Earlier this week, Bloomberg confirmed news of an email to all Tesla employees. The message, sent by CEO Elon Musk, demands that everyone at Tesla is now required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week.
It’s a daring move—one that conflicts with most workplace trends. Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index indicated that 73% of respondents from 31 countries desired more remote work options. ADP Research Institute’s People at Work 2022 survey showed that 64% of 32,000 workers have already considered or would consider looking for a new job if their employer asked them to return full-time to the office.
Beyond worker preferences, research also shows that working remotely increases productivity. Data from Prodoscore, an employee productivity monitoring solution, on 30,000 U.S. users found a 5% increase in productivity during the pandemic remote work period. The firm also found that if an employee was productive in the office, they would be just as productive at home. If an employee slacked off at work, they also would slack off at home.
A shocking, contrarian decision is not incongruent with Musk’s character. And perhaps a brand as strong as Tesla can afford to make such a risky move. But here are three data-backed reasons why we at Outthinker won’t be packing up our laptops for a return to the cubicle anytime soon:
1. Remote work enables asynchronous collaboration
According to leadership and collaboration expert Keith Ferrazzi, the major benefit of hybrid work is not working from anywhere, but working from anytime.
“If you unleash asynchronous collaboration, you can reduce the number of meetings and increase the number of inputs,” he says.
In a hybrid team, an analyst in India can send research results at the end of her day and, while she’s sleeping, a consultant in New York puts the data into a presentation for their client. Asynchronous collaboration can also improve workers’ psychological safety by allowing time to process complex information and letting them work during the hours that they are most productive.
2. The future of work requires presence, not place
This week, leaders, thinkers, and innovators from around the world are gathered in Miami Beach for TWIN Impact 2022 to discuss the future of business in a digital world. At that event, Jon Morris, co-founder of NOWHERE, a human-centric metaverse that combines video, gaming, and social collaboration to deliver virtual experiences, said that in the future “presence will be larger than place.”
Today, we may be limited by the boundaries of phones, laptops, or VR headsets. Tomorrow, technology will emulate a full sensory experience to give us the feeling of being together, no matter where we are.
3. 100% in-office work limits diversity and inclusion
A McKinsey study reported that companies with high gender diversity outperform low gender diversity peers by 25%. Companies with high ethnic and cultural diversity outperformed those with low diversity by 36%.
Remote companies have the potential to reach across socio-demographic lines, neighborhoods, towns, and countries to attract more diverse talent. They reduce restrictions imposed by demographics and geography by making it easier for people to work when and where they want to.
If a company suddenly goes back to in-person, a highly capable engineer who lives two hours from the office, and who happens to have young children and extended family living in their home, may not be able to uproot and buy a house in the city. They are going to rethink staying with that company.
We will see how the decision to return to the office works out for Tesla. We wouldn’t be the first to question Musk’s logic and be proven wrong. Until then, we expect remote and hybrid work will continue to evolve to take advantage of asynchronous collaboration, experiential technologies, and access to top talent from diverse backgrounds.