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Tesla struggles with Elon Musk’s strict return-to-office policy

Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk attends the World Conference on Artificial Intelligence (WAIC) in Shanghai, China, August 29, 2019.

Ally Song | Reuters

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has enacted a strict return-to-office policy this spring, out of the blue on May 31, sent an email notifying employees that they must “spend a minimum of 40 hours a week in the office.” Other than that, he suggested, “make a phone call.”

Three months after this order, Tesla still doesn’t have the space or resources to get all of its employees back in the office. Officials declined to give their names because they were not authorized to speak to the press on behalf of the company.

The return-to-office policy has also caused a drop in morale, especially among teams that allowed employees to work remotely as needed before Covid-19.

In general, Tesla was open to remote work among its office workers before the pandemic. As the company’s workforce has expanded in recent years, the focus has been on building an international hub and a new factory in Texas. Existing facilities in Nevada and California have not built enough new workspaces or acquired enough office equipment to accommodate all office employees and long-term contractors working 40 hours a week. did.

Tesla recently wanted to bring its San Francisco Bay Area employees to the office three days a week, according to some of the people who now work there, but they said it needed chairs, desk space, parking space and other space. We found that we were running out of resources. (Some of this was previously reported information.) Instead, Tesla has reverted its staggered office schedule to two days a week.

Even simple consumables like dongles and charging cords are lacking. On days when more employees are expected to be on site, the crowded conditions will force people to take calls outdoors. That’s because Tesla didn’t build enough conference rooms and phone booths to accommodate so many employees at once.

blow to morale

The company is now monitoring employee attendance, and Musk receives a detailed weekly report on absenteeism.

In early September, about one-eighth of the workforce was spending a normal day in Fremont, Calif., home of Tesla’s first U.S. car assembly plant, according to internal records. Across Tesla, the numbers were slightly better, with about a tenth of employees absent on a typical workday.

According to an internal report seen by CNBC, the numbers have remained within that range since March 2022, before Musk’s order. As you can imagine, absenteeism spikes on weekends and holidays.

Absenteeism at Tesla was measured using data from employees who badged the facility, dividing unplanned absences by planned vacations, according to people familiar with internal records and reports sent to Musk. Aggregated daily totals.

Not all employees are tracked the same way. For example, Elon Musk’s direct reports don’t count badge swipes on internal reports.

According to internal messages seen by CNBC, the return-to-work policy, while vague and informal, has severely demoralized some employees.

Before COVID-19 restrictions came into force, Tesla managers typically knew how much remote work was appropriate for their teams. Musk’s hardline policies have theoretically eliminated that freedom, but some executives may still be able to make deals with “exceptional” employees.

In early June 2022, shortly after Musk mandated 40 hours of on-site work for everyone, Tesla sharp cut to that number. Employees previously designated as Remote He Workers but unable to travel due to a 40-hour work week in the office will have until Sept. 30 to travel or receive severance pay from Tesla. .

About a week after making that offer internally, Tesla HR asked people living far away if they were planning to move and work 40 hours a week at Tesla’s offices. According to internal documents read by CNBC and two of his people with direct knowledge of the layoffs, some of those who said they weren’t sure they could relocate, or could never move, went without warning in June. dismissed.

The policy has also drained some of Tesla’s power to hire and retain top talent. quit in search of a more flexible arrangement.

Some employees who lived far from Tesla’s offices are now living hours away from their families to meet new requirements, one employee told CNBC.

The employee said he was most concerned about Tesla’s migrant workers. They could lose their visas if Tesla suddenly decides to end their role over changes in attendance requirements.

They were also concerned about how Tesla’s closed stance on teleworking would affect the company’s diversity goals.

I went to Tesla's first gigafactory

In the 2022 Diversity Report, released in July, Meta disclosed: “U.S. candidates who accepted remote job offers were black, Hispanic, Native American, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, veteran, and/or disabled. were significantly more likely to be women with ”

In Tesla’s latest 2021 Impact Report, published in May 2022, the company boasted that employees continue to feel connected while working. from remote office.

The report states, “During the global pandemic, we have focused on expanding our community engagement and helping our employees stay connected. Specifically, our employee resources Expanded the Group (ERG) to make programs accessible in remote working environments ..Moved to virtual events to foster inclusion across different locations, physical boundaries and time zones When we do this, we make sure our employees are listening and feeling more connected than ever before.”

The company didn’t provide figures for how many employees it allowed to work remotely before and after the pandemic began, or how that affected the mix of employee demographics.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment. Tesla struggles with Elon Musk’s strict return-to-office policy

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