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Zoom CEO Eric Yuan Believes In Big Offices, Pans Hub-And-Spoke Model

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan — complete with a classic Zoom virtual background — on the Walker & Dunlop weekly webinar

For some members of the real estate industry, the ascendance of Zoom must look like a sign of the apocalypse.

The now-ubiquitous videoconferencing software has let companies stay productive even divorced from their office spaces, and the evidence is mounting that big companies are rethinking whether they need offices at all.

But Zoom CEO Eric Yuan isn’t trying to end the era of the office. He’s not even trying to shrink the typical office footprint. On Wednesday’s Walker Webcast, hosted by Walker & Dunlop, Yuan said he no longer believes that a hub-and-spoke office model makes sense for the current crisis, or even in a post-pandemic world.

“In the hybrid model, where you might spend three days a week in the office and a few days at home for smaller offices for 10 to 12 employees, I don’t think that’s critically important,” Yuan told Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker. “If you’re only going into the office two days in a week, you want to have a reason to go in, whether it’s a celebration or an all-hands meeting, and you’ll want a big office to accommodate that.”

Yuan’s belief in the power of corporate culture and the office may come as a surprise, considering how he has created a company that fosters remote collaboration — and which has done so well in the era of social distancing. On Tuesday, Zoom’s stock surged 40% following a blowout Q2 earnings call. 

While he said the health and happiness of his employees always come first, Yuan said that he does hope his team can return to the office. As a software engineer by training, Yuan expressed a particular nostalgia for brainstorming sessions with other engineers, which he said resulted in many of the best ideas Zoom has had so far. 

Yuan admitted that even he gets tired of Zoom calls. Though he participates in around a dozen Zoom calls per day, he encouraged remote workers to avoid scheduling meetings back to back and to take breaks.

“Meeting fatigue is very common,” Yuan said. “There may not be a big productivity loss in working from home, but there are concerns about anxiety and depression. It’s very important to deal with that activity, and be proactive about keeping the level of meetings sustainable.”

Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker

Yuan also suggested that Zoom users build in time to connect with quarantined colleagues about their lives, their families and their mental health. These sorts of remote conversations can mimic the chance interactions and free-form chats that lead to the most creative collaboration when employees work in an office together.

For many in real estate, even the advent of videoconferencing has been a leap in technology, but Yuan has ambitions to bring the business world much further in its adoption of collaboration technology. He described a future where business leaders could meet over Zoom, feel the grip of a handshake and even smell the aroma of a morning cup of coffee.

“Misunderstandings create so many of the problems in the corporate world and beyond,” Yuan said. “We believe someday in the future, conferencing with Zoom will be better than face-to-face.”

Despite these plans for futuristic functionalities, which he said would likely take another 20 or 25 years to catch on, Yuan said he focuses most on simplicity. Especially in the modern world, reducing the number of extraneous buttons and clicking needed to launch a software can be the difference between a satisfied customer and one who will never use the product again.

“Every company thinks about how to simplify on day one,” Yuan said. “But very soon the frictionless experience is secondary. They add more and more features and three or four years later, it’s not recognizable. Simplicity is the key to productivity, to finding problems earlier and to end-user happiness.”

Next Wednesday, Willy will host Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, as well as decorated Olympian swimmer Katie Ledecky. Register here for the event.

This feature was produced in collaboration between the Bisnow Branded Content Studio and Walker & Dunlop. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.