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Elon Musk, the most potent entrepreneur globally, has just stirred a controversy last week with emails to “everyone” at Tesla, urging everyone to return to work at the office. This is a brave yet risky move because this policy tends to disregard the 60 per cent of Americans with remote-capable professions who wish to work from home all or most of the time after COVID-19, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center study.
However, there is a fact we can never refuse. Musk is inspiring with his perspectives and actions, especially to founders worldwide.
The question now is, is it a signal that after the pandemic, remote working is not probably an ideal option anymore? How can we absorb this news and apply it to our startups?
Why can Tesla CEO, Musk defy the majority?
Even with the harsh public criticism, Musk has his own rationales behind his decision.
Each company has its unique culture, and the CEO has the power to determine what works best. Tesla creates tangible products and has factories, which is very different from the software industry as it may require an “office-centric” culture.
Musk has formed an intense work style since day one. If Tesla has to thrive, it has to run fastest and smartest with focus and intensity unlike any other.
There are many things to do and not to do from a car being manufactured and delivered to the customer. And it’s challenging to make that happen in a young company, but many highly-motivated people go to extreme lengths.
Will this decision affect the retention rate at Tesla? Yes.
Will it be significant? Not sure. Because there are some exclusive privileges.
First, Musk has a famous personal brand with his disruptive thinking and impressive achievements. Hardly any other person has exerted as much influence over such wide-ranging industries that could shape the future of the global economy: social media, space travel, autonomous driving, electric transportation, and artificial intelligence. Everyone who worked under him landed at some of the great places.
Secondly, Tesla has one of the best-designed and innovative products in the world. Their electric cars accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy, which will revolutionize the industry and bring positive environmental changes. No matter how remote-work policy at Tesla is, there is still a massive number of top talents aiming to work at Tesla.
If your firm is not Tesla, you should not act like Musk
There was a humorous anecdote; when my startup friend obtained this information, he asked his team, “Should we follow this?”
Of course, if your company is not Tesla, you shouldn’t act like Musk.
There are two key reasons why Musk’s policies will not apply to tech startups.
First, startups won’t be able to scale fast because potential talents increasingly prefer hybrid or remote jobs. The organisation’s management must adapt to these changes to sustain a talent pipeline. After the COVID-19 outbreak, the world and labour market have altered.
Particularly in the tech industry, employees in this field are becoming more flexible; they are in high demand all over the globe. They always have alternative options to consider besides your company.
Microsoft’s Work Trend Index indicates that hybrid working is the favoured working approach globally in the expected time. According to a Microsoft analysis on the rise of the “hybrid workplace” in Vietnam, up to 81 per cent of employees, particularly young Gen Z workers, desire to continue working remotely.
Second, letting employees work at an office definitely won’t help you save operational costs, which should be considered one of the top priorities given a possible recession in 2022.
For example, think about how much money it would take to operate a permanent office. Specifically, offices must be furnished with desks, chairs, couches, and other essential equipment. Not to mention the employees’ coffee, water, and snacks throughout the day.
According to McKinsey & Company Global Management Consulting, not only is hybrid working comfortable for workers, but it also reduces organizations’ operational expenses by up to 30 per cent.
In particular, in the previous article, we should prepare for a recession to come, which is why global hiring is on the rise, leading to remote work being unavoidable.
In summary, the answer to the issue of whether Musk is committing an offence is “no”! It was just inapplicable to other technology startups.
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