Tesla Doubles Down on Remote Working Ban, Tracks Office Attendance

Employees who don't sign into the office are tracked and sent an automated email asking them to report to a line manager.

It seems that Elon Musk was serious when he said working from home was not an option for Tesla workers, with employees now finding their movements being actively tracked by the company.

According to an internal message from Tesla, staff who don’t come into the office are starting to receive automated emails from the company, shaming them for not turning up.

Musk’s company is one of the few big tech organizations going against the grain of remote working, with others, such as Twitter, AirBnB, Reddit, and countless others, recognising that flexibility can be both rewarding and productive for staff.

Paying the Price for Working from Home

It’s no secret that Musk is no fan of his employees working from home. Just last month, the CEO sent an email to all staff at Tesla, informing them that they either headed to the office, or found employment elsewhere:

“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.” – Elon Musk

Now it seems that the company is actively recording who is and isn’t showing up at the Tesla offices, by keeping records of which employees are scanning their work passes in the building. According to a message received by a member of staff that was shared with The Telegraph, those who are avoiding their office desk will receive an automated email informing them that their absence has been noted:

“You are receiving this email because there is no record of you using your badge to enter a Tesla facility on at least 16 days over the 30-day period ending on June 28.” – Tesla message to staff

Those who receive the message are also purportedly invited to explain their absence to their managers.

Musk is Behind the Times on Remote Work

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – Musk is wrong about remote work.  The shift to hybrid and remote working may have happened suddenly, but countless studies show that employees have quickly adjusted, and are happier than ever. Not only that, but they’re more productive too. Removing the commute has readdressed the work/life balance for many employees, leaving them feeling less drained and more motivated.

In addition, the cat is well and truly out of the bag when it comes to remote work. One study posits that 25% of professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022.

Remote working has also become a huge draw for prospect employees. Companies which don’t offer it will struggle to attract top talent, with workers choosing to work for companies that do offer flexibility, rather than those that don’t. Ultimately, it’s this that could be Tesla’s undoing – the prospect of receiving snippy automated emails for not turning up to the office five days a week is unlikely to be that appealing, when another company may offer the same position, totally or partially remote.

So yes, we’ll chalk this one up to another case of Musk being wrong, just like the time he said the US would have zero Covid-19 cases by April 2020 (we’re currently at 87 million – bad call, Elon).

Remote Working is Here to Stay

Despite what Musk might think, remote working is the new normal. While Tesla might not have a remote working policy, you’ve only got to look to its contemporaries to see that most tech companies think the opposite. Twitter employees have been told that they may work from home indefinitely (at least, until Musk becomes the CEO, presumably), while Microsoft, Meta and Google have all adopted a hybrid working plan.

The switch to remote work has been sudden, but then as they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and the pandemic accelerated the move to remote working considerably.

This move has been made infinitely easier thanks to the prevalence of systems such as web conferencing and VoIP, not to mention remote desktop software. The move to many of us working from our homes just twenty years ago would have seemed nigh on impossible, but tech has ensured that we can collaborate as easily as if we were sat in the same room as our colleagues, no matter what our location.

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Written by:
Jack is the Deputy Editor for Tech.co. He has over 15 years experience in publishing, having covered both consumer and business technology extensively, including both in print and online. Jack has also led on investigations on topical tech issues, from privacy to price gouging. He has a strong background in research-based content, working with organisations globally, and has also been a member of government advisory committees on tech matters.
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