Elon Musk Tells Tesla and SpaceX Workers to Return to Office 40 Hours a Week

Tesla, which had more than 99,000 employees at the end of last year, has moved its headquarters to Austin, Texas, from Palo Alto, Calif., though it still has a significant manufacturing and operational presence in California. SpaceX employs about 12,000 people, Mr. Musk said in a recent interview.

Nick Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University, said Mr. Musk’s directives to employees at SpaceX and Tesla were among the strictest of tech companies. Many tech companies have instead considered hybrid models in which employees can work from home for part of the time, he said.

Mr. Bloom said he expected SpaceX and Tesla to lose about 10 percent to 20 percent of their current work forces and for recruiters to try to poach employees by offering jobs with more flexible work options.

Many Tesla and SpaceX employees who work in cutting-edge tech may believe in Mr. Musk, but there are also people “who are in more common activities like I.T., finance, H.R. and payroll,” Mr. Bloom said. “They may say: ‘I’m not designing cars. I’m doing the payroll of employees, and I can do that somewhere else.’”

Annie Dean, the head of distributed work for Atlassian, an Australian software company, called Mr. Musk’s view “outdated.”

“This mind-set is regressive and discounts the last two years of collaborative, digital-first work,” said Ms. Dean, who was a former head of remote work at Meta, the owner of Facebook, in an email.

Mr. Musk has long been known as a demanding boss. At times, he tried setting an example for hard work, taking meetings late into the night, sending emails at all hours and even sleeping at the Tesla factory to help ramp up production in 2018.

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