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Zoom Abandons Fully Remote Work, Mandates Some Office Attendance

Zoom's return-to-office mandate follows similar moves from other tech companies, including Amazon, Meta and Google.

Zoom is the latest tech firm to extol the values of in-person collaboration as it calls employees back to the office.

The videoconferencing platform, whose name became a verb for digital meetings as the pandemic took hold, is now requiring workers who live within 50 miles of a Zoom office to show up there at least two days per week. 

"We believe that a structured hybrid approach — meaning employees that live near an office need to be onsite two days a week to interact with their teams — is most effective for Zoom," a spokesperson said in a statement to Insider

Zoom has around 7,500 employees after shedding 1,300 roles in February. Last January, it launched a return-to-office plan that allowed workers to choose between a hybrid, remote or in-person model. The firm said at the time that less than 2% of its workforce would come into the office every day, and an internal survey at the company found that more than half of Zoom employees preferred hybrid work

The California-based company, which also has a Denver office and locations in Europe and Asia, is the latest tech firm to try to eliminate fully remote work and bring employees back to the office. Google, Meta and Amazon now require three days of in-office work per week, and Salesforce has instituted different office attendance requirements depending on role. 

Nearly 200,000 tech employees face some sort of return-to-office mandate, according to a May report from JLL, and 600,000 employees across all industries are subject to stricter office attendance mandates. 

While the plans have faced pushback, firms are digging in. Around 2,000 Amazon employees staged a walkout in May to protest return-to-office policies, but the firm doubled down in July, telling employees located far from its largest offices that they would have to relocate to be closer to what it calls its main hubs: Seattle, New York, Nashville, Tennessee, and Arlington, Virginia. 

Corporate executives increasingly see top-down mandates about office attendance as one of the only ways to pull employees back after office redesigns meant to foster collaboration and prioritize amenities largely failed to entice workers. 

In a spring CBRE survey of 207 corporate real estate executives, 65% of respondents said they required employees to return to the office at least part of the time, more than double the 31% who said the same the year before.

“We've seen all kinds of different remedies, not sure any are working,” Ziegler Cooper Architects senior principal Scott Ziegler said at a National Association of Real Estate Editors conference in June. “CEOs need to get some huevos and tell their employees that they hired them to work 40 hours a week and get back to the office. I think they've been very timid.”

The push to bring employees back has had some success, but office use has plateaued. Weekly office occupancy averaged 50.2% of pre-pandemic figures in the middle of July, according to Kastle Systems’ Back to Work Barometer, but fell to 49.2% at the end of the month, a dip that Kastle analysts attributed to employees taking summer vacations. 

“If I were going to put it in baseball innings, I'd probably say that we're in the seventh inning kind of figuring out what that return to work and sort of hybrid reality looks like,” Amber Schiada, JLL's senior director and head of Americas work dynamics and industries research, said at the NAREE event. “You’ve got employees that have this expectation, you've got CEOs that are trying to figure out what is going to be the carrot that gets people back, and there isn't one size fits all.”