Former Tesla Employee Joe Justice Providing Some Perspective to Elon’s Call Back to the Office

Tesla employee Joe Justice added some perspective to Elon’s call back to the office. Here is a quick summary of his insider view on how Tesla works, and also the value he sees in Semco Style making workplaces higher performing and supporting a better work-life integration.

Christian Wandeler·June 04, 2022·3 min read

When Elon Musk commanded everyone back to the office, it did raise some eyebrows.

Personally, I was surprised and thought if anyone would be leading by example it would be such an avant-garde organization. Especially because I have been working with my friend Joe Justice, a former Tesla employee, on an e-book about digital self-management at the Musk companies.

So why not just ask Joe?

Here are some of the factors Joe sees as why the Musk companies value physical presence:

Physical Product

Tesla primarily makes hardware products. Yes, it hosts software, but it still is a rolling laptop you have to make before it can host the software. If your product is physical, the teams, the machine that builds the machine, or the product itself, the robots have to be within a touching distance not further than three meters away. And Tesla is known for software engineers working directly on the production floor, where they are close to the action and get immediate feedback.

Extreme Purpose and Mission Focus

The Musk companies are extremely mission-driven. Employees' purpose is to further the mission. The personal needs of employees are secondary. For example, at SpaceX, the launch schedule dictates everything and also impacts the private lives of employees (more about this in a separate post).


The Musk companies are truly attempting to go above and beyond anything, humans have experienced in the world of business, manufacturing, production, or engineering before. Therefore they opt for the most effective way of working. If face-to-face is the most effective form of communication, then that is what the Musk companies will choose.

I also loved Joe’s reflection on #SemcoStyle and a bit of criticism of the Musk companies:

Part of why I love collaborating with you Christian is because you have an understanding of expert levels of business and what a lot of us would call work-life balance, or a life worth living. I absolutely resonate with it. One of my few criticisms of the Musk companies is, that it truly is like training for a pro sport every day. Not everyone is ready or wants that lifestyle. Some people want to practice guitar every day for several hours and if you're working a 12-hour shift minimum in a Musk company you have to wait till your days off 3 or 4 days off a week alternating. Some of us also want to balance work with our family lives.

Also, there are some people on planet Earth who would make great contributions to the Musk companies or other missions, but they have just two good hours in them a day. What do you do with these wonderful, excellent, valuable people? I think Semco Style gets a lot closer to high-performing work for everyone and my personal passion is attempting to find the 80% of the value in the Musk companies that are available to nearly 100% of the population and Semco Style is one of the areas I'm learning from you. I have learned so much along those paths. I currently call my part #luxurystoic. Stoic, do the right thing, even if it's hard. And luxury, do the nice thing, just because it's nice and the overlap of those two things might be closer to what I'm aiming for.


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