Opinions of contributing entrepreneurs are their own.
According to Musk, “You’re going to work from home, and you’re going to have everyone else who made your car work at the factory? You’re going to have people make you food that’s delivered — they can’t work from home?” asked Musk. “Does that seem morally right? People should get off their goddamn moral high horse with the work-from-home bullshit,” he said. “They ask everyone not to work from home when they do.”
It’s as if Musk views personal work as a kind of hazing ritual – he and others have done it, so you should do it too. Well, as my mom used to say when I suggested doing something stupid because others did it, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it?”
Picture this: Standing on the precipice of the Golden Gate Bridge, Musk is urging all of us to jump into the icy waters below simply because he took the plunge. While his bravado is admired by some, it is not a practical or sustainable model for the future of work. Here’s a thought: Rather than letting Musk’s daredevil plunge into the deep abyss of forced office work, perhaps we should consider a more measured, flexible, and hybrid approach to work, one that includes both remote and in-person options, as I tell my colleagues. customers.
Related: Employers: Hybrid Work Isn’t the Problem – Your Guidelines Are. Here’s why and how to fix them.
The fallacy of one-size-fits-all work
Musk’s argument rests on the concept of fairness. He argues that if factory workers and people in the service industry can’t work from home, why should tech workers have that privilege? It’s like he’s on board the Titanic that just hit an iceberg, blocked everyone’s access to the lifeboats, and said, “Well, not everyone can have one, so no one should.”
The problem with this philosophy of justice, however, is that it assumes a one-size-fits-all approach to work. It’s like insisting that everyone wear a size 10 shoe because that’s the most common size. But we all know the discomfort of ill-fitting shoes. A size 10 will not fit a size 6 foot or a size 12 foot person. Likewise, not all work can or should be done the same way.
Work is not a monolith; it is a mosaic of diverse tasks, responsibilities and roles. It’s a kaleidoscope of different industries, each with its unique needs and nuances. The role of a factory worker inherently requires physical presence, while that of a software developer does not. To lump them together and impose a uniform working model is like having a flamenco dancer and a sumo wrestler perform the same routine. It’s not just unfair; it’s impractical.
The misplaced morality of personal work
Musk calls remote work “morally wrong,” a sentiment as baffling as a zebra questioning the ethics of its stripes. Let’s not forget: work is a contract, an exchange of time and skills for a fee. It’s not a moral battlefield.
We do not ask the baker to mine his wheat, nor do we require the mechanic to forge his tools. Why? Because it is inefficient and impractical. So why insist that a digital marketer or a software engineer be tied to a physical location? Isn’t it about time we focused on the output and not the location?
Musk’s argument also fails to consider the environmental and social benefits of remote work. Fewer commutes mean less traffic, less pollution and more time for employees to spend with their families. It’s like trading in a gas-guzzling monster truck for a sleek, eco-friendly electric vehicle. Isn’t that a move Musk should appreciate?
The irony of Musk’s mantra
Musk, the champion of innovation, is oddly traditional when it comes to work. He praises his factory workers in Shanghai for “burning the 3:00 a.m. oil” and criticizes American workers for seeking flexible work options. This is like applauding a marathon runner for sporty leather boots instead of performance shoes.
While there is something to be said for dedication and hard work, we must remember that burning midnight oil is not a sustainable or healthy working model. It’s like running a car engine without stopping – eventually it will overheat and break down, which Musk hopefully knows something about. Instead, we should value work-life balance, mental health and the general well-being of employees.
Musk’s work ethic is undoubtedly exceptional. He prides himself on taking only two or three days off a year. But let’s not forget, we’re not all Musk. For most people, such a work schedule is comparable to a chef cooking with only a blowtorch – it is not only dangerous, but downright insane. Work is not measured by the number of hours spent at the desk, but by the efficiency and effectiveness of those hours. After all, a hamster can run on a wheel all day and still get nowhere.
Related: You need to let your team determine their approach to hybrid work. A behavioral economist explains why and how to do it.
The inclusiveness of remote working
Remote working is not just about convenience or flexibility; it’s also about inclusiveness. It opens the doors for people who were rather excluded of traditional job markets, such as people with disabilities, caregivers and people living in remote areas. It’s like hosting a party and instead of everyone coming to your house, you bring the party to them.
It also enables companies to tap global talent, unconstrained by geographic barriers. It’s like having a key that opens every door in the world — a key that enables organizations to leverage a rich, diverse pool of skills and perspectives. This diversity leads to innovation, resilience and competitive advantage, like a well-tuned orchestra playing a captivating symphony.
Embracing a hybrid future
Rather than treating personal work as an obligatory ritual, we should see it as an option in a spectrum of work modes. Hybrid work – a mix of remote work and in-person work – is like the Swiss Army knife of work models. It is adaptable and versatile, fitting into the nooks and crannies of our varied lives.
Hybrid work recognizes that not all tasks are created equal. Some tasks require collaboration and take advantage of the spontaneous interactions of an office environment, such as musicians jamming together to create a new tune. Other tasks, however, require deep concentration, the kind of focus often easier to find in the quiet solitude of one’s home.
Now that we’re on the precipice of the future of work, we shouldn’t be rushed into a leap into the past by the likes of Musk. Instead, let’s chart our course carefully, focusing on what works best for both individuals and organizations. If everyone jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, would you? Or would you perhaps choose a safer, wiser path that leads to a future where work is not a place you go, but a thing you do – wherever you are.