Technology

Even Zoom wants employees back in office


Video communications company Zoom became a mainstay of the pandemic, allowing employees to work from home and from anywhere in the world as it reopened.

But in an unexpected twist, the San Jose-based company now wants its own employees back in the office, joining a growing number of businesses instituting return mandates.

Employees who live near an office must work in person at least twice a week, Zoom said in an emailed statement. “We believe that a structured hybrid approach” is most effective for the company, it said. The mandate would apply to people living within 50 miles of an office, Business Insider reported.

“As a company, we are in a better position to use our own technologies, continue to innovate, and support our global customers,” the statement said of the decision.

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The news attracted strong feelings on social media and a slew of wry headlines.

“Zoom wants its remote work company to come back to the office,” Verge wrote.

“Zoom, patron saint of remote work, calls workers back,” read a KTLA5 headline.

Zoom has decided live collaboration works better, one Twitter user said, adding “… oh wait …”

Another shared the news with a meme that read, “Irony can be pretty ironic.”

Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University who researches remote work, called Zoom’s decision “sensible.” The company owns a lot of office space and has local employees, he noted on Twitter.

“If you are paying for office space and high Bay Area salaries it makes sense to operate on a hybrid schedule,” Bloom tweeted, adding that most Zoom employees were already working this way.

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For many employees, working from home during the coronavirus pandemic gave them an opportunity to reevaluate their relationship with work and develop a healthier work-life balance. Companies say working in office augments innovation and collaboration.

But office occupancy continues to remain below pre-pandemic levels. Average weekly occupancy in late July in 10 metropolitan areas in the United States was below 50 percent, according to data tracked by workplace data company Kastle Systems.

Executives are finding it hard to persuade people to come into the office five days a week, Zoom founder and chief executive Eric Yuan said in an earnings call in May.

“That’s why you have to embrace hybrid work,” he said.

Despite gaining cult status and growing exponentially during the pandemic, Zoom’s growth trajectory has not remained steady. In February, the company laid off 15 percent of its staff amid global economic uncertainty.

“We will learn from the past to set ourselves up for future success, and redouble our efforts to help evolve Zoom to tomorrow,” Yuan wrote at the time.