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Elon Musk tells Twitter staff to prepare for ‘difficult times ahead’ and ends remote work

Elon Musk tells Twitter staff to prepare for ‘difficult times ahead’ and ends remote work

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Elon Musk’s first email to Twitter employees warns, ‘The road ahead is arduous and will require intense work to succeed.’

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Elon Musk shown looking downward in front of upside-down Twitter logos.
Illustration by Laura Normand / The Verge

Elon Musk has sent his first email to Twitter employees, warning them to prepare for a “dire” economy and putting an immediate end to remote work.

In the email sent to Twitter staff late Wednesday evening and obtained by The Verge, Musk warned that a weaker economic environment in the US would mean difficulties for the company’s ads business. “Frankly, the economic picture ahead is dire, especially for a company like ours that is so dependent on advertising in a challenging economic climate,” he wrote. “Moreover, 70% of our advertising is brand, rather than specific performance, which makes us doubly vulnerable!”

“Without significant subscription revenue, there is a good chance Twitter will not survive the upcoming economic downturn.”

Musk said the company’s “top priority” is Twitter Blue, its revamped $8 a month subscription that adds a verified check mark to the user’s profile and unlocks additional features. “Without significant subscription revenue, there is a good chance Twitter will not survive the upcoming economic downturn,” he wrote. “We need roughly half of our revenue to be subscription.”

In a one-sentence follow-up email sent shortly after, simply titled “Top Priority,” Musk said, “Over the next few days, the absolute top priority is finding and suspending any verified bots/trolls/spam.”

He also told employees that, starting November 10th, they are expected to be in the office for a minimum of 40 hours a week and that he would only approve remote work on a case-by-case basis. “Obviously, if you are physically unable to travel to an office or have a critical personal obligation, then your absence is understandable,” he wrote.

Do you know more about what’s going on inside Twitter? If so, I’d love to chat confidentially. You can reach me via email: alex.heath@theverge.com or through the contact form on my Linktree. Then we can set up a secure thread on Signal.

Twitter previously had a work-from-anywhere policy that it adopted during the pandemic. Musk has signaled his opposition to remote work at Tesla but said in June in a Q&A with Twitter employees that “exceptional” workers would be allowed to continue the practice.

“The road ahead is arduous and will require intense work to succeed,” wrote Musk in the Wednesday email to Twitter employees, which was first reported by Bloomberg. One of his first acts as Twitter’s new owner was to unceremoniously lay off half its workforce, gutting whole teams. Meanwhile, Meta just laid off 11,000 employees, and analysts have been projecting slower growth in advertising spend in 2023.

Twitter’s advertising revenue has already been affected by Musk’s chaotic management style and personal tweeting. A number of major advertisers, including insurer Allianz and automaker Audi, have paused ad spend on Twitter in response to Musk’s takeover and his ambitions to make the platform more about “free speech.”

In a public Q&A on Twitter Spaces Wednesday, Musk told advertisers that he had heard their concerns and that there have yet to be any changes to the platform’s content moderation policies. Musk has previously blamed “activist groups” for pressuring advertisers to drop campaigns (without offering any evidence for this claim) and accused these same unnamed groups of “trying to destroy free speech in America.”

Meanwhile, Twitter’s most visible change to its verification system — allowing anyone to pay $8 for a badge that previously denoted an official account — has already allowed countless users to masquerade as brands and celebrities.

Update November 10th, 9:25AM ET: Updated with information from Musk’s message to employees.