Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, enforced a stringent return-to-work policy this spring. On May 31, he abruptly informed staff members via email that they would need to “spend a minimum of forty hours in the office per week.” He asserted that anything less was “phoning it in.”
According to insiders who work for the firm in the United States and internal documents seen by CNBC, Tesla still does not have enough space or resources to bring all of its employees back to the office three months after this directive. Because they were not allowed to speak to the press on behalf of the company, the individuals chose not to give their names.
Morale has also suffered as a result of the return-to-office policy, particularly in teams where employees were permitted to work remotely as needed prior to Covid.
Before the pandemic, Tesla had a generally positive attitude toward office workers working remotely. In recent years, as the company’s personnel increased, the emphasis was placed on developing global hubs and a new facility in Texas. At existing locations in Nevada and California, it did not construct enough additional workspaces or buy enough office supplies to staff all office workers and long-term contractors for forty hours each week.
A recent attempt by Tesla to send its employees in the San Francisco Bay Area to the office for three days a week apparently failed due to a lack of chairs, desk space, parking spaces, and other resources. Tesla changed the in-office schedules from staggered to two days.
Even basic supplies like charging cords and dongles are in short supply. Tesla never constructed enough conference rooms and phone booths to accommodate this many personnel in attendance at once, so on days when more staff are planned to work on-site, congested conditions send people to take phone calls outside.
Decline in morale
Currently, the corporation monitors staff attendance, and Musk receives thorough weekly reports on absenteeism.
According to internal data, in Fremont, California, the location of Tesla’s first U.S. vehicle assembly factory, around one-eighth of workers were absent on a normal day in early September. Only marginally better, with around one-tenth of employees missing an average workday across the board for Tesla.allowed employees to work remotely
According to internal assessments seen by CNBC, the figures have been within that range since March 2022, which predates Musk’s orders. As one might anticipate, weekends and holidays are when absenteeism is most prevalent.
According to internal documents and persons familiar with the reports sent to Musk, absenteeism at Tesla is calculated daily totals based on unplanned absences split by scheduled time off. This information is obtained from employees who badge into the facilities.
Not every employee is monitored in the same way. For example, the badge swipes of Elon Musk’s direct reports are not taken into account when generating internal reports.
Internal texts seen by CNBC indicate that some employees’ morale has significantly declined as a result of the ambiguous and unofficial return-to-office policy.
Tesla managers often determined how much remote work was appropriate for their teams prior to COVID-19 regulations. Though some executives could still be able to negotiate packages for “exceptional” staff, Musk’s rigid policy theoretically eliminates such opportunity.
Early in June 2022, shortly after Musk required 40 hours per week on the job for everyone, Tesla implemented significant staff reductions. Employees who were previously allowed to work remotely but couldn’t move to an office where they could work 40 hours per week had until September 30 to move or accept a severance settlement from Tesla.
A week or so after making the offer internally, Tesla HR questioned individuals who lived far away about their intentions to relocate and work 40 hours a week in a Tesla office. According to internal letters seen by CNBC and two persons with firsthand knowledge of the terminations, some of those who claimed they were unsure if they could relocate or who said they could not move at all were abruptly fired in June.
Additionally, the strategy has diminished some of Tesla’s ability to attract and keep elite employees. According to internal communication and two resignations confirmed to CNBC, at least a few likable workers left because they want more flexible working conditions.
To meet the new standards, some employees who previously lived far from a Tesla office are now doing so several hours away from their families, one employee told CNBC.
This employee expressed concern for immigrant workers most of all, who risk losing their visas if Tesla decides to abruptly fire them due to the fluctuating attendance mandate.
They were also concerned about how Tesla’s opposition to remote employment may affect the company’s diversity objectives.
In its 2022 diversity report, which was made public in July, Meta revealed: “US candidates who accepted remote job offers were substantially more likely to be Black, Hispanic, Native American, Alaskan Native, Pacific Islander, veterans and/or people with disabilities,” and “Globally, candidates who accepted remote job offers were more likely to be women.”
Tesla boasted in its most recent 2021 Impact Report, which it released in May 2022, of maintaining a sense of community among its staff members even as they worked from remote offices.
The report stated: “During the global pandemic, we focused a great deal on expanding our community engagement and ensuring our employees stayed connected. Specifically, we expanded our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and ensured our programming was accessible in a remote work environment…We ensured our employees felt more heard and connected than ever before as they pivoted to virtual events to promote inclusion across different locations, physical boundaries and time zones.”
The business did not provide specific data on how many workers it permitted to work remotely before and after the epidemic started or how that affected the demographic makeup of its staff.