office and visible, that means that they’re productive. Well, that’s not the case. In the office, actually, employees work less than the full eight hours. In fact, they only work 36 to 39% of their time, when they’re in office the rest of their time. They’re doing other stuff, checking social media, reading news websites, talking to colleagues about non-work stuff, making work calls, even looking for other jobs, as I’m sure many people have Tesla and SpaceX. And Musk’s return to Office mandate will also harm innovation. Why is that? Well, his desire for control goes against productivity, engagement, innovation, and the desire for autonomy. And here’s why people work best through intrinsic innovation. And that intrinsic innovation, motivation for intrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation comes from autonomy. So people want to be autonomous and control their work. And that components of autonomy include flexibility of where to work, and when to work and how to work and self control. They want to control that themselves. And they’re more productive, they’re more innovative, more engaged and happy and more likely to be retained. If they have autonomy, that flexibility, self control, and work, our economy also increases innovation. We know that there are extensive studies showing all of this. For example, there is a study of 370 companies which show that those that provided more autonomy to workers saw more innovation. And of course, retention retention retention is Tesla’s return to Office mandate and SpaceX as well will risk losing its best talent and partially because many other companies are much more flexible than Tesla and Tesla employees can easily find jobs there. For example, freedom, also a very prominent big manufacturing company. It has a trust based approach towards its employees. It allows employees to work their way when they want it, how they want as long as they produce the outputs they need to prove that they need to produce similarly Applied Materials, which is a fortune 200 high tech manufacturing company which is one of my clients. It has an excellence from anywhere approach. So Team Lead model has a team lead model where the team leads in collaboration with their team members to decide on what works best for their team. So that is a very effective model. Another one of my clients is The University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute ISI. It adopts research driven approaches to make hybrid work more flexible for its members and remote work. So it allows all forms of hybrid remote work in this team led modality similarly, that maximizes staff autonomy, which is especially important for the kind of researchers at ISI who are really driven by innovation. And you remember that study on companies of innovation, where maximizing autonomy maximizes innovation. So we know that workers will quit in higher numbers, no question about it. If made to return to the office full time, we have surveys showing that 40% of workers who would look for new jobs are forced to come in. As a result, the quit rates of Tesla will undoubtedly increase. And we have that from other peer reviewed research. For example, there was a research study on a company called trip.com. In Singapore, which allowed some workers to work in hybrid modality coming into the office sometimes, and others to work in a full time modality. The same sort of workers are the same role software engineers, marketing staff and financial staff, and then found that retention improved by 35% in the hybrid for workers versus the office based worker. So definitely the quit rates of Tesla and SpaceX will increase. And we see that Musk’s back to Office ultimatum already faces pushback in Germany, which has voted for Tesla’s first ever worker union. And I can tell you, I’m very confident and you should be as well that Musk’s illusion of control will result in serious losses of talent to Tesla and gains for its rivals. And that’s what I wanted to share with you about Elon Musk’s authoritarianism, about returning to the workplace. I hope this episode of the wise decision maker show has been beneficial to you. Please make sure that you subscribe to the show on whatever when you check that out whether it’s on YouTube for the videocast or on Amazon or Apple iTunes for the podcast version, much more information in the show notes. And please leave a review that will be extremely helpful for other people to discover the show and I’d love to know what you think and improve the show based on your recommendations. Keeping that in mind. Please email me with your feedback. My email is Gleb at disaster avoidance experts.com again Gleb at disaster avoidance experts.com And I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of the wise decision maker show. In the meantime, the wisest and most profitable decisions to you, my friends 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai 

Bio: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky helps tech and finance industry executives drive collaboration, innovation, and retention in hybrid work. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts, which helps organizations adopt a hybrid-first culture, instead of incrementally improving on the traditional office-centric culture. A best-selling author of 7 books, he is especially well-known for his global best-sellers Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019) and The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships (New Harbinger, 2020). His newest book is Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in prominent venues. They include Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Inc. Magazine, CBS News, Time, Business Insider, Government Executive, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Fast Company, USA Today, and elsewhere. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for mid-size and large organizations ranging from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from his research background as a behavioral scientist. After spending 8 years getting a PhD and lecturing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he served for 7 years as a professor at the Ohio State University’s Decision Sciences Collaborative and History Department. He lives in Columbus, Ohio (Go Bucks!) and in his free time, he makes sure to spend abundant quality time with his wife to avoid his personal life turning into a disaster. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on LinkedIn @dr-gleb-tsipursky, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook @DrGlebTsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, YouTube, and RSS, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for the free Wise Decision Maker Course at https://disasteravoidanceexperts.com/newsletter/.