Return To Office: Will More Companies Take The Tesla Route?

July 4, 2022
Back to normalcy?

Table of Contents

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, in one of his recent tweets, mandated Tesla employees to quickly return to the office. He also mentioned that employees who don’t show up to the office will be assumed to have resigned. Tesla has now mandated its employees to spend at least forty hours per week in the office. It is more than clear that Tesla embracing remote work no more when more countries are opening up.

Telsa’s battle with a RTO order is is similar to many firms, with employees deliberating to stay or quit. Even though many have set return-to-office deadlines, most were dissolved as COVID-19 escalated, and many employees are behind the motion. With this shift of bargaining power towards the employess, remote work still remain in many companies, even after two years of the COVID.

Is Now An Opportunity to Return To Office?

With the current decrease in stock prices of many tech firms, a lot of companies are seriously keeping an eye out on the industry practice of flexible work policies. These companies have taken this to their advantage to recruit new talents. This new route by Tesla could make them lose about 20% – 25% of talented employees, and there’s a high chance of them being the reason for the order in the first place. Based on one employee survey, as much as 40% of employees are willing to quit their job if working remotely should stop.

If you dive deep into the data, you should see how a lot of companies are rapidly adopting hybrid policy. Based on company surveys, a lot of companies prefer their workforce to be 25% remote, 60% hybrid, and about 15% full-time in the office. Also, remote and hybrid employees have similar high productivity compared to office employees.

However, Elon is a smart and creative CEO. Looking at Tesla, there are much more job applicants than incumbents, so they could implement RTO without hurting the company. However, they should brace for brand drawbacks. Tesla, a company that has so invested in the future, could be leaping back to the past.

Will Other Companies Follow The Tesla Route?

There’s a chance of Tesla regretting this route. Tesla is betting on the balance of their employees and their priorities. It is a test to determine if a job in Tesla outweigh staff’s hunt for better life quality. In the long run, if Tesla is successful and retains a leading number of its workforce after the return to office order, there is a high chance that many other will follow.

The increased movement around remote and hybrid work policy is accounted for, given that employees prefer this approach. Also, employees should have an opinion on how they should work, especially based on their safety during a pandemic. If there’s one thing common with all employees, it is that they prefer working in a convenient environment with their overall well-being and employment experience. Employees are likely to walk out if companies do not provide with their top requirements.

Follow Return to Office or Stay WFH?

Again, even as many companies are doing fine with the remote and hybrid policy, most of them are likely to follow Tesla’s route in the future and wipe out remote working. For most companies, in-office is the only was to work, so this route takes them back to their ‘normalcy’. With no doubt, office offers significant value, and a certain number of employees desire to return to the office. This, in turn, makes way for different considerations in the RTO policy.

One thing certain is that companies usually have solid reasons to back their RTO order for employees. Executivess should ask if they want employees to return just because they prefer to work in the office? Or is there a genuine demand for employees to be present in person. Like Melissa Swift, the U.S. transformation leader at workforce consultant Mercer has mentioned, ‘Now, only the people who need to turn a screwdriver need to be in the office.’. Above all, leaders need to consult staff on RTO policy, in order to maintain the morale and talent quality. Companies fail to do so will fear the backfire in today’s tight labor market.


Not all workers are against directives to return to the office, with different needs across companies, sectors and job categories. After two years of learning, employers are seeing fresh reasons to doubt the RTO guidelines. Leisure activities see in-person normalcy but management should never assume that staff would dutifully come back like the old days.

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