Until Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk ended remote work this week, the automaker advertised about 100 remote jobs on its careers site. But as of late Wednesday, a remote job search returned no results. Some of the remote job postings now list Austin as the location.
Musk is asking employees to return to the office, according to a leaked memo titled “Remote work is no longer acceptable.” In the memo, he said, “Anyone who wants to work remotely must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or leave Tesla.”
To drive the point home and seem to confirm the authenticity of the email, Musk tweeted Tuesday: “They should pretend to work somewhere else.” It will make exceptions but said it will “review and approve those exceptions directly”.
This decision to end remote work is likely to be costly for Tesla. Experts and analysts said highly skilled workers favor jobs with remote options, and eliminating those options could affect employee retention and recruitment.
And Musk’s opposition to remote work might have surprised Tesla’s human resources department.
As of Wednesday morning, Tesla’s career website included dozens of jobs that defined the location as “remote,” including jobs in engineering, recruiting, project management, real estate, program and others. Some jobs specified a hybrid arrangement.
Many of the remote jobs listed on the site involved extensive travel. For example, one Regional Collision Manager position stated that the candidate must have “ability to travel up to 60% or more if required”.
On Thursday morning, Tesla continued to offer remote work as an option for jobs in Canada and Europe.
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment, but generally job postings can be used to fill more than one job, so the number of remote jobs available at Tesla may have been higher – at least until the purge.
If Musk is serious about banning remote work, he could struggle to fill jobs, experts said.
“The best people in the world are choosing to work in a different way,” said Pat Petitti, CEO and co-founder of highly skilled freelance marketplace platform Catalant Technologies Inc. The platform is for people who have worked in management consulting and leadership positions in large organizations, and the average age is 45. The Boston-based company has raised over $100 million in funding.
According to Petitti, highly experienced workers “demand more flexibility,” whether they work full-time or freelance. Big companies are “all discovering that if they want access to the best people for their strategic work, they need to take a more flexible approach,” he said.
Forcing employees to work in the office full-time carries “serious risks,” said Brian Kropp, research manager at Gartner’s HR practice. Organizations that force employees “back to an all-on-site arrangement could lose 33% of their workforce,” he said, citing a recent study by Gartner.
Brian CroppHead of Research, Gartner HR practice
Some companies are requiring employees to return to the office due to concerns about collaborating in a virtual environment or “high turnover of employees working remotely or hybridly,” he said. The risk includes not only retention, but hiring.
“Companies that require their employees to return to the office will either have access to a smaller talent pool or have to pay a compensation premium to force employees back to the office,” Kropp said.
The majority of companies plan to have their employees work remotely or in a hybrid arrangement, according to Gartner’s survey of 180 companies in late April. In this survey, 57% of organizations expect their employees to work in a hybrid environment and 24% remotely. Only 19% require employees to work entirely from the office.
Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget. He worked for more than two decades as a corporate IT journalist.