In a world of self-driving cars, will the office still be a place worth visiting? Why Elon is wrong about remote work.

Andrew Hull

Invisible is a remote-only company with partners and agents all across the globe. We have no headquarters, nor any plans to establish one. We’re learning that this is an increasingly rare operating model. 

Elon Musk last week issued a memo to his 100,000 Tesla employees directing them to return to the office for at least 40 hours per week or “depart Tesla.” He isn’t alone, as other extremely influential business leaders are committing to return their companies back-to-office.

He even called out businesses allowing remote work, saying, “There are of course companies that don’t require this, but when was the last time they shipped a great new product? It’s been a while.” The math doesn’t seem to favor Elon, with 4.4 million new American businesses starting in 2020. 

Business leaders, including Elon, that resist remote work contend that productivity falters when employees telecommute. When challenged about his new policy on Twitter, he even implied that remote workers are pretending to work

Elon is wrong

We recently ran a survey of 665 employed Americans. 62% of workers reported that they feel more engaged when working remotely than in an office environment. 

Just over 16% of workers said they feel they are a worse employee when they work remotely. 

It’s odd to hear Elon, a figure known for grand visions of the future, promote a future in which people must commute to work in an office environment. It’s especially odd when you consider that 79% of Americans prefer working in a hybrid environment or strictly remote, according to our survey.  

But let’s dive into the tangible costs for businesses when considering a return from remote work, specifically by looking at ROI from the cost of office space, productivity, and recruiting. 

Cost of office space: 

A recent study by Zippia found that North American businesses need on average about 150-175 square feet of office space per employee, including everything from desk space and conference rooms, to break rooms and bathrooms. The cost per square foot of office space varies widely across different cities, with costs ranging from $20.97 in Atlanta to $74 in New York City. 

On the low end, that’s about $3,000 per employee per year for office space in Atlanta. For New York City, that’s $10,500 per employee per year for office space alone. 

By also cutting out costs for utilities and additional office resources, remote companies stand to save up to an average $11,000 per employee. All of these savings add to a big boost to the bottom line.  


Are remote-workers really pretenders? A report from Airtasker indicates that remote workers are actually more productive than in-office workers. Here’s how: 

  • Remote workers work an additional an average of 1.4 more days per month. That’s almost 17 additional workdays a year. 
  • In-office workers reported being unproductive for 37 minutes a day on average, compared to 27 minutes a day for remote workers. 
  • 22% of in-office workers reported their boss distracting them from work, whereas only 15% of remote workers reported this. 

Even Tesla didn’t appear to be slowed by its move to remote work. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, all Tesla employees that could work remotely did – and business exploded. In October 2021, the company reached a $1 trillion market cap, just the sixth American company to do so. 

At Invisible, we’re fully remote and have been since we opened our digital doors. We’re growing faster than ever. 

If it’s true that most of your workers want to work remotely and it’s possible for them to do so, then mandating in-office work on the basis of productivity is a policy set up for failure. Why would putting your employees in the environment they least prefer entice them to be more productive?  

Recruiting the best talent: 

With over 55% of workers reporting that no remote work options is a dealbreaker for them, in-office policies prevent you from attracting the best talent. Why limit your talent search to prospects in your area or ones you’ll likely have to pay extra to relocate? 

Especially in today’s hot job market, having a flexible work environment that allows talent to work from anywhere gives you an immediate competitive edge. In fact, 69% of workers told us they would take a pay cut of 5% or more for a job with more flexibility! 

Finally, turnover is expensive. Studies show that replacing a salaried employee can cost up to 9 months of their salary on average. 

An investment in what your employees (both current and future) want is an investment in retention. 

Is there a non-core business task that’s taking too much of your team’s time? Let us take care of it. Invisible combines a flexible workforce with smart automation to carry out tasks faster, better, and cheaper–and gives your team the time to productively manage your core business. Check out how: 

How do I get started with Invisible? 

If you’re looking for the perfect blend of a flexible workforce and automation expertise, Invisible is ready to help.  Check out our case study explorer where you can find real examples of when Invisible leveled up a company. 

Get started by creating a free account, and someone on our dedicated accounts team will get in touch with you. 

Work smart, move fast, and focus on what matters most - with Invisible.

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