Anyone else see the business news headline: ‘Zoom orders workers back to the office’?
The story of this tech company pulling back on remote working was not only a surprising shift but it spoke volumes about brave leadership.
It is staggering that the business that became synonymous with virtual meetings during the global pandemic, and enabled many to survive and thrive, was delivering a message that on the surface was at odds with its brands very purpose.
But it also immensely impressive, isn’t it? Consider the courage embedded in that leadership choice. Zoom – the very brand that seeks to redefine the way we communicate and collaborate in order to shape the future of how we work, appears to be executing a remarkable about-face on the notion that remote work has become the standard.
Wow. A u-turn on a brand message is brave leadership in action.
Examples of visionary leadership on this scale are not often seen, so what caused Zoom’s courageous move? What possible benefits will it bring to both the company and its employees that justify its new stance?
The Pivot to Remote Work
We all know that when the world was thrust into the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses worldwide scrambled to adapt to the ‘new normal.’ Remote work emerged as the saving grace, it was what kept operations afloat and teams connected, and that was only possible with reliable video conferencing platforms.
Zoom played an instrumental role in enabling this transition for most businesses. It allowed teams to communicate relatively seamlessly across distances, proving that even in the face of adversity, innovation could reshape the way we work. Its success led to a shift in the future work landscape.
Zoom was a key factor in enabling remote working to become desirable and popular. Many businesses listened to employees, weighed up the financial savings and swiftly closed offices to move to a remote working model.
But years after the initial restrictions of the pandemic, the real impact of only operating as a remote working business is presenting its own unique challenges to productivity and growth. Zoom is not alone in experiencing these challenges.
Making the decision to encourage their employees to transition back to office working sets it apart though. It might seem surprising to some, but the leadership decision clearly underlines the company’s commitment to innovation and its recognition of the value of in-person interactions.
The Driving Force For Change
Zoom’s decision to reintroduce office work stems from a belief that true brilliance often emerges from face-to-face interactions. It recognises that while virtual meetings have their merits, the power of spontaneous brainstorming sessions, impromptu conversations, and the camaraderie built in face-to-face chats cannot be underestimated.
By encouraging employees to return to the office, Zoom is not simply reverting to the pre-pandemic norm. It is harnessing the lessons of remote work and integrating them into a hybrid model that optimises the strengths of both worlds. That is bold leadership in action.
The benefits of remote working, no longer outweigh the benefits that face-to-face collaboration provides to a business that is driven by innovation.
At DCo, our client base enabled us to see and hear the challenges of remote, hybrid and site based working across different sectors. We witnessed businesses in all sectors pivot to find their ‘new normal’ and reach out to us for support that could shift with them.
We know first-hand therefore, that Zoom is not alone in its belief that a return to the office will bring about improvements for the business. However, despite there being very many businesses for whom this would not be a counter-brand message, most have yet to demonstrate the same bold leadership in pushing that message forward. Some businesses are suffering huge challenges as a result of keeping the new status quo in the belief that it will help them to retain employees.
Lately we have seen an increase in organisations asking us for support in developing their leaders to be able to demonstrate integrity. A great part of that is about leaders being accountable, facing resistance, and even standing alone at times. It is being consistent, being unswerving, being candid and being courageous.
Zoom’s change of directive to get back to face-to-face working demonstrates just such integrity of leadership. The decision is courageous and is also magnified by the fact that they sell virtual conferencing as a business solution.
So it begs the question, what are the gains to be made that matter so much to their wider business culture and performance?
- Enhanced Collaboration: Zoom’s return to office working policy promotes better collaboration. They need to foster an environment that is conducive to organic idea sharing and problem-solving. The synergy that arises when diverse minds come together in person can lead to ground-breaking innovations that might not have been possible in virtual settings alone.
- Cultivating Company Culture: The physical office space serves as a powerful tool for cultivating and preserving a strong company culture. Shared experiences and impromptu interactions are the building blocks of a vibrant corporate identity and they also contribute to employee satisfaction and loyalty.
- Mentorship and Learning Opportunities: Face-to-face working environments create an invaluable platform for mentoring and skill development. New employees benefit from hands-on guidance and experienced employees can impart wisdom and expertise more effectively.
Of course Zoom know that remote working has its benefits as well, but what it lacks is significant enough to have had an unacceptable impact on their business performance, and they have been brave enough to call it out for what it is.
Above all, Zoom’s decision to encourage employees to return to office working is a business taking leadership seriously.
Whatever the technological branding was before this return to the office message, it is now humanised. Nobody would argue with the fact that people within a business are what drive it forward or hold it back. Zoom is therefore publicly prioritising the talent and ability of its people.
Getting employees to come back to the office shows Zoom’s commitment to innovation, and that as a company its brilliance in the field will only thrive through face-to-face interactions among their employees.
If you require support in demonstrating integrity of leadership get in touch