Certain communications run like clockwork: Parents like to call their adult children early on Sunday mornings, and the CEO of Twitter likes to email his employees in the middle of the night. Elon Musk sent his return-to-office iteration of “u up?” to the remaining Twitter workers early Wednesday.
An email declaring that the “office is not optional” landed in Twitter employees’ inbox around 2:30 a.m., according to Platformer managing editor Zoë Schiffer. In the email, Musk also complained about the San Francisco office being half empty the day before. Of course, the emptiness might be Musk’s own doing—since becoming CEO, he’s issued several rounds of layoffs.
This isn’t the first time Musk launched a late-night missive calling people back to headquarters. He sent a memo to his other company this past summer about returning to the office saying, “Everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week,” adding that more senior people should be more visible. Unfortunately, he didn’t account for the increased number of employees hired during the pandemic, and returning workers soon discovered there were not enough desks or parking spots for all.
In fact, Musk frequently sends late-night emails announcing new company policies. Soon after taking the helm at Twitter, he sent a 2 a.m. email telling workers they’ll need to become “extremely hardcore” and encouraging them to put in long hours, the Washington Post reported. In November, he first told Twitter employees they must be in the office at least 40 hours a week, arguing it was important for company culture. Before the acquisition, Twitter had established a flexible arrangement regarding remote work.
But good culture can happen among remote colleagues, and Twitter was a perfect example of that. When the first round of layoffs took place, a sea of blue hearts (a symbol of Tweep camaraderie) flooded the internal Slack as whole teams were gutted. An employee told Platformer that the once busy Slack channel turned into a “ghost town” by February. The team spirit hasn’t totally disappeared, though, as former Twitter employee Brian Ries responded to Schiffer’s original tweet about another RTO push, potentially encouraging Twitter employees to stay firm in resisting Musk’s ordinance by tweeting, “Tweeps: Hold the line!”
Months after first instituting the strict return-to-office policy, Musk may be realizing his hardline strategies aren’t resulting in a bustling office. At least if one is to take his word regarding the Twitter offices being ghost towns. When Fortune reached out for comment, Twitter responded with its newly implemented auto-generated poop emoji, which is how it now replies to all press requests via email@example.com.
Musk isn’t the only CEO to find hardball tactics ineffective. Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon demanded that employees return full-time to the office last March, citing his belief in the importance of in-person interactions in fostering culture. Almost a year later, despite Solomon’s efforts, daily attendance still sits 10 to 15% lower than pre-pandemic levels, according to Fortune’s Geoff Colvin.