Tech firm Zoom tells its staff to return to office

Video communications company brings full time working from home to an end

During the coronavirus pandemic, the word 'zoom' became a verb that describes videoconferencing. Reuters
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Zoom Video Communications, which was at the forefront of the remote working revolution during the coronavirus pandemic, is telling its employees to report to its offices on a more regular basis.

Staff at the San Jose, California-based company who live within 80km from a Zoom office are now required to work from there at least twice a week, Business Insider reported, quoting a company representative.

“We believe that a structured hybrid approach – meaning employees that live near an office need to be on-site two days a week to interact with their teams – is most effective for Zoom,” the representative said.

Zoom has not released any statement regarding the apparent decision.

The move is a U-turn from Zoom's stance last year, when it said fewer than 2 per cent of its entire workforce would work remotely.

Remote work rose to prominence during the Covid-19 pandemic and was part of the change companies had to adapt to to stay afloat.

And with work-related technologies – most notably videoconferencing, which is not new but was of great use during the crisis – improving and more widely available, the situation has highlighted that work and other activities can be done remotely.

Zoom found itself at the forefront thanks to its easy-to-use and flexible platform. The word “zoom” also became a verb for videoconferencing.

Technology played a key role in advancing the use of remote work, with companies – especially cloud service providers, telecom operators and other tech-focused organisations – boosting their offerings to support the growing demand for digital services.

Remote working has also brought a number of benefits to the forefront, including work-life balance, less commuting, location independence, increased productivity and monetary savings, according to US company FlexJobs.

However, there have also been disadvantages. This week, a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Los Angeles found that workers randomly assigned to work from home full-time are 18 per cent less productive than those in the office.

The researchers, who studied newly hired data entry workers in India who were randomly assigned to either the home or the office, said that two thirds of the drop in productivity was evident from the first day of work.

Zoom's Sam Tayan on the new era for work - Business Extra

Zoom's Sam Tayan on the new era for work - Business Extra

It is also a bane for the office space market in major cities, which is at risk of losing about $800 billion by 2030 as vacancies rise amid people opting for remote or flexible working arrangements, a study from McKinsey & Co showed last month.

While office attendance has stabilised and recovered slightly following the Covid-19 pandemic, it is still 30 per cent below pre-pandemic levels, the global consultancy said.

The estimate for those losses translates into a decline of more than a quarter compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, with a worst-case scenario showing that it could spiral to as much as 43 per cent.

However, as the pandemic has subsided and has been declared over by the World Health Organisation in May, companies have been encouraging their employees to return to offices and resume the pre-pandemic professional life.

Updated: August 05, 2023, 12:23 PM