With his twin notes, Mr. Musk waded directly into a fractious debate over the right way for corporations to bring workers back to the office during the coronavirus pandemic. Over the past few years, Apple, Meta, Microsoft and many other companies have announced and then delayed return-to-office dates as coronavirus surges have complicated plans. Remote work has become normalized.
The issue has become more fraught as coronavirus vaccinations have increased and an abatement of the pandemic seemed to near. Some companies began saying they expected workers to return to the office. Still, plans have continued to fluctuate. Apple last month suspended its requirement that employees return to the office in May for at least three days a week because of a resurgence of Covid cases. Airbnb recently told its employees they never had to return to the office.
Mr. Musk, Tesla and SpaceX did not immediately return calls for comment.
Many employees at Tesla and SpaceX had already been back to the office to some extent. In 2020, as “nonessential” workplaces in California closed their doors during the early days of the pandemic, SpaceX’s Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters used its exemption as a government contractor to remain open. In a March 2020 email, which was earlier reported by BuzzFeed News, Mr. Musk told SpaceX employees that they had a higher risk of being killed in a car crash than dying from coronavirus.
In May 2020, Mr. Musk also attacked local officials in the San Francisco Bay Area for not letting him reopen Tesla’s factory in Fremont, Calif. Tesla sued Alameda County, where the factory was located, and reopened it anyway, in defiance of health officials’ instructions.