Hybrid Working

Elon Musk Is Wrong to Ban Remote Work at Twitter

While it makes sense that a new CEO would want to see what their employees are up to, in this case, it's a mistake. Here's why.
Thomas Papen
Chief Customer Officer

Right after Elon Musk's $44bn Twitter acquisition, his first email to the employees was to communicate that remote work was now a thing of the past. With a 40-hour minimum in the office per week requirement, it's clear that Musk isn't too keen on allowing employees the flexibility they had previously enjoyed.

While it's understandable for a new CEO to want to ensure that their team is productive and all hands are on deck, in this case, it could be one of the costliest mistakes Musk has ever made. Here's why.

1. Hybrid Work Increases Productivity – He Doesn't Believe It

Elon Musk doesn't believe that hybrid work increases employee productivity, so much so that he even stated that employees that do not agree with the new policy should "pretend to work somewhere else".

But according to the research, he's wrong! In fact, 77% of workers claimed that they're more productive when they have the flexibility to work from home, and 76% attributed that higher productivity level to fewer interruptions and distractions.

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The argument of hybrid work being less effective than in-office collaboration has been debunked more than once, and the premises of hybrid work have been backed up by plenty of studies. Accordingly, Musk's 40-hour minimum requirement could very well backfire and decrease employee productivity.

2. Many Employees Will Take His Advice to Go Work Somewhere Else

Another point is that today's workforce values flexibility more than anything else. Actually, 64% of workers would even consider quitting their job if their employer asked them to return to the office full-time. On top of that, 9 in 10 employees want flexibility regarding where and when they work.

Given this data, it's natural that many of the talented staff at Twitter will look for a new company with more modern hybrid work policies — which means Musk could very well be losing some of his best talent. And unfortunately, replacing quality employees can take months and even years to accomplish.

With that said, his advice for employees to find a different job if they disagree with the new policy could very well prove costly for Twitter.

3. He Fails to Understand That Hybrid Work Is a Cost Reduction Opportunity Rather Than a Cost Burden'

In the tweet below, Elon Musk references the $13m per year that Twitter spends on food service for their San Francisco headquarters. But he's focusing on the wrong cost. He's missing out on a huge opportunity — downscaling their physical office spaces by up to 75% since peak occupancy was only 25%.

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This would actually reduce costs much more than cutting back on lunches or forcing employees to come back into the office workplace. That’s because businesses can save up to $11,000 per year for each employee working from home, even half the time.

Instead of taking away the flexibility that employees enjoy, he should recognize the potential of hybrid work and its ability to reduce costs rather than bring them in AND take away their lunch.

4. It's Not an Easy Adjustment for Employees

Asking employees who have grown accustomed to the flexibility of remote work to make a sudden switch to full-time office hours is a difficult adjustment. It can be incredibly jarring and disorienting for employees, leading to increased stress levels, decreased productivity, and even potential health issues.

Additionally, forcing employees back into the office when they're used to working from home could cause staff resentment and make them feel like their employer doesn't value their well-being.

Musk needs to remember that employees are people, not robots — and making sudden changes to their schedules could lead to serious repercussions. That's especially true if he fails to provide adequate support and resources for the transition.

5. What About Cross-Border Teams?

Finally, it's important to consider the implications of this policy change on cross-border teams. If Musk implements a no-remote work policy at Twitter, that would mean those working abroad and living in different time zones would have to relocate or find another job — both of which are costly endeavors.

One of the benefits of remote work is that it allows for both geographic and cultural diversity in a company, so forcing people to relocate could be detrimental to the environment at Twitter. That's not a risk worth taking. This policy will profoundly impact many lives and careers, and even Twitter as a business could suffer long-term.

For instance, if people from different backgrounds can no longer work together remotely due to this policy change, Twitter may be missing out on valuable insights that could positively shape the company. And it'll be harder for them to attract great talent from around the world. 

The Takeaway

Musk is right to want to know what his employees are up to, but he's wrong to impose a strict no-remote work policy on them. Not only could this lead to resentment and lost talent, but it could also have serious implications on cross-border teams, productivity, and costs.

Yes, given the current economic situation, it's unlikely that employees will leave Twitter. But one day, when the economy improves, many highly talented Twitter employees may look for other tech companies to work for. It's simply a non-negotiable factor of a company's culture that can't be changed on a whim.

All in all, companies like Twitter need to remember that it's always a company's culture and workplace experience that'll be remembered, and it shouldn't just be changed from one day to the next. It's disappointing to see this happen to a company like Twitter, but with the right adjustments, it's not too late for Musk to make a U-turn and embrace the potential of hybrid work. He just needs to remember that it's never too late to do the right thing.


Thomas Papen

Chief Customer Officer and Co-founder at Tribeloo

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