The Silicon Valley drive for corporate efficiency – all 24/7 schedules, bulletproof coffees and five-minute meetings – has long been lauded. Now the wheels are flying off

Last week, an emotional Elon Musk described how he was working so hard to keep production of the Tesla Model 3 on track that he missed his own birthday. “All night – no friends, nothing,” he told the New York Times, apparently “struggling to get the words out”. Musk had, he said, been working 120-hour weeks, often not leaving the factory for three or four days. When he did get home, he said, the choice was between no sleep or taking an Ambien, an insomnia drug intended for short-term use (and blamed by some of Tesla’s board members for his erratic night-time tweeting).

Musk has long been celebrated by the business press for his work ethic. His extraordinary schedule – a long working day broken into five-minute increments, so that every second is accounted for (lunch is usually wolfed down in a meeting) – has been reported, approvingly, for some years now. And certainly, Musk has more on his plate than many chief executives. As well as running Tesla, the first mass-market car company to be founded in the US in decades, he is the head of SpaceX, which aims to fly people to Mars, and Neuralink, a company attempting to build a brain-computer interface.

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