Zoom charts course for ‘hybrid’ office return

The company briefly opened its Sydney offices but reversed course as COVID-19 remerged in the area

Zoom is preparing its employees for a return to the workplace on a hybrid basis blending in-person office-based work with remote working.

The company has rejected any notion of returning to the office on a full-time basis, with flexibility a key priority in the formulation of these plans. It’s pertinent given just 1% of staff want a full-time return, with a quarter warning to work from home permanently and more than half requesting a blend of the two.

Zoom also suggests it won’t rush office reopenings, and won’t do so until any given office space is fitted with personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing policies. The company had reopened its office in Sydney this summer but closed it shortly after due to a re-emergence of COVID-19 in the local area.

“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to returning to the office, and we’re listening to our employees to understand their concerns and help guide our plans,” said Zoom CFO, Kelly Steckelberg.

“Any decision we make at Zoom ladders into one goal: maintaining a mutual sense of trust between leadership and employees, as higher trust leads to a happier, more productive workforce. We’re carefully listening and learning, but ultimately, our office reopenings will be one component of a flexible, hybrid approach.”

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During COVID-19, Zoom became the poster child for remote working and mid-pandemic communication, with businesses and consumers in equal measure resorting to the video conferencing service to stay in touch.

As the company swelled in reputation and revenue, it began investing in developing its core platform, addressing major security concerns, and building alternative technologies. Recently, for example, the firm announced new hardware that promises more office-style experiences for remote workers, including hosting video conferencing services on a TV.

The company is promoting its own technology and features as allowing it to take this hybrid approach, including the Zoom Rooms Smart Gallery, that’s designed to create an inclusive experience for in-person and remote workers. 

Zoom is the latest tech company to outline its return to work plans, after Google, for example, approved the majority of requests from its staff to work remotely or relocate. LinkedIn, too, has allowed remote working after initially being hesitant

Apple, by contrast, has held a hard stance on hybrid working, requiring its employees to return to the office at least three days per week. Its plans to reopen offices, however, have been delayed due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, with October set as the next date by which the firm will return to the workplace. 

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