Elon Musk has announced that he is ending Twitter’s remote working policy.
Instead, employees will be expected to work at least 40 hours a week in the office.
HRreview has gathered expert insights into the HR implications of this.
Mike Tremeer, Employment Partner at Fladgate, comments:
“Mr Musk has certainly made an impression on Twitter in his first three weeks – making up to half of the employees redundant (including most of the senior management team as far as I can tell) and telling those that remain that they can no longer work from home (save in exceptional cases). I would expect either of those actions separately to have a materially detrimental effect on staff morale, loyalty and commitment – especially given the recent commentary regarding “quiet quitting” or work to rule. Together they are likely to have an exponential effect on the Twitter workforce. Mr Musk has even mentioned bankruptcy as a possibility or explanation for his actions which I am sure will not have provided any reassurance to employees at all.
“It seems inevitable to me that those employees still at Twitter will therefore be considering options elsewhere and so there is the prospect of a tangible loss of key talent. And potentially a real difficulty in attracting new talent given the events of recent weeks and the new boss’ apparent disregard for Twitter employees.”
Georgina Calvert-Lee, senior consultant and barrister at Bellevue Law, comments:
“Elon Musk is not the only employer whose knee-jerk reaction to a financial crunch is to demand that all their employees return to the office with immediate effect. It is odd to think that presentee-ism improves productivity, but some bosses seem to think it does and, at any rate, the sense of control they feel probably helps them sleep at night.
“Generally, bosses can organise the workplace how they see fit, whether or not others see any business sense in it. Most employment contracts allow a company to determine where an employee works, within reason, and this is set out in their Terms of Employment. Imposing a policy that everyone goes back to pre-pandemic working practices, in line with their contracts, is within Mr Musk’s rights. However, in imposing a new policy to require staff to abide by their contractual place of work, Twitter will have to be careful not to indirectly discriminate against those for whom a five-day office schedule may pose particular difficulties. Working mothers or those with some disabilities may have a claim for indirect discrimination arising from this policy. The company should consider individual requests for flexi-work, and grant it where appropriate. I would task this with HR rather than the owner, though.
“If an employment contract states that an employee is home-based, however, the employer would need to vary the contract if they wanted them to work from the office. To vary the contract, the employer needs the employee’s agreement, and if the employee won’t give it, then the employer either must give in or fire the employee and offer to re-hire them on new terms. There are some expenses involved, of course, and you may lose your fired employee.”
Thomas Davies, Founder & CEO at Temporall, comments:
“Elon Musk has sat at the helm of some visionary businesses, but his stance on flexible working is backwards looking. Today we’re seeing businesses around the globe battling to make sense of flexible working and new workplace trends. There are clear insights that can be gathered to help leaders really understand how their business works most effectively. Leaders need to put aside personal views on remote working, and focus on really understanding how work gets done within their business. The data exists to show them. They just aren’t accessing it.”
Matt Monette, UK&I Country Lead at Deel comments:
“Twitter is an incredible success story and Elon Musk’s achievements as an entrepreneur are well documented – but this decision is a big step backwards.
“Scrapping the ability to work remotely swims against the overwhelming tide of opinion – and evidence – that remote workforces can and do succeed. In the UK and across the world we are seeing a fundamental shift in attitudes as workers and employers see that greater freedom over where we work can in fact boost productivity and commercial performance. Not least because borderless hiring means you really can hire the best people, anywhere.
“Remote working also has demonstrable benefits on wellbeing, work-life balance and even salaries. Almost three-fifths of workers have told us working remotely has afforded them a higher salary. The world of work is changing and remote working is going nowhere. Businesses that choose not to embrace it will miss out.”
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.