Some older workers have fond memories of sleeping at the office, but the Elon Musk-style 84-hour workweek is falling flat with younger Americans
- Some Twitter employees are working 80-hour weeks and sleeping at the office.
- It's in response to mass layoffs and CEO Elon Musk's "extremely hardcore" vision for the company.
Just days after Elon Musk completed his acquisition of Twitter, the social-media company laid off half its workforce, and some of its remaining employees are working 84-hour weeks and sleeping at the office to pick up the slack.
Americans are divided on what to make of this, and a workplace-culture expert believes the schism reveals a generational divide.
Elon Musk has tweeted that people need to work 80 to 100 hours a week to "change the world," and he's stayed true to this mantra as Twitter's new CEO. But younger workers are unlikely to buy in, said the best-selling author and workplace well-being expert Jennifer Moss.
"There was this idea of 'this is what you do to make big change happen,'" Moss told Insider of Musk's philosophy. "I think that there was idealism around it. But I think now that's no longer cool or acceptable."
Shortly after the takeover, a Twitter employee shared a photo online of their boss — Esther Crawford, the director of product management — wrapped in a sleeping bag, wearing an eye mask, and attempting to sleep on the office floor.
"When your team is pushing round the clock to make deadlines sometimes you #SleepWhereYouWork," Crawford replied in a tweet.
This week, Musk sent a late-night email to staff telling them they must accept his "extremely hardcore" vision for the company, which includes "long hours at a high intensity." Employers were given 40 hours to "click yes" on a link, and if they didn't, Musk said they would be fired and given three months severance.
The picture, the email, and the ongoing saga at Twitter have sparked a debate about whether extra efforts like sleeping at the office are common, occasionally necessary, or problematic.
Insider Today asked readers to share their experiences of sleeping at work and received several responses from Gen Xers and baby boomers, some of whom had rather fond memories of their overnight office stays.
We followed up with them and spoke to Moss about why the Musk model is "no longer cool or acceptable" for younger generations of workers.
Sleeping at work may have been 'kind of fun' for boomers and Gen Xers, but there's no 'value in it' for younger workers
John Blackman said he slept at work "many a time" in his late 20s while working as a software developer for Microsoft in the 1990s and 2000s. His team regularly processed large sets of business data, and someone was always needed to "babysit" the process overnight, he told Insider.
"I really didn't mind that much. It was kind of fun," he said.
Moss, the author of "The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It," said many young workers see it differently today. While this shift has been ongoing for years, she said it reached another level during the pandemic.
"When you go through such a cataclysmic event like a global pandemic, it changes your priorities and your identity with work," she said. "It makes it less part of who you are."
Lauren Good, a healthcare administrator, worked in the industry for nearly a decade before quitting during the pandemic, she previously told Insider.
"Seeing so many people around me losing their lives, losing loved ones, losing their jobs — it put things into perspective," she said. "I said to myself, 'Why am I, like, busting my butt for a place that doesn't even really support me?'"
One 65-year-old called sleeping at work "fabulous" and "some of the best times" of his life. In the 1990s, Greg Spinelli worked as a banquet manager at the Essex House in New York City, where events would sometimes end late and begin first thing the next morning.
Once his shift was done, he was treated to a "lovely meal" before sleeping in a "beautiful" hotel room, he said. He not only saved himself a three-hour commute, he "made a fortune" working the extra hours, he said.
But his is a rare case, and Moss said many millennials and Gen Zers who have "worked tirelessly" over the past several years believe they haven't been properly rewarded for their efforts.
"When you're not getting promoted, you're not developing, you haven't had a pay raise, all of those things make it so that extra work, the sleeping over, and the 'everyone's in it together,' is no longer sexy," she said. "It's no longer feeling like there's value in it."
"It's like a frog in boiling water," Maggie Perkins, a former teacher, previously told Insider. "It eventually becomes unsustainable. And either you burn out, or you have to make a choice." Perkins began "quiet quitting" in 2018, before ultimately leaving the teaching profession in 2020.
In the past, some workers, like one Gen Xer who asked to remain anonymous, were more willing to go the extra mile for their jobs. The Gen Xer recalled sleeping at work more times than they could count in their late 30s and early 40s while working for the California state government.
"I have always been one to dig in and get things done," they said. "When the governor or the executive director tells you it must be done, you get it done."
This level of loyalty is less common nowadays, Moss said.
"Instead of going above and beyond because it was your only option, people are saying, 'I have no loyalty. There was no loyalty given to me during the pandemic, so why do I have loyalty now?'"
While some employees are already leaving Twitter in response to the shift in workplace culture, Moss said the ability to make this decision is a privilege.
"Young professionals have student debt, or maybe you're a single-income earner, or maybe you're a visible minority and it's not as easy to move to another company, so you stick it out," she said. "It's going to be those people that don't have the privilege to quit that are stuck back there, forced to be sleeping overnight to keep their jobs."
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