Even Zoom Is Making People Return to the Office

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During the early months of the pandemic, a certain company experienced a sudden surge in popularity. This company, Zoom, became so widely known that it was used as a noun, verb, and catchphrase in everyday conversations. Phrases such as “Can you set up a Zoom for us?” and “Let’s just Zoom” became common. The company’s revenue also skyrocketed in 2020, fueled by the millions of people who started working from home and relying on Zoom for video conferencing. In fact, Zoom played a significant role in the remote work shift, as most of its employees were allowed to work from home.

However, Zoom is now joining other tech firms in advocating for in-person work. The company recently announced that many of its 7,400 employees will be required to start working at the office. Starting in August and September, Zoom asked all employees within 50 miles of an office to work in person on a part-time basis. The company believes that a structured hybrid approach, where employees near an office come in two days a week to interact with their teams, is the most effective.

During a meeting held on Zoom to discuss the return to office policy, CEO Eric Yuan faced a series of questions from employees expressing frustration about the commute and associated time and money wastage. Despite the company’s initial surge in popularity, it has struggled to sustain its pandemic growth. In February, Zoom laid off 15 percent of its staff, or about 1,300 people, and its workforce had grown over 275 percent between July 2019 and October 2022.

However, Zoom is not completely abandoning flexibility. The company still requires its employees to come into the office on a part-time basis. This is in line with the broader trends of hybrid and remote work, which remain significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels. As of July, nearly one-third of the country’s full-time workers were in hybrid arrangements, splitting their work between home and office.

Several companies, including Google and Salesforce, have tightened their office attendance policies this summer. Google now requires employees to come into the office three days a week and has even incorporated unexcused absences into performance reviews. Salesforce has taken a softer approach, offering charitable donations for employees who come into the office for a certain period.

It is worth noting that many companies have faced resistance from employees as they call them back to the office. Amazon and Apple are just a few examples of companies that have seen protests and petitions against the return to the office. At the beginning of the pandemic, the tech industry embraced flexible work, but many companies now realize the importance of having employees in one location. This shift back to the office is not surprising, particularly for companies that heavily invest in office real estate.

Recent studies have shown that in-person work has certain benefits. Remote work can decrease the amount of feedback junior employees receive and lead to a decline in “weak ties” that aid career advancement. However, despite these findings, more than 90 percent of workers who can work remotely still want some level of flexibility in their work arrangement.

In conclusion, Zoom, like many other tech companies, is transitioning towards a hybrid work model, requiring its employees to work in the office on a part-time basis. This shift reflects the ongoing trends in remote and hybrid work, as well as the challenges and benefits associated with each approach. Despite the preference for flexibility, many employees still value in-person interactions and recognize the advantages of being physically present in the office.

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