Dear Elon, Remote Work Boosts Productivity and Fertility Rates

3 mins read
October 20, 2023
Queen Marie Antoinette of France with her children Princess Marie Therese Charlotte of France and Dauphin Louis Joseph of France
Queen Marie Antoinette of France with her children Princess Marie Therese Charlotte of France and Dauphin Louis Joseph of France, 1785, Museo Nazionale, Stoccolma. Maria Antonietta passeggia nel parco di Versailles

On Elon Musk’s Tesla’s Q3 earnings call, he argued against the rise of remote work, asserting that people who work from home are “detached from reality.” This perspective, contrasting sharply with his concerns about falling birth rates, paints a hypocritical image and a massive failure of leadership, especially as Musk started a Jack Welch Style layoff trend of one of his biggest customer bases (tech workers), kept promoting other companies should have more layoffs and employee mistreatment despite destroying value, and doesn’t want to accept responsibility for devastating Twitter’s revenue and value, along with Tesla’s low saleshorrific build qualitydevalued used cars, and declining margins.

Remote Work & Productivity

A look into remote work reveals that it’s far from the productivity sinkhole Musk falsely asserted. Let’s examine:

  • A NASDAQ-listed company’s research showed that remote workers saw a 13% increase in performance. These employees had fewer sick days, more satisfaction, and half the turnover rate.
  • During COVID-19, a Great Place to Work survey showed that remote work boosted worker productivity by 6% on average.
  • Research from the University of Chicago indicates that remote workers are over 7% more productive than their in-office counterparts. A lot of this boost comes from saving commuting time, where workers invest approximately 35% of that saved time back into their primary job.
  • Harvard University’s research showed an average workday increase of 8.2% among remote workers during lockdowns. That’s almost an extra hour each day.
  • A Stanford University longitudinal study showed that remote workers were 5% more efficient than office-based workers in the summer of 2020, and efficiency jumped to 9% by summer 2022.

Indeed, in-office workers are often found spending time on non-work-related tasks. Research indicates that they’re only productive between 36% and 39% of their time at the office.

Remote Work & Fertility Rates

Elon previously voiced concerns about dwindling populations, claiming that “population collapse due to low birth rates is a much bigger risk to civilization than global warming.”

Remote work has been a boon to women aspiring to start families. We’ve seen an uptick in marriage and fertility rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, partly attributed to the flexibility offered by remote working.

The details:

  1. Flexibility and Family Time: By eliminating daily commutes, individuals save an average of nearly an hour daily. Early data shows that workers redirect 11.1% of this saved time towards childcare and 15.5% on housework. The emphasis on childcare surges to 18.2% among those with children. This shift mirrors pre-pandemic trends where remote-working parents spent considerably more time with their children.
  2. Improved Work-Life Balance: Remote work grants more time and greater control over its allocation. This flexibility is invaluable to parents grappling with unpredictable parenting schedules. Pre-pandemic data highlighted that parents primarily opted to work from home to synchronize their work routines with their personal or familial needs.
  3. Positive Impact on Birth Rates: The COVID-19 rise in remote work and financial improvements appears to influence family decisions. Women who experienced significant financial growth over the past year and work remotely are over 10 percentage points more likely to report being pregnant or attempting to conceive than their non-remote counterparts.
  4. The Older Demographic: Remote work most significantly bolsters fertility intentions for women above 35 years, especially those over 39. Remote work assists older women in balancing the dual pressures of career and family, allowing them to realize their fertility intentions.
  5. Sizeable Families Benefit: For women with two or more children, remote work increases the desire for additional children. This trend is most pronounced among working mothers with four or more children, suggesting that remote work may not necessarily initiate childbearing but helps achieve desired family sizes.
  6. Achieving Family Dreams: When queried about their family outcomes, Remote workers were more optimistic about achieving their family goals and less likely to be disheartened by perceived failures.

Ironically, if the self-proclaimed Silicon Valley “pronatalists” like Musk embraced remote work, it could address one of their primary concerns by offering a work-life balance conducive to starting and raising families.

Silicon Valley’s Double Standard

This isn’t about singling Musk. Other influential voices like Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel have voiced similar anti-remote sentiments, juxtaposed with concerns about dwindling birth rates (especially Marc Andreessen’s recent rant). It’s hard to align these stances with the reality of studies showing remote work’s positive impact on family aspirations.

It’s also noteworthy that while tech titans lament America’s “inability to build,” actions often speak louder. Silicon Valley leaders, including Andreessen, have opposed multifamily housing projects that could address housing affordability, a critical factor in supporting young families.

About Marie Antoinette

Remote work isn’t a fleeting trend; it’s one of Tech’s promised improvements to work. It costs companies little to no cost but saves employees time, cash, and resources that so-called “leaders in tech and innovation” like Musk refuse to fulfil. Like Marie Antoinette, who was innocent of the charges levied against her by the Jacobins, remote workers are clear of the charges levied by the hypocritical Elon Musk. 

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