Elon Musk ‘return to office’ threat sparks Twitter spat with Australian tech billionaire

SYDNEY – Billionaire Elon Musk got into a Twitter spat with Australia’s third-richest man on Friday (June 3) over the value of putting an end to the pandemic-era habit of remote working.

In an internal e-mail this week, the Tesla chief executive said “everyone at Tesla is required to a minimum of 40 hours in the per week”, and “if you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned”.

That drew criticism from worker advocates about potential exposure to the coronavirus.

The co- of Australian project management software maker Atlassian, Mr Scott Farquhar, ridiculed the directive in a series of tweets as being “like something out of the 1950s”. The US-listed company’s “work from anywhere” policy was “key for our continued growth”, he said.

“We’re setting our sights on growing Atlassian to 25K (thousand) employees by FY26,” Mr Farquhar concluded. “Any Tesla employees interested?”

Mr Musk shot back: “The above set of tweets illustrate why recessions serve a vital economic cleansing function”.

The exchange is not unusual for Mr Musk, who frequently uses Twitter to make unapologetic pronouncements about sensitive subjects.

In Silicon Valley, many tech firms moved to mixed home and office working during the Covid-19 pandemic, while others have set dates for returning to the office only to push them back as new outbreaks have occurred.

Mr Musk, the world’s wealthiest man and also CEO of rocket company SpaceX, also has a record of taking on other billionaires.

Last year, he posted an image of a second-place medal in response to a tweet by Mr Jeff Bezos celebrating the success of Amazon.com.

In 2017, Mr Farquhar’s Atlassian co- Mike Cannon-Brookes cooperated with Mr Musk, publicly taking up and facilitating his offer to supply a powerful Tesla battery installation for the state of South Australia after it suffered a blackout in 2017.

Mr Cannon-Brookes, who has since led a campaign to buy Australian energy company AGL Energy and speed up its transition to renewable power, reposted Mr Farquhar’s remarks criticising Musk’s return-to-office order.

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