Elon Musk is F*cking Wrong About Remote Work

You read that right. I dare to disagree with TechnoKing Elon.

And that says something because I’m a die hard fanboy. But I’m also a big believer in remote work. Optemization, the remote team productivity agency, has been remote-first from day one. (yes, I just typed out “remote” four times in one tiny paragraph, don’t @ me).

However, for some organizations, remote work might be the wrong choice. One vocal example is Series B startup Pave, whose CEO wrote a Twitter Thread on why they love the office.

So, to each their own.

And that’s why in this week’s issue of Digital Opsessions, we have Optemization teammates, Daniel and Thor, battle it out street-fighter style to debate whether Elon’s position on remote work is justified or not.

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Elon Musk is Fucking Wrong

Thor

Not all teams need to be in office, nor in office 100% of the time, with little to no exceptions. Work takes up too much time in our life, we need to prioritize life over work. Sending an email like this is prioritizing the work, not the people. I appreciate Tesla, and what Elon has accomplished. But comparing his work ethic, when he makes billions off of it, to a general line worker is not relevant.

I think the point is that the line doesn’t need to be so solid. Different teams, in different roles, and under different circumstances should have a choice. Remote work is a way to level a playing field and limit social, and economical barriers. Why limit a single mother/father, a disabled person, a person with an autoimmune disease, or someone in a 3rd world country from being able to make a change because they cannot be on site. They could be geniuses, experts, or visionaries. Additionally, proximity does not equate to excellence. The infrastructure we have built destroyed our planet, why not use it to fix it. Isn’t that his goal? Well kinda, he is also destroying it, while trying to escape it – when it collapses.

Daniel

The negative effects of remote work are indeed very real. Feelings of social isolation and loneliness are prevalent and have been documented comprehensively online. In order to unpack this, we need to explore what it means to be productive, fulfilled, and connected at your workplace.

Remote workers have to balance this work-life integration themselves whereas being in an office immediately eliminates this need for work-life balance and management. In this sense, being in an office is easier for managers and individuals. There is no burden on the individual to integrate and manage their work-life balance as it’s already prescribed by the working hours of the office.

Unless managed correctly, there is a tendency for remote-first companies to overprescribe meetings throughout the week. This contributes to video meeting fatigue, loss of deep work, and loss of autonomy within the organization. It’s essential that companies take advantage of asynchronous tools to share and collaborate on knowledge (indeed, this is our expertise). However, from a broad level, it’s not clear that async-first culture is as of yet prevalent. In this respect, it makes sense for companies to use a hybrid model of some office working and some home working until a healthy and sustainable cadence for meetings can be established.

Thor

I understand and appreciate your point of view. All of these are valid use cases, but the problem with this situation isn’t remote vs colocated vs hybrid, it’s that companies are doing what it thinks is best for the business, not for the employee. The solution is choice, not any of these explicitly.

Every person is different and every person should have their choice, with few exceptions. The exceptions are mainly: you work on a hardware product that cannot be built offsite (rockets), you interact with customers every single day, or you work on very sensitive material that cannot be secured otherwise.

Other than those situations, the worker, the person actually doing the day-to-day job – manager or individual contributor, should have a choice.

Work-life harmony should not be punted when an employee walks into a building, as this is insensitive to the person. Remote work, above all else, is considering people.

Meetings that do not require collaboration simply aren’t needed. If the meeting cannot flow because there are too many squares on your grid to keep up, there are too many people in that meeting.

Teammate Shoutout

Thor Schroeder (yep, it's his real name) joined Optemization in December 2021. Originally from Brooklyn, he recently transplanted from South Florida to Portland, Oregon. He’s a storyteller and minimalist. Formerly, a burn-out PM, now Thor focuses on more fulfilling projects around remote work, minimalism, environmentalism, and sustainability.

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Are you awesome?

Yes, you are. Because you reached the end of this issue and I appreciate that. Next week, Q2 is ending, so we’ll share a template to review and share business or personal updates. Let me know if that’s something you already do!

Ciao cacao,

Tem

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