Elon Musk has banned telecommuting at Twitter in his first email to staff since buying the company, warning that the social media platform needs “intensive work” in the office to turn its fortunes around.
“The road ahead is arduous and will require intense work to succeed,” he wrote in a company-wide email sent to employees on Thursday morning and seen by the Financial Times.
“We are . . . changing the Twitter policy so that remote work is no longer allowed, unless you have a specific exception.”
Employees must be in the office for at least 40 hours per week, except for those who are “physically unable to travel” or have “a critical personal obligation,” according to the email.
Musk added that he would personally review and approve any exceptions to the policy and instruct managers to compile lists of all staff who want to continue working remotely.
The new policy on Twitter matches Musk’s demands at another company he runs, Tesla, where he insisted in June that staff show up to work at least 40 hours a week at the office or find new employment.
It comes a week after Musk cut about half of the company’s 7,500 employees. Several senior executives have now also left, raising fears about data security and compliance with privacy rules, especially given the speed with which the platform has rolled out some new features since Musk took over.
The US Federal Trade Commission, a top consumer protection watchdog, said on Thursday it was “following recent developments on Twitter with deep concern”. Twitter signed a strict consent decree in 2011 that promised to better protect user data, which the regulator continues to monitor.
“No CEO or company is above the law, and companies must comply with our consent decrees,” the FTC added. “Our revised consent order gives us new tools to ensure compliance, and we are prepared to use them.”
On Thursday morning, Twitter’s Chief Information Security Officer, Lea Kissner, announced her resignation. Separately, a corporate lawyer warned in the company’s Slack channel that Musk was taking a cavalier approach to privacy regulations and that the company was potentially facing significant fines from the FTC, according to a report by The Verge that was confirmed by a person familiar with the matter. . Twitter’s chief compliance officer and chief privacy officer also left the company, according to the Verge report, which was confirmed by the person familiar.
Since taking the reins just a few weeks ago, Musk has seemed to double down on his “move fast, fail fast, move on” approach to running the company, introducing and scrapping new features within hours, in addition to shaking up Twitter’s working methods.
The email to Twitter employees, originally reported by Bloomberg, was the first they have received directly from Musk since his $44 billion takeover of the social media platform. Instead, Musk has used his personal Twitter account to publicly brainstorm new initiatives and products for the company.
The telecommuting decision has been met with frustration by some staff who moved further away from the office during the coronavirus pandemic and now face long commutes, two former Twitter employees said.
Former CEO Parag Agrawal said in March, before Musk offered to buy the company, that staff could work from home “full-time forever.”
3) Wherever you feel most productive and creative is where you will work and that includes WFH full time forever. 4) Distributed work will be challenging. We must be proactive, intentional, learn and adapt. 5) Thanks to the team that has supported us every day.
— Parag Agrawal (@paraga) March 3, 2022
A Twitter employee said: “It’s not a huge surprise given how [Musk] do things at other companies. [The] the way of communication and the lack of message has not helped to get people on board.”
Bruce Daisley, Twitter’s former European vice president, said: “It’s an easy management mistake to conclude that employees who work from home are less productive or collaborative than those in the office. . .[but]remote workers work more, not less. Generally when we feel we can maintain a better work-life harmony, we find ourselves happier in our jobs. Musk may find that his teams become more frustrated with this extra grip on them.”
Last week, Musk warned that the platform had experienced a “massive decline in revenue” since his takeover was completed.
Musk has also asked employees to work around the clock on new products, including a subscription fee for users to access a blue tick on their profile, as well as features like the edit button.
Twitter’s new office rules put it at odds with its social media rivals, all of which have flexible working in place. At TikTok, staff were asked to return to the office for at least two days a week from September this year, while Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, has encouraged telecommuting, with several top executives based away from the company’s headquarters.
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