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“If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned” - Elon Musk’s directive to WFH Tesla staff blows up

Elon Musk got into a billionaire’s spat today because of his return-to-work directive. AP Photo/Francois Mori, File

Elon Musk got into a billionaire’s spat today because of his return-to-work directive. AP Photo/Francois Mori, File

Published Jun 3, 2022

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SYDNEY - Elon Musk’s controversial directive to his staff to return to work has ended in a billionaire’s Twitter spat this morning with Australia's third-richest man saying it smacks "of something out of the 1950s".

In a directive to staff, Musk this week wrote an email and sent it out on Tuesday night saying: "Everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week.

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"If you don't show up, we will assume you have resigned."

"The more senior you are, the more visible must be your presence,” Musk wrote. “That is why I lived in the factory so much — so that those on the line could see me working alongside them. If I had not done that, Tesla would long ago have gone bankrupt.”

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

Today, Musk and the co-founder of Australian project management software maker Atlassian Plc, Scott Farquhar, got into a war of words over the value of putting an end to the pandemic-era habit of remote working.

Musk’s email also drew criticism from worker advocates about potential exposure to the coronavirus.

Farquhar, ridiculed the directive in a series of tweets as being "like something out of the 1950s". The US-listed company's "work from anywhere" policy was "key for our continued growth", he said.

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"We're setting our sights on growing Atlassian to 25K employees by FY26," Farquhar concluded. "Any Tesla employees interested?"

Musk shot back: "The above set of tweets illustrate why recessions serve a vital economic cleansing function".

The exchange is not unusual for Musk, who frequently uses Twitter to make unapologetic pronouncements about sensitive subjects.

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In Silicon Valley, many tech firms moved to mixed home and office working during the pandemic, while others have set dates for returning to the office only to push them back as new outbreaks have occurred.

Musk, the world's wealthiest man and also CEO of SpaceX, also has a record of taking on other billionaires. In 2021, he posted an image of a second-place medal in response to a tweet by Jeff Bezos celebrating the success of Amazon.com Inc.

In 2017, Farquhar's Atlassian co-founder, Mike Cannon-Brookes, cooperated with Musk, publicly taking up and facilitating his offer to supply a powerful Tesla battery installation for the state of South Australia after it suffered a blackout in 2017.

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Cannon-Brookes, who has since led a campaign to buy Australian energy company AGL Energy Ltd and speed up its transition to renewable power, reposted Farquhar's remarks criticising Musk's return-to-office order.

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