OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has come out as one of the latest tech industry titans against remote work, which he says is harmful to creativity. During a so-called “fireside chat” hosted by the fintech giant Stripe, Altman, not only trashed the practice itself but took on companies that continue to engage in it.
“I think one of the tech industry’s worst mistakes in a long time was that everybody could go full remote forever,” the OpenAI co-founder and CEO said, “and startups didn’t need to be together in person and, you know, there was going to be no loss of creativity. I would say that the experiment on that is over,” he added, “and the technology is not yet good enough that people can be fully remote forever, particularly on startups.”
Altman is far from alone in this belief and even seems to share it with fellow OpenAI cofounder Elon Musk, who eventually left the organization over ideological differences. Back in the summer of 2020, Tesla made headlines after reportedly firing people who chose to work from home during COVID-19 lockdowns, and in 2022, remote work was taken off the table almost entirely both at the Musk-owned electric vehicle-maker and at SpaceX.
Though reports at the beginning of the year suggested that Musk had softened his anti-remote work hardline after closing down some of Twitter’s physical offices in Seattle and Singapore, he nevertheless reportedly sent employees at the social network a company-wide email at 2:30 in the morning in March saying that the “office is not optional” and that in-person attendance would be checked via badge check-ins.
It’s unsurprising that these two frenemies still have something like remote work — which is overwhelmingly popular among regular people in all industries while getting a lot of hate from higher-ups, especially in tech — in common. But given all the water under the bridge between them, it’s kind of funny that this is one of the topics on which they still seem to agree.