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Zoom staffers are furious as remote work declared dead in ironic twist of fate

Office buildings are seen in downtown San Francisco on Nov. 1, 2022. | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

The company that once carried the work-from-home movement on its back has admitted defeat. 

Zoom recently announced its new “structured hybrid approach,” requiring employees to return to the office at least part-time.

Now, some of its employees are pissed, according to comments from the popular tech community app Blind, which verifies users through their work emails but allows them to post completely anonymously. 

Here’s a roundup of what Zoom employees are saying on Blind in reaction to the company’s hybrid-work requirement. 

An unplugged monitor sits on a desk inside office space at Codi, a San Francisco startup that helps link companies with short-term office space leases for a hybrid work world. | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

‘RTO or GTFO’ 

Blind users said that the return-to-office (called “RTO” by some) announcement was made by CEO Eric Yuan at an all-company Zoom meeting last week. The plans will apparently only apply to employees who live within 50 miles of a Zoom office. The company, founded in 2011, is headquartered in San Jose. 

“CEO basically said, ‘take it or leave the company’ in the meeting lol,” Blind user ZP2, who identified as a Zoom employee, wrote on Saturday. “The irony is you need to go to office but every meeting is via Zoom,” ZP2 added in another comment. 

“His reasoning for RTO was that he saw an intern working late at 10pm in the office and how it inspired him lmao I shit you not,” said user WAJQ86, who works at Zoom. 

“Sad thing is nearly everyone has been working hours like this to collaborate with China for several years now as a norm, precisely because they were remote and were able to make it work,” said user suduk, another self-identified Zoom employee. 

Other Blind users speculated whether the company’s return-to-office announcement was yet another chilling sign for the company and its finances, given its specialty in video conferencing. The company saw its shares skyrocket in 2020 as millions of users flocked to the service during pandemic lockdowns. Three years later, Zoom’s market value has tumbled by over $100 billion

“Companies who have forced RTO such as Starbucks, Snap and T-Mobile have seen mass attrition,” said Adobe employee and Blind user AHYI86. “They are finding it difficult to hire despite the recession looming. They find hiring experienced talent difficult. Amazon has taken the first foot and I believe they will revert the policy soon.” 

“If I was a Zoom stockholder, I'd sell everything if I heard this,” said Blind user GOOG SIMP, a VMware employee. “Doesn’t even believe in their own product.” 

Still, many Blind users—notably mostly identifying as non-Zoom employees—appeared to advocate for in-office work. 

A pedestrian walks across the street on Montgomery Street and Sutter Street in the Financial District in San Francisco.
A pedestrian walks by Montgomery and Sutter streets in San Francisco's Financial District on June 26, 2023. | Source: Isaac Ceja/The Standard

“Nice offices help, but we’ve been hybrid for a while now and see the clear benefits it has,” said Apple employee Mr Hat. “Especially for people that were hired during Covid, who were completely lost and struggling. Almost all of them are now more engaged and productive.” 

“No, that is not the point of Zoom,” said user ITnB73, who described themselves as a JPMorgan employee. “The point of Zoom is that one can join a meeting from anywhere, not work from anywhere. Meetings [are a subset of] Work.” 

Remote Work King Waves the White Flag

The video-conferencing company’s new in-office announcement might sound a smidge ironic, given its position providing the quintessential remote-work tool.

“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 Zoom spokesperson said in a statement. “We’ll continue to leverage the entire Zoom platform to keep our employees and dispersed teams connected and working efficiently.” 

Zoom joins scores of other tech giants that have recently announced the return of in-office work. Apple, Amazon and Google employees all work hybrid schedules, while finance giants Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan mandate on-site work five days a week for management-level employees. 

Pedestrians walk on Montgomery and Sutter streets in San Francisco's Financial District on June 26, 2023. | Source: Isaac Ceja/The Standard

READ MORE: Local Startups Are Returning to the Office. Will They Save Downtown?

Zoom, meanwhile, may face more pushback than just a few angry Blind posts. 

When Amazon started calling workers back to the office in May, hundreds of corporate employees staged a walkout citing a "lack of trust" in leadership. The news came just a few months after Amazon shed thousands more workers from its ranks

Zoom nevertheless says the company will continue to “hire the best talent, regardless of location.” 

Company CEO Yuan made waves in February after Zoom laid off roughly 1,300 workers by saying he’d take a 98% pay cut, citing his responsibility for growing the company too fast during the pandemic.