What Zoom’s Return-to-Office Mandate Means for Tech

Here’s how employers and employees can handle going back to the office, because it’s on its way to becoming a thing.

Written by Natalie Ryan
Published on Aug. 21, 2023
What Zoom’s Return-to-Office Mandate Means for Tech
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Zoom has made headlines with its announcement of a return-to-office mandate, ironic considering the company’s close association with remote work. 

The announcement didn’t come as a shock to me. Many of my clients — I have worked in the executive search space for years — as well as top tech organizations including Google, Amazon, Apple and Meta have shifted to hybrid work and/or return to office requirements.

5 Things To Do When Your Employer Orders You Back to the Office

  1. Have a game plan. When discussing the hybrid work schedule with your boss, come prepared with a game plan that is sustainable, fits your goals and your boss’s goals, too.
  2. Define expectations. Explore ways to create an arrangement that balances productivity with personal and family needs. Ask for what you want.
  3. Set up regular check-ins. During these check-ins, be honest about any concerns you have and offer ideas to address them.
  4. Embrace in-person interactions. Use the return to office as a chance to build stronger relationships and foster a more collaborative work environment.
  5. Plan wisely. Schedule in-person meetings to make the most of your time in the office and reserve work-from-home days for uninterrupted focus time.

Why are the majority of tech companies urging employees to return to the office at least some of the time? One argument is that no technology can fully replace in-person interactions (yet), but I see a more specific reason behind this push. The tech recession that started in 2022 and continued to worsen in 2023 has given companies a chance to refocus, embrace new strategies and prioritize innovation for success.

The primary focus in Silicon Valley is driving innovation. Innovation thrives when employees unite toward a common goal. And let’s be real, it’s way easier to create meaningful relationships and collaborate outside the Zoom box.

So, if you like remote work, should you panic? Are we reverting to the pre-pandemic routine of commuting to the office five days a week? Based on my own observations across my clients, it doesn’t seem likely. The new normal seems to strike a balance between remote and in-office. Zoom’s request, for instance, involves only employees living within a 50-mile radius of the office, and even then, only occasionally.

If you want to encourage employees to come back to the office, explore these tips.

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Emphasize the Why

When asking remote employees, especially top-performing ones, to return to the office, clearly communicate the reasons behind it. Perhaps you want them to mentor other team members or take on a role that requires building relationships with key leaders in the region. Maybe performance or moral has been down. Have the data ready and be honest. Without a clear why, you may risk losing these valuable employees. 


Synchronize In-Office Attendance

Many of us have experienced the frustration of commuting to the office only to find ourselves spending the entire day alone on video calls. We could have done the same work from the comfort of our homes, without wasting time on the commute. If your company is adopting a hybrid in-office/remote work environment, establish coordinated in-office days where teams and employees come to the office on the same days. 


Use an Adaptive Approach

A rigid office-based or remote work policy might not be the best approach to attract and retain top talent. While certain roles and positions might necessitate in-person attendance more than others, not everyone needs to be physically present all the time.

Instead of a blanket policy, consider a more individualized approach. Prioritizing employee flexibility, such as accommodating personal activities and family time, can elevate morale, optimize performance and strengthen employee loyalty.

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Use Tech to Boost Productivity and Collaboration

Whether your employees are returning to the office or continuing remotely, equipping them with the right tools is imperative to unlock greater efficiency, creativity, and collaboration. Today’s tech landscape offers solutions designed to refine workflows, enhance communications and supercharge productivity.

Software like Zoom has changed how we do things, but it is clear that a blend of technology and genuine human interactions will define the future of work.

In particular, the rise of generative AI promises to reshape how we perceive and engage with work—both within traditional office and remote environments. For a glimpse of the future, watch Aparna Pappu’s keynote at Google I/O, sharing the transformative AI capabilities of Google Workspace. Real-time collaboration with colleagues is expanding to dynamic, real-time interactions with AI.

The work landscape is ever-changing and offers endless possibilities. Software like Zoom has completely changed how we do things, but as we look ahead, it is clear that a blend of technology and genuine human interactions will define the future of work. We’ll have to find a balance especially, in a world where AI is rapidly becoming a part of our lives.

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