back to article Zoom CEO reportedly tells staff: Workers can't build trust or collaborate... on Zoom

Zoom subscribers have some food for thought after the company's CEO inadvertently kicked a massive hole in the entire premise of its flagship product. If the contents of a leaked all-hands meeting that found its way to Insider are to be believed, Eric Yuan should perhaps have more faith in the very purpose of Zoom as a remote …

  1. aerogems Silver badge
    FAIL

    Just... Wow

    There's tone deaf and then there's what that guy said.

    If I were head of a paying customer of Zoom, I'd probably be directing my CTO to start looking at alternatives like WebEx or even just the free Teams you may already have as a result of your Office license.

    If I were a Zoom board member, I'd be thinking maybe it's time for a new CEO.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just... Wow

      Came here to say the same thing. Hope he has his resume dusted off because if I were Microsoft, WebEx, Glance, or any of the other screen sharing companies out there I'd be running some advertising right now...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just... Wow

      He needs to search for "Doing a Ratner" before he opens his mouth again. Possibly too late though.

      1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        Re: Just... Wow

        Ah yes, the untimely honesty approach. I remember the event and I don't think the public would have crucified Ratner in the same way the financial gurus did.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Just... Wow

      This isn't just tone deaf, it's more like lobotomy through the ear canal.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just... Wow

      If I were head of a paying customer of Zoom, I'd probably be directing my CTO to start looking at alternatives like WebEx or even just the free Teams you may already have as a result of your Office license.

      I don't think he's not saying that Zooms product is the problem he's saying the whole damn concept is the problem. It doesn't who's package you use remote meeting just don't produce the same sort of interactions as physical meetings. They are a hell of a lot better than not meeting. They're better than just chatting on the phone but they aren't a substitute for being there in the same room as real people. I've worked remotely using various of these tools for 20 years and you just never build the same sort of relationship as you do with people you've physically met. A combination occasional physical meetings with lots of virtual stuff seems to work quite well. The difference between collaborations with people who've met and who've only ever interacted virtual is usually pretty obvious. In virtual meetings I can almost always tell who have actual met each other from those that have only ever interacted across the net.

      Business love virtual meetings because they are cheap. The problem with this that typically said business people have a very blinkered view of the meaning of the word cheap. It's the old joke about knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

      I love the fact that these technologies save me spending my life on aeroplanes and living out of a suitcase in a hotel but I'm not convinced they are a real alternative to real life.

      1. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

        Re: Just... Wow

        "remote meeting just don't produce the same sort of interactions as physical meetings"

        Nonsense, I've worked on a remote team long before the pandemic. 3 people each separated by 1000 miles. We also have an IP Operations team stretched across the entire US, 1 person in each office. We make it work!

        It's not about the location or form of meeting, it's about the people. If they can't work and communicate remotely, they are not doing it in the office without micromanaging.

        It's really about the empty real estate they are paying big money for!

        1. Big_Boomer Silver badge

          Re: Just... Wow

          "remote meeting just don't produce the same sort of interactions as physical meetings"

          I'm with Cliff. This is utter bollox spread by people who are incapable of developing relationships without a physical presence. I have several excellent personal/professional relationships with people I have never met physically. My team is spread across Europe & USA and I also have a couple of Mentees that I have never met in person, but I have taken the time to get to know them personally rather than only dealing with them on a professional level. Yes, WFH requires a different mindset and way of working but just because **YOU** can't do something does not mean that it's not possible. You can have a Zoom/Teams video call or even just a voice only phone call with someone and have a personal discussion as well as a professional one. If fact most of my internal calls involve non-work related discussions as well as not directly relevant work discussions AND directly relevant to the immediate issue discussions. All that the lack of physical presence removes is some body language but that can be compensated for by using video if you feel you need that. The advantages of remote discussions are that people with BO become tolerable and people who spend the entire meeting sniffing, coughing and sneezing can be muted and cannot give me their lergy.

          Non-physical meetings and discussions are not better or worse than physical ones, just different.

          1. My-Handle

            Re: Just... Wow

            "...spread by people who are incapable of developing relationships without a physical presence"

            I know that you intended this as an insult, but the sad fact is that such people exist. I find it exceptionally difficult to develop any kind of substantial relationship with a person without meeting physically.

