Tesla’s detailed absenteeism reports to Elon Musk are adding to a drop in morale: report

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk speaks with Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, during the Ira C. Eaker Distinguished Speaker Presentation in the Academy's Arnold Hall on April 7, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Trevor cokley)

In late May, Elon Musk sent a message to Tesla employees stating that the company would implement a return-to-office policy. According to Musk, Tesla employees are expected to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week. The office must also be where an employee’s colleagues are located, “not in some remote pseudo office,” the CEO stated. 

Musk noted that if employees don’t show up to the office, Tesla would assume that they have resigned. In a follow-up email, the CEO clarified that his expectations for in-office attendance are higher for more senior employees. “The more senior you are, the more visible must be your presence. That is why I lived in the factory so much — so that those on the line could see me working alongside them,” he wrote. 

Tesla has been following these rules for several months now, but it reportedly has not been easy. Apart from crowded spaces and a reported lack of office equipment, Tesla’s strict attendance policies are reportedly also adding to an overall hit in employee morale. Citing information reportedly from anonymous Tesla employees, CNBC noted that the decline in employee morale was especially notable among teams that were previously allowed to work remotely before the pandemic. 

Elon Musk is reportedly involved in tracking the attendance of Tesla employees, with the CEO receiving detailed weekly reports on absenteeism. Absences in Tesla are measured through data from workers’ badges, with unplanned absences being divided by planned time off to tabulate daily totals, according to CNBC

Not all employees are tracked the same way, as those that report directly to Musk are reportedly not tracked through badge swipe data. As per internal messages reportedly viewed by the media outlet, however, Tesla’s strict attendance policy and absenteeism reports to Elon Musk have caused a notable decline in morale among some workers. 

Internal records from Tesla reveal that around 1/8 of employees at the Fremont Factory are absent on a typical day. This number is a bit better if one were to look at the company’s entire roster, with about 1/10 of workers being absent on a typical workday. 

It should be noted that when the Fremont Factory was still a GM plant before its NUMMI days, absenteeism was so prominent that one out of five workers didn’t show up for work on a regular workday. Absences were so bad that there were days when GM could not even start the Fremont Factory’s manufacturing line. Fortunately, things improved when the facility became NUMMI. 

Prior to the implementation of Covid-19 restrictions, Tesla managers reportedly figured out how much remote work was possible for their respective teams. Musk’s return-to-office policy all but eliminated this option, though deals for “exceptional” employees are still possible. Ultimately, Tesla’s policy reportedly resulted in a number of well-liked employees leaving the company due to their preference for a more flexible working arrangement. Some have also moved closer to Tesla’s offices, resulting in them being hours away from family. 

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Tesla’s detailed absenteeism reports to Elon Musk are adding to a drop in morale: report
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