The Twitter case taking into account the future of remote work. Should labour policies put a limit?
One of first actions taken by Elon Musk after taking over Twitter was the ban on remote work. This is nothing new. Marissa Meier did the same shortly after becoming the new CEO of Yahoo. The reason is quite simple. Many US workers have to endure long commutes. Housing close to most workplaces is often scarce and expensive. The sudden switch will push some to leave their jobs and usually the first ones to give up are older workers with a family. This is a common trick to get rid of the less flexible workers without appearing to discriminate anyone. Actually these tricks are often used also in Europe, struggling companies may move their offices from one city to another, employees of consulting companies or temporary agencies may be told: "from the next Monday you'll work onsite for the new client 100 Kilometres from here".
But still there is a limit to this kind of actions. The working contracts have a working location and the companies cannot move working location in a far region without offering a relocation package or at least some time to organise the transfer. In the Twitter case Musk had to go even further to the point that he drew the attention of the unions.
What is going to happen if remote work keeps expanding? Many workers in recent times have been offered a contract with a working location more than 100 Km from home with the promise of remote work. Those workers are a lot more vulnerable if their employers decide to take similar actions. Should labour policies put a limit? Is it acceptable to allow an employer to move a worker from their physical location to their virtual working location within few days?
To make it clear I'll repeat my point, the actual situation is not nice, companies already have some freedom to move their workers back an forth, but in many countries this is limited to the region where the working location specified in the contract is placed. New contracts offered together with the verbal promise of remote work often have only a virtual working location completely disconnected from the location where the worker lives. This may give the opportunity to the employer to shift abruptly a worker by a very long distance, thus making the worker a lot more vulnerable.