            "...but just because **YOU** can't do something does not mean that it's not possible"

            And just because you can do something doesn't mean that everyone else should have to.

            My opinion on this matter (detailed in previous posts) is that I personally prefer hybrid working. Ideally people should have the option to choose what works for them and for the job. I think this technology is a useful tool, but it isn't a fix-all. As with a lot of things in life, this is a situation with a lot of nuance to it and sweeping dictats or declarations from either side don't really help things.

            1. Ignazio

              Re: Just... Wow

              "has to"

              You said it. Yet in your first comment you say it isn't possible to work well and so the CEO is right in saying everyone has to be in the office.

      2. aerogems Silver badge

        Re: Just... Wow

        There's a difference between saying, "Our flagship product sucks and here's what we need to improve about it" and what this guy said. The former is constructive criticism, the latter is saying that your entire business model is fundamentally broken.

        1. flayman Bronze badge

          Re: Just... Wow

          He says nothing of the sort. He says nothing about the effectiveness of Zoom. These are separate topics.

    5. Twilight

      Re: Just... Wow

      MS Teams is never the answer regardless of the question. We primarily use Zoom and Slack at work and, while they could be better, at least not everyone tries to avoid them if at all possible (which is what happens with Teams).

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Why do I read this and keep thinking "Ratner"?

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Pint

      Drat! You beat me to it

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Feel free to join it.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      I thought "Stephen Elop"

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        I suppose it depends on your nationality.

    3. Arctic fox
      Meh

      To be honest my first thought when reading this article was:

      Elon Musk.

  3. myxiplx2

    Context is everything

    I suspect his words may be taken out of context here. As a productivity, remote work and disaster recovery tool, Zoom is awesome, and the benefits became very apparent during the pandemic.

    But he's 100% correct that it comes at a cost to employee onboarding, and to spontaneous conversations and innovation around the office.

    Programmers use "talk to the duck" as a proven problem solving tool. Quick conversations around the office have huge value for building team spirit, solving problems, and fostering creativity.

    The challenge a CEO faces is how do you balance both. How do you take advantage of the employee benefits from remote work, and the productivity gains in focus time, but also foster a healthy atmosphere around the office.

    My instinct on this is that a middle ground is likely the best approach, with a couple of "office" days a week, and employees encouraged to be in the office more often than not on those days.

    1. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: Context is everything

      You're just expressing your personal opinion, so I won't jump on you or anything for it, but I do disagree.

      I started a job during the whole lockdown period and then maybe half-way through the contract they started doing the whole hybrid thing. Considering the person I worked with the most was still several hundred miles away it changed basically nothing there, and even among those I worked with on a less regular basis, even though they were probably within 20ft of me, we still primarily communicated via Slack. There were the occasional discussions on the way to/from conference rooms, but honestly most of it was stuff I'd classify as "nice to know, but not really necessary."

      There were a couple of times where I was doing some VBA work and one of my coworkers would occasionally stop by my desk to be a sounding board, but that technically wasn't part of my job. More like something I was forced to do in order to actually do my job because the company was too cheap to give us the proper tools and/or enough bodies to handle the workload. I honestly cannot think of a single time where I have ever learned something that was in any way vital to my job having random conversations with coworkers in the office. Sometimes training is a little better in person, and it can be nice to be able to put a face to a name and voice, but these are again "nice to have" type things and not in any way necessary.

      1. Code For Broke

        Re: Context is everything

        Thanks for contributing Elon.

        P.S. "VBA work"? Visual Basic for Applications?

        1. aerogems Silver badge

          Re: Context is everything

          Indeed, Visual Basic for Applications. A shit solution to be sure, but better than the alternative of doing everything by hand. Also literally the only even remotely viable solution we had, and probably only because the IT department was too lazy to go in and make sure it wasn't part of the standard image.

          1. My-Handle

            Re: Context is everything

            Mention of VBA these days gives me a simultaniuous hit of nostalgia and a faint sense of dread.

