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Elon Musk: Remote working is no longer an option and the impacts this has on gender

“Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week [..] If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned.” Sounds harsh? These were the words of Elon Musk in the email he sent Tesla employees late last week. 

This announcement not only denies the needs and wants of many modern workers but also ignores many statistics which showcased that working from home is in fact productive. 

Women and members of marginalised groups are especially likely to want to work from home all or part of the time because of either a lack of child care, other demands at home, or because they often feel excluded in their office environments. According to a recent survey of 10,800 knowledge workers around the globe by Future Forum, a consortium focused on flexible work that is supported by Slack, 77% of White workers, 81% of Black workers, 82% of Asian/Asian American workers and 79% of Hispanic/Latinx workers want hybrid or remote working arrangements. And 58% of working mothers want to work from home all or most of the time, compared to 48% of working dads.

Furthermore,  80% of hybrid and remote workers said in a 2022 survey conducted by Edelman Data x Intelligence for Microsoft that they’re equally or more productive than they were when they worked from the office. So why is Musk so insistent on having his workers commit to office working ‘or else’? 

According to a survey conducted by Willis Towers Watson, an insurance and risk management company, American workers are already jumping ship from their employers in record numbers as part of the “Great Resignation,” with about half of workers looking for a new job or at risk of leaving, partly because they’re looking for more flexible options. This further exaggerates the chance for Musk to isolate his workers. The statistics above also showcase how Musk’s new policy is isolating a diverse range of employees with women, especially working mothers, and ethnic minorities less likely to want to work in a space that doesn’t promote hybrid working. 

According to research by McKinsey, companies that are more diverse significantly outperform those that are not. For example, in 2019, companies that were the most ethnically and culturally diverse were 36% more profitable than those that were least diverse. And companies with the most gender diversity were 25% more likely to have higher than average profitability than those with the least gender diversity. This makes sense, of course, since people who are similar tend to think alike. Groups that are more diverse come up with more out-of-the-box approaches and ideas — which, incidentally, is exactly what you need if you’re trying to create the vehicles of the future. All  the worse for Tesla, I suppose… 

If Musk is introducing measures that will likely stifle diversity and innovation how can we expect him to lead the future of tech? It’s far from impressive and far from inducing creative solutions that’s for sure. 

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