I think Elon Musk made a huge mistake. Yeah, you can be the master of the universe, the world’s richest person. Whatever. Yet, you can still screw up.
And that’s exactly what I think old Elon did when he issued his, “Remote work is no longer acceptable”, email to his executive staff on May 31, 2022.
Now, the funny thing is, I actually agree with just about everything Elon wrote in the second email, “To be super clear”, he sent. Elon explains his logic about why he wants his staff working on site.
And, as I said, Elon’s right. You do your best work when you’re in the same building as your colleagues. Yeah, you can Zoom, and you can Slack to your heart’s content, but nothing replaces face to face interaction.
That’s why Elon is right. However, even though having your team working all in the same building is always going to be the preference, you can build a successful startup with a remote team. And that’s why I think Elon screwed up.
Your employees have a choice.
Read the first email Musk sent his staff, and you’re left with the feeling that you’re hearing from a bully. Maybe you can get away with being a bully when you’re the richest person in the world, but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you work for a bully.
I should know. I worked for a bully. And, I couldn’t get out of that situation fast enough. Yeah, maybe the Tesla executives are making so much money they can’t afford to leave.
However, you’re a clock watcher when you start decreeing that salaried employees need to be in the office a certain amount of the time. No one likes working for a clock watcher.
Sure, maybe Tesla’s employees don’t quit, but maybe they don’t work quite as hard as they once did. Deadlines and quality slip. The competition improves, and Tesla’s dominance erodes.
The times they are a-changin.
Even Elon Musk can’t control the new reality we live in. The pandemic changed everything. People started working from home, and two things happened:
- Businesses didn’t just stop being successful, and maybe more importantly…
- Employees liked it
The average commute to work is 25 minutes. So, working from home you gain back an hour of your day.
Working from home gives employees a flexibility they previously didn’t have. Who doesn’t want a little more flexibility?
It may not be ideal, but you have to find a way to make remote teams work.
Yes, I am saying that Elon is wrong, but I keep thinking that his concerns are valid. I would absolutely want my team in the office if I was starting a company today because I know, just like Elon is saying, that we’ll get the most out of our team by being together, not apart.
Yet, I’ve also worked with too many startups over the years that have succeeded with remote teams. So, I know building a successful startup with a remote team can be done.
The reality is it’s up to you and your team to adapt. The successful CEOs managing remote teams have INCREASED their expectations of their teams.
And that’s what you need to do too.
Keep your expectation sky-high, and, then, you and your team will need put in the extra effort necessary to manage your remote team. That’s the ticket to success.