            It was actually how I first got into IT, because of exactly the situation you mentioned in our company. IT / those higher up wouldn't grant the right tools to those who needed them, so I ended up using VBA to automate a whole bunch of processes for a team that was badly overworked and under-resourced. Worked my way up from there.

      2. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: Context is everything

        "I honestly cannot think of a single time where I have ever learned something that was in any way vital to my job having random conversations with coworkers in the office. "

        I found the opposite to be true. Sometimes I picked up valuable tips that I could use and vice-versa. When you're a member of a small group of highly skilled techies there is often valuable information to be learned from each other and that often comes from random unstructured conversations, even when you are all working on different projects.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Context is everything

          We have a developer group chat for that. Someone asks a question, someone will know the answer. And there's far more chance of getting an answer than hanging round the water cooler.

          And thanks to the group chat we also have a record of common problems and solutions (or we would if Teams were any good at searching).

        2. NeilPost

          Re: Context is everything

          Random unstructured conversations …. yea, on Zoom.

        3. My-Handle

          Re: Context is everything

          As a website developer, I worked within earshot of the customer services supervisor. A couple of times I overheard her either fielding several unusual calls in quick succession, indicating a recurring problem, or even just one customer with a very unusual problem that I realised was rooted in the website's code base. In such situations I could give her a subtle heads-up over IM and get to work on the problem sharpish. In the absence of that rather organic, unofficial channel of information, she'd not have realised that there was a consistent problem for much longer. She'd then have had to raise it through the ticket system or emailed someone, which would have taken longer.

          That particular employer relied rather heavily on these kinds of interactions. The main method of moving information around the office was on the grapevine, rather through official channels or processes. I hope that's a problem they've managed to get a handle on by now.

      3. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        Re: Context is everything

        I keep reading these sort of comments on elReg and keep thinking aren't IT workers lucky, narcissistic and self contained. Lucky because their job doesn't requite them to genuinely interact with others. Narcissistic because they're looking only at themselves and sod the rest of the world or anyone who actually produces something tangible (say a car, a tonne of steel or the ore to make it or a beetroot or other foodstuff) ie the stuff without which there would be no need for IT at all. Self contained because they live in their own little world and generally don't step out of it at least 9 to 5.

        Let the downvotes and flagellation begin.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Context is everything

          sod the rest of the world or anyone who actually produces something tangible ie the stuff <s?without which there would be no need for IT at all</s> which, without IT wouldn't be produced at all.

          FTFY

          I used to reckon that I had a better grasp than at least some of the management about the implications of their ideas on various parts of the business because IT was threaded through multiple departments. e.g. Marketing want to sell direct rather than through distributors - have they told accounts who'll have to handle more and smaller payments and looked at the implications for staffing and costs?

        2. ChrisC Silver badge

          Re: Context is everything

          Define "produces something tangible"...

          Becaise, if you're referring solely to the factory/production line workers involved in the hands-on work of *building* the finished product, maintaining the production lines etc., then it's bloody obvious that they need to be physically present to do that

          OTOH, before you can even get to that stage, you first have to *design* the thing you're asking your production team to build, and all of THAT work is every bit as integral to the overall ability of a company to produce tangible things as the work done on the production line itself. So if you're OK to just dismiss the hard work done by all the R&D teams (much of which CAN be done successfully without the need to put in a personal appearance at a specific workplace just for the sake of being seen) in getting to the point where you can hit the big GO button and start churning out those tangible things, then yeah, you're absolutely right.

          However, speaking as one of those R&D team members who's spent the past quarter century designing tangible products sold all over the world, who managed to continue doing that just fine thank you very much throughout the crazy pandemic years of fulltime WFH edicts, and who now very much appreciates the ability to continue WFH on at least a hybrid basis due to the genuine benefits it provides me in being able to do my job effectively, I most assuredly consider what you've just written to be rather disrespectful to WFHers, and a rather dinosaur-like take on the WFH revolution generally.

      4. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

        Re: Context is everything

        There is a company office 20 minutes from my home, that I rarely go anymore. Because nothing changes for me as all my coworkers are 1000 miles away. The only thing that happened in the office is people there will interrupt me asking for PC help (I have not touched a corporate PC in YEARS) and I have to tell them "call the service desk"!

