Leaked Zoom all-hands: CEO says employees must return to offices because they can’t be as innovative or get to know each other on Zoom

  • Earlier this month, Zoom told employees it would send some workers back to the office regularly.
  • Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said remote work didn’t allow people to build as much trust or be as innovative.
  • The comments are surprising given the role Zoom’s technology plays in remote work.

According to a leaked meeting recording viewed by Insider, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan told employees this month that the company was making the surprising decision to send some workers back to the office on a regular basis because its flagship remote-work product didn’t allow employees to build as much trust or be as innovative as in the office.

Zoom, one of the primary enablers and beneficiaries of remote work, mandated that employees living within 50 miles of a Zoom office work there at least two days per week.

Yuan stated at the August 3 meeting that the main reason for the mandate is that it is difficult for employees to get to know each other and build trust remotely.

“In our early days, we all knew each other,” Yuan recalled. “We’ve hired so many new ‘Zoomies’ in the last few years that it’s been difficult to build trust.”

“Trust is the foundation for everything,” he added. We will be slow if we do not have trust.”

The second reason, he claims, is that Zoom does not allow employees to engage in the kinds of discussions and debates that lead to innovation.

“Quite often, you come up with great ideas, but it’s really difficult when we’re all on Zoom,” Yuan explained. “We can’t have a good discussion.” We can’t have a good debate because everyone is very friendly when you join a Zoom call.”

The comments, like the decision to return some employees to the office, are surprising given Zoom’s role in remote work. Early in the pandemic, the company’s videoconferencing service became so common that its name became a verb describing the act of starting any video chat to connect with coworkers online.

Many businesses have announced mandatory return-to-work policies. Amazon recently asked employees to relocate to the offices of their teams or find new employment. Meta told employees this week that if they didn’t show up at least three days a week, they might lose their jobs.

Zoom’s return to office appears to be less strict, based on Yuan’s comments, as he directed employees who have issues with the policy to apply for exceptions with the heads of their departments. Meanwhile, Amazon prefers that such exceptions be rare.

Zoom did not respond to a comment request.

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