Hours after new “Chief Twit” Elon Musk issued an “extremely hardcore” ultimatum to work hard or get out, thousands of Twitter employees have beelined for the exits, with the social media company disabling badge access and shuttering its brick-and-mortar spaces for at least the next 72 hours, according to multiple Thursday night reports.
The devolution into chaos began after Musk sent an early-morning internal email suggesting Twitter’s employees prepare for “long hours at hard intensity” in order to build “Twitter 2.0” on Wednesday. Musk imposed a deadline of 5 p.m. Eastern time by which staff had to report their decision to stay or go on a company Google form.
By the time the deadline rolled around, according to Fortune reporter Kylie Robison, as much as three-quarters of the remaining workforce had tendered their resignations.
Also on Thursday night, according to the managing editor of Platformer, Twitter “alerted employees that effective immediately, all office buildings are temporarily closed and badge access is suspended.” No motive was publicly issued, but the tech blog’s Zoë Schiffer went on to report that sources had told her new owner Elon Musk and his team “are terrified employees are going to sabotage the company.”
Twitter’s offices are expected to reopen to whatever is left of its workforce on Monday.
The exact number of staffers who survived Musk’s cull earlier this month—and chose not to quit in the intervening days—is unclear, but estimates hovered close to 3,000 workers just prior to the deadline, according to The Verge’s Alex Heath.
Several “critical” engineering teams resigned in their entirety on Thursday, according to Heath. Among those who had departed included Twitter’s lead web engineer and the team of designers behind Musk’s disastrous Blue subscription service, Schiffer reported.
“This is going to look like a very different company tomorrow,” she tweeted.
A former employee told The Washington Post on Thursday that the gutting of the workforce had left several systems integral to the functioning of the platform down to two, one, or zero engineers.
“I know of six critical systems (like ‘serving tweets’ levels of critical) which no longer have any engineers,” a former employee said. “There is no longer even a skeleton crew manning the system. It will continue to coast until it runs into something, and then it will stop.”
Just before 8:30 p.m., Musk tweeted out a seeming response to the bedlam. “How do you make a small fortune in social media?” he wrote.
“Start out with a small one.”
As Musk’s 5 p.m. deadline loomed earlier in the day, the mogul issued a partial rebate on a strict return-to-office mandate he announced last week. The concession allowed employees to opt for remote work if their managers determined they were making “an excellent contribution.”
In an email to staff, Musk warned: “Any manager who falsely claims that someone reporting to them is doing excellent work or that a given role is essential, whether remote or not, will be exited from the company.”
The reversal came as an increasing number of staffers began recoiling from “Twitter 2.0” ahead of the deadline, lunging towards the three-month severance package offered by Musk, according to the Post.
Twitter’s employees numbered around 7,500 when Musk was handed the reins at the beginning of November, following his $44 billion acquisition. Almost immediately, he set about laying off about half of the work force. Several top executives unceremoniously quit soon after, including an exodus of its chief cybersecurity officer and four more high-level officials on Nov. 10.
“It feels like all the people who made this place incredible are leaving,” one Twitter staffer told The Verge on Thursday. “It will be extremely hard for Twitter to recover from here, no matter how hardcore the people who remain try to be.”