        SO being in the office is more of a productivity killer for me.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Context is everything

      with a couple of "office" days a week, and employees encouraged to be in the office more often than not on those days.

      The employees have discovered that work without commuting is possible. They're now going to regard those office days as punishment. It would be interesting if those in favour of the office would tell us how long their commute is and what the conditions are like. I've long believed that those who think public transport is a good way to commute live close to a bus or train route that also passes close to their place of work with no need to change.

      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: Context is everything

        "public transport"

        When I used to commute to Nottingham via public transport it used to take nearly two hours to get there: 20 minute walk then wait 5-15 minutes for the train then wait 5-20 minutes for the bus then ten minute walk.

        Via car it got it down to a hour. Bought a motorbike and got it down to 30 minutes.

        1. sabroni Silver badge

          Re: Bought a motorbike and got it down to 30 minutes.

          Try homeworking, get it down to 0.

        2. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

          Re: Context is everything

          Keep on paying the commuter tax - im sure when your 70 you will be happy knowing you wasted 5 years of your life commuting...

          did i mention you got paid zero for it ?

      2. that one in the corner Silver badge

        Re: Context is everything

        > I've long believed that those who think public transport is a good way to commute live close to a bus or train route that also passes close to their place of work with no need to change.

        Before moving counties and gaining a 35 mile each way commute up the motorway, I was happily commuting by bus (and didn't even own a car until the last couple of years of bus-riding; didn't feel the need[1]). The first job's route required one change and only a five minute walk at each end, the next job required a 15 minute walk and two changes (the middle bus being a city-to-city express) and so it went on.The best case was no bus needed, just a 20 minute walk (I have absolutely no ability on a pushbike, before that gets suggested).

        Aside from when doing the walking bits (which helped keep me a lot slimmer than now), read a lot of novels over those years.

        Would I continue to do the same nowadays? Honestly: the village gets so few connections a day that it'd be a right palaver, so no. But if the service was as good as it used to be, even here, then probably: it'd be nice to read more novels again, one those days when one had to go in.

        [1] then again, the train service used to be a lot cheaper so even long trips were viable without a car.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Context is everything

          "the next job required a 15 minute walk and two changes (the middle bus being a city-to-city express)"

          I once looked at the timings for a 3 stage commute like that. It meant leaving home at about 6:25 am to get to the client site a tad after 9:00 am. The first step took 10 minutes longer than it used to do because the bus has been re-routed to amalgamate 2 routes. There was then a 40 minute wait to change buses. The other change had a 4 minute gap, easily eroded by the vagaries of an over-crowded motorway and weather conditions delaying the "express". Miss that 3rd bus and it was another 15 minute delay. The direct route was about 25 miles, 40 - 45min by car. I never got round to working out how long the return would have taken.

          1. Norman Nescio Silver badge

            Re: Context is everything

            Jobseeker's Allowance regulations in the UK regard a 90-minute commute each way as the limit.

            https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/378/regulation/14/2022-11-20?view=plain

            A work search requirement and a work availability requirement must be limited to work that is in a location which would normally take the claimant—

            (a)a maximum of one hour and 30 minutes to travel from home to the location; and

            (b)a maximum of one hour and 30 minutes to travel from the location to home.

            There's a lot of room for interpretation in that regulation, but you won't get any official sympathy in the UK if your commute takes 90 minutes or less each way.

          2. Ken Shabby

            Re: Context is everything

            I used to commute, for about 12 years, 1 hour each way, via a very reliable bus service, until they axed the service and then the same time by car (the bus lanes, etc, but often I was the only passenger, the cost though was less than the toll). They closed that office and we were moved, to 100 yards from where I live, who knew? I can see the office from my bedroom. I now walk to work and we are mandated to be there 3 days per week, Going back in has some people feeling punished, they have arranged their lives over working from home and they now have to re-arrange all that and have travel times of at least an hour each way.

            For me, hybrid works, one better than the other? Differences yes, but on balance about the same, The same people I interact with in person, I do the same via Slack and Webex. All customer stuff is mostly international anyway, as is company stuff (given my timezone and other locations around the world).

