‘You can’t tell me this doesn’t work’: Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary has ripped apart Elon Musk’s claim that working from home is ‘immoral’

May 19, 2023, 10:31 AM UTC
Shark Tank star Kevin O'Leary on the set of the show.
Shark Tank star Kevin O'Leary doesn't just tolerate remote work in his 54 businesses—he wants to see more of it.
Christopher Willard—ABC/Getty Images

Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary doesn’t mind if staff at his 54 companies work from home—and he certainly doesn’t think it’s “immoral”.

When asked if working from home is unethical the Canadian businessman—reportedly worth $400 million—responded simply “no.”

It comes following a rant from Tesla and Twitter owner Elon Musk, who questioned if it was “morally right” for some people to work from home where others, such as delivery drivers and factory workers, cannot.

“[It’s] messed up,” Musk said in an interview with CNBC. “It’s a productivity issue but it’s also a moral issue. People should get off their godd*** moral high horse with their work-from-home b****** because they’re asking everyone else to not work from home while they do.”

O’Leary is more open to the policy—a tactic which may make him more popular with staff, as a recent study from McKinsey & Company found that 87% of the American workforce would choose to work somewhat flexibly if the opportunity was offered to them.

McKinsey added: “Employers are wise to invest in technology, adapt policies, and train employees to create workplaces that integrate people working remotely and on-site.”

“The world’s changed,” O’Leary told CNN. “The economy’s changed, the ethics of work have changed. We went through an extraordinary period during the pandemic—the idea that you’d split up a headquarters and you’d let people leave a headquarters to work from home was not even contemplated. It was considered too risky.

“Now it’s a proven, effective method or project management.”

O’Leary highlighted that the situation for Musk is different to many of the companies he owns: “In Elon’s case, to be fair about what it is he’s talking about, when you’re in a highly engineered business like Tesla or SpaceX I get the idea that you want collaboration between engineers.

“They’re sitting around trying to solve design problems or whatever.”

However, O’Leary said that this fact has “nothing to do” with the other ten sectors of the economy which have already made the decision to experiment with more hybrid working models.

Breaking down the hybrid maths

O’Leary highlighted that his 54 companies operate in almost every state and sector and said that 40% of those businesses are “never” coming back to the office.

He added: “Prior to the pandemic I was very fortunate in a portfolio basis to make 15% free cashflow pre-tax. Today that same portfolio, post-pandemic, with 40% of the staff working remotely all around the world, is going to do 17.5% free cash. That’s a 20% increase in free cash flow.

“So you can’t tell me this doesn’t work, in fact, I want to do more of this because I’m reducing my costs of real estate.”

Shark Tank shift

Preparing to embark on the 15th season of Shark Tank, O’Leary said economic shifts have impacted the number of entrepreneurs approaching him for investment.

“We have a record number of applications and there’s a single reason why. It’s gone back to 2008 when we started. There is no venture capital money available right now. The entire banking system is shut down because of Silicon Valley Bank and the other failures and this period of rising rates,” he explained.

“We are going to see incredible deal flow this year—much larger than ever before—but the terms, I’m licking my chops.”

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