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Telecommuting ban at Tesla turns into disaster

The global pandemic has made it possible to accelerate the digitalization of companies and to trivialize telework. If many tertiary companies now allow their employees to stay at home for part of the week, against the current Elon Musk has threatened to dismiss Tesla employees who wanted to remain even partially teleworking. Except that the richest man in the world hadn’t really anticipated the big logistical hiccup that triggered his ultimatum.

Elon Musk threatens to fire employees who don’t return to the office full-time

At the beginning of June, the eccentric billionaire who wants to buy Twitter sent a series of emails to his collaborators in which he threatened to fire them if they did not return to work full-time on the premises.

The first internal email stated:

Everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week.
If you do not show up, we will consider that you have resigned.
That’s less than what we ask of our factory workers.

If there are particularly exceptional contributors for whom this is impossible, I will review and approve these exceptions personally.

We obviously do not know the details of the employment contracts that Tesla employees signed when they were hired, but if we look at European law, mobility clauses and a number of compulsory hours on site are generally stipulated there. . In other words, this threat is not theoretical and those who refuse to return 100% to the office could really be fired without compensation, in the USA and in Europe.

The billionaire then justified himself in another email by praising the corporate culture of the world’s leading manufacturer of electric cars: “there are of course companies that don’t need this, but when was the last time that they’ve shipped an awesome new product? It’s been a while since]Tesla has created and actually manufactures the most exciting and meaningful products of any company on Earth. It’s not going to be done by phone.”

He then drove home the point by stating “If I hadn’t done this, Tesla would have gone bankrupt a long time ago.”

Questioned on Twitter about these frankly aggressive internal emails, Musk remained firm on his positions and even invited employees who would not accept his decision to “go work elsewhere”…
Good atmosphere at Tesla!

Unions react to this threat

If labor law in the United States is undoubtedly more on the side of employers than employees, this is not the case in Europe, but Tesla notably has two large production plants in Germany.

The German union IG Metall immediately reacted to Elon Musk’s statements, announcing that it would support the 4,000 employees of the Tesla Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg factory if necessary, especially since its workforce should soon rise to 12,000. employees.

Birgit Dietze, local spokesperson for IG Metall was very clear about this:

Anyone who does not accept such one-sided demands and wishes to speak out against them has the power of the trade unions behind them in Germany, as provided by law.

Except that a standoff will probably be avoided for a completely different reason.

Tesla lacks space to accommodate all its employees

Following this declaration of war against telework, Tesla employees have all returned to the face-to-face on the manufacturer’s various sites, except that according to the site The Information, this massive return has posed logistical problems on the Frémont campus.

The number of parking spaces is not sufficient and many employees have been forced to leave their vehicles at the nearest station to come to work by shuttle, a shame for a car manufacturer. Worse still, there were not enough seats in the premises for everyone. Finally, in terms of IT infrastructure, the site was also not equipped with enough wifi antennas to allow all employees to work in good conditions.

Tesla's Telecommuting Ban Turns Disaster #2

This series of malfunctions was however predictable when we know that the number of Tesla employees has doubled since the start of the health crisis, that a third of them are assigned to the Fremont site and that, in addition, the premises have been refurbished to operate with a reduced staff during the confinements.

In other words, giving ultimatums is good, but getting out in the field before is better, and Elon would probably have realized that… if he spent 40 hours a week in Fremont…

The French less attracted to teleworking than their neighbors…

It is obvious that not all professions lend themselves to teleworking. For the Tesla case, if it seems logical that the workers are physically present on the production sites, it is more difficult to understand why IT executives should undergo the same constraints. Indeed, with regard to the tertiary professions, the Covid has not only demonstrated that partial teleworking was a viable option, but a good part of the employees have also taken a liking to it.

A study conducted in 2021 by 3 economists from Chicago, Stanford and Mexico among 30,000 American workers revealed that less than 30% of workers wanted to return entirely to face-to-face work and that 20% were seriously considering switching to 100% telework.

A similar study conducted by the IFOP in May 2021 among executives, however, showed that the French were less attracted to teleworking than their European neighbors or their American cousins.

Telecommuting ban at Tesla turns into disaster #3

Questioned at the time of the resumption of face-to-face work, French executives wanted to telecommute on average 1.8 days a week, compared to 2 days a week in the United Kingdom, 2.2 in Germany, 2.4 in Italy and 2 .7 in Spain.

… except in the IT sector

This lack of attraction in France for teleworking does not, however, affect all tertiary activity sectors in the same way, because at the same time teleworking is gaining more and more ground in the digital world.

The pandemic and the confinements have upset the way of working and led to many questionings regarding the lack of flexibility, the lack of recognition and above all the low quality of life of executives in the largest cities. Particularly in the IT sector, the physical presence in the premises is no longer really justified at a time when the use of Zoom, Teams, Slack or Skype has become widespread. A consequence of this change is that more and more employees are looking for more flexibility, and are turning to both freelance status and teleworking at least 2 days a week.

Telecommuting ban at Tesla turns into disaster #4

Companies are more open than before to this mode of operation, a study carried out in 2021 by a freelance platform among 500 HRDs and executives having revealed that 57% of companies had already recruited freelancers for lack of finding employees for the positions to provide. They are increasingly integrating teleworking into their organization: out of 1,700 freelance job advertisements currently available on, 15% (250 offers) are not directly linked to a physical location.

Telecommuting ban at Tesla turns into disaster #5

According to a study conducted by the recruitment firm Cooptalis last year with 526 HR managers and managers, 58% of the companies questioned said that some employees had also asked to move from employees to freelancers.

According to this same study, 44% of companies have also increased their workforce of freelancers in 2021. Figures that converge with those of INSEE which shows that the number of micro-enterprise creation has increased by 21.8% l last year.

The CDI is certainly far from dead, but a mutation towards new forms of work organization has officially begun, whether the big bosses like it or not…



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