20221030 elon musk
Elon Musk Image Credit: Reuters

Late Thursday, Twitter Inc. owner Elon Musk tweeted out an upbeat message saying the company beat its all-time high in usage, despite the fact that many when many employees decided to leave the company on the day.

Elon Musk issued an ultimatum this week that staffers sign up for "long hours at high intensity," or leave, with three months of severance pay. Reuters reported that the email asked staff to click "yes" if they wanted to stick around, warning those who did not respond by 5pm ET on November 17, would be considered to have quit and given a severance package.

Hundreds of employees reportedly decided they would take the second option.

The departures highlight the reluctance of some of Twitter's 3,000 odd employees to remain at a company where Musk earlier fired half of the workforce including top management, and is ruthlessly pushing a culture of long hours and an intense pace.

This is in line with what Musk has implemented at Tesla. Before Twitter, he had Tesla workers pulling grueling 12-hour shifts to meet production deadlines. And he himself has been famous for sleeping on the factory floor. This week, he claimed he's been sleeping at Twitter, too.

After the mass resignations started, the company notified employees that it would close its offices and cut badge access until Monday, Reuters reported citing sources. Security officers began kicking some employees out of one office on Thursday evening, one source said to Reuters.

Musk took to Twitter late on Thursday and said that he was not worried about resignations as "the best people are staying." In Twitter's internal chat tool, over 500 employees wrote farewell messages on Thursday, a source familiar with the notes said.

Remote work

On Wednesday, in his first email to staff, Musk said remote work would no longer be allowed and employees will be expected to be in the office for at least 40 hours per week, subject to exceptions he himself would approve. This email was met with resentment from employees, agencies reported.

Following the email, Dmitry Borodaenko, a disabled California-based engineering manager who said Twitter fired him this week when he refused to report to the office, filed a proposed class action against the company in San Francisco federal court on Wednesday.

Borodaenko said Musk's recent call for Twitter employees to return to the office or quit violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities.

Musk softened his stance later for Twitter and said managers would be able to decide if a person can work from home as long as their output was ‘excellent’ or if they had personal situations that warranted the need for a work from home policy. Musk said managers could do this ‘at their own risk’. He did not give a reason for the change in policy.

Mounting pressure

The new leader had to recall some laid-off staff, from his mass sacking earlier this month, who were working on features he wanted to add. Musk also halted his initiative imposing an $8 monthly subscription fee on accounts labeled with Twitter's blue check mark.

Musk is facing pressure to push up the value of Twitter, which some analysts have said was actually worth about half of what he paid. Twitter is also expected to owe roughly $1 billion in annual interest - on top of recouping the investments of Musk's many equity partners.

Musk has said he wants to increase the platform's ability to make money, focusing on ways to drive revenue and slashing costs.

Amid chaos at Twitter, Musk faced two court cases in the US this week, one inn Delaware defending his $55 billion pay package from allegations by Tesla shareholders and the other a manslaughter trial in Los Angeles state for a fatal crash.

Musk testified Wednesday in Delaware that the lion's share of his time "for the past few weeks" has been at the social-media platform, though he said the "fundamental organizational restructuring" will be completed by the end of next week.