Tesla’s anti-employee handbook: the dark side of tech culture?

Our latest WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing reports on an unorthodox approach to people policies at Tesla, a reason to be cheerful on office occupancy, and a focus on the hospital as workplace

Employee handbooks are usually pretty standard, banal and boring, but not so at Tesla, Elon Musk’s innovative automotive company, which inadvertently lifts the lid on the darker side of tech company culture.

An article by Corporate Rebels has alerted us to the Tesla ‘Anti-Handbook Handbook’, which starts off well by saying that, ‘We’re Tesla. We’re changing the world. We’re willing to rethink everything.’ It goes on to say, ‘If you’re looking for a traditional employee handbook filled with policies and rules, you won’t find one. Policies and rules tell you where the bottom is — they tell you how poorly you can perform before you get shown the door. That’s not us.’

But despite its title and its informal and sometimes jovial tone, Tesla’s employee handbook quickly contradicts any reputation for employee-centricity and unconventional work practices. It states: ‘“You’re tardy” is something kids are told in school, this isn’t school. Plan to be here on  time, ready to start work when you’re scheduled…Our assumption will be that if you don’t call and don’t show up for work, you’re a jerk.’

‘Despite its informal tone, Tesla’s employee handbook goes to the dark side…’

If that’s not enough to raise hackles, how about this? ‘If you do something stupid, depending on the circumstances you may be coached and given another chance or you may be asked to leave. We can’t afford to waste our time dealing with stupid stuff when we have so many important things to get done.’ So much for the ‘cool’ culture of high tech firms.

Occupancy levels creeping up

After a winter of gloom, there’s better news for the workplace sector in the UK. According to research by property analysts Remit Consulting, people are heading back to the office in greater numbers than at any time since the start of the pandemic. Occupancy levels hit 27.5 per cent on 10 February 2022, according to a report in the FT, which suggests that a mix of mandates from employers and the easing of Covid-19 restrictions is responsible for more people back at their desks.

But before anyone gets too excited, average UK office occupancy levels are still hovering below 25 per cent overall, so questions about the future purpose of office real estate, and how it fits into a more flexible landscape of work, will remain.

Hybrid is clearly here to stay, according to a survey for the Chartered Institute of Management (CIM) which found that eight out of ten British firms had adopted hybrid working. A BBC report on the CIM survey suggested that working from home for part of the week is now the norm for substantial numbers of employees. However, senior leaders are also actively encouraging employees to return to the office. A mixed picture then, but isn’t that what hybrid is all about?

Hospital as workplace

Our hospitals are also workplaces for thousands of clinical, nursing and ancillary staff, but in the inevitable focus on attending to patient needs, that aspect can be easily overlooked. As a result, hospital staff often get a raw deal in terms of working conditions.

To explore how hospital design can adapt and change to create better a workplace for hospital workers, Salus Global is hosting a webinar on Thursday 24 February as part of its Future Hospital 2050 series. The event is supported by WORKTECH Academy and will feature researchers and designers from Australia, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands discussing innovation in the workspace environment. Join the webinar here.

Time to get smart

A final reminder to book your place for SMARTBUILDINGS22, which takes place on Wednesday 9 March 2022 at The Exchange, Level 7, 22 Bishopsgate, in the City of London. SMARTBUILDINGS22 is a unique one-day briefing and innovations exhibition from WORKTECH Events, which explores how new technologies are shaping the new world of work.

In a session called Designing For The Future, WORKTECH Academy director Jeremy Myerson will moderate a panel featuring three key players in the development of 22 Bishopsgate – James Goldsmith of AXA, Jack Pringle and Frankie Pringle, both of Studio Pringle. Delegates already confirmed include senior representatives from HSBC, Meta, Norton Rose Fulbright, BT, GE Healthcare, GSK, EY, McCann, Stanhope, Derwent, JLL and Cushman & Wakefield.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors as WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 23 February 2022.
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