            This has to be a follow-the-money, lease, investment, and tax write-off, fair enough, but why not just tell us that, rather than some nebulous verbiage? Amazing how every other fad is embraced because that was the old way of doing things,

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Context is everything

        "I've long believed that those who think public transport is a good way to commute live close to a bus or train route that also passes close to their place of work with no need to change."

        And even for those people, let alone everyone with more complex public transport routes, how much more does it cost travelling in only 2 or 3 days per week? Most "season tickets", whether annual, monthly or weekly only become viable if you travel 4 or 5 days per week so that leave everyone paying the normal, everyday one-off return prices for 1,2 or 3 days per week, 3 days probably being the worst since you are paying almost or even as much as a weekly 5 day travel pass, which really sticks in the craw. Public transport needs to buck up and come up with new pricing schemes based on number of journeys taken rather than frequency of journeys. Why can't I buy 20 return trips at a discount, in advance, instead of only being allowed to buy a "1 month pass", at the same price, and "lose" any days I don't travel into the office?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Context is everything

          Some of what you propose exists in some places. Depends on jurisdiction.

          Contact your local transit authority for info on making changes you would like to see. If enough people agree with you, the change might be made. Squeaky wheel and all that.

        2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: Context is everything

          The Germans have taken the opposite approach and introduced a country-wide local transport ticket for fifty euros a month. (Though there is still debate as to how long it will last; during the pandemic it was a tenner a month and people loved it, but of course you still pay for it somehow!)

          If I travel into Berlin from my near-Potsdam home as little as twice a week, I'm already in front... at the moment that works for me; other times it might not. But it covers the buses, trams, S-bahn, U-bahn, Regio services... It might even cover the foot-ferry from Glienecke to Wannsee. I must find out one day.

          But the major result is that even if the journeys are not as convenient as driving (driving into Berlin _isn't_ convenient, and is illegal with one of my vehicles) I find that I will select public transport as a first choice, and I'm not the only one.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Context is everything

            That makes a great deal of sense. I suspect many would go for that travel pass even if it doesn't save them money simply for the huge convenience of pretty much all public transport using a single travel pass.

          2. Ali Dodd
            Coat

            Re: Context is everything

            don't the German pay for their country-wide local transport ticket by taking profits from running UK railways badly?

            On a serious note the studies that say making public transport free (or seriously cheap) reduces poverty, reduces car travel massively and increases productivity and general population health so the country benefits even monetarily way more than it costs?

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Context is everything

          Los Angeles Metro started this in July: https://www.metro.net/about/farecapping/. They’ve eliminated weekly and monthly passes in favor of fare capping . “You will never pay more than $5 in a day or $18 within seven days. Once you reach the 1-Day or 7-Day fare cap, rides are FREE!”

          1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

            Re: Context is everything

            OH yes typical american, why not just make public transport free ?

            Oh thats right i forgot the ceo has to pretend they are making record profits instead of just providing a service for the beenfit of the public.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Context is everything

      >> But he's 100% correct that it comes at a cost to employee onboarding, and to spontaneous conversations and innovation around the office.

      Only if the processes haven't evolved to a remote work environment. Which is a leadership failure.

      And seriously, "innovation around the office"? Is that even a thing, other than improving on your performative working skills (i.e., feigning work so you look busy while actually doing nothing of value to the company)?

      >> Programmers use "talk to the duck" as a proven problem solving tool. Quick conversations around the office have huge value for building team spirit, solving problems, and fostering creativity.

      Great, here we do this online via Google Meet and Chat, and it works great. And without bothering anyone who doesn't want to be involved, which is exactly what happened when we were still in the office.

      >> The challenge a CEO faces is how do you balance both. How do you take advantage of the employee benefits from remote work, and the productivity gains in focus time, but also foster a healthy atmosphere around the office.

      What need is there to foster "a healthy atmosphere around the office" when people simply don't want and don't really need to be there? And if you really believe the CEO does this because he worries for the wellbeing of his workers then I have a nice selection of bridges you might want to buy. Because it's nonsense.

      The CEO doesn't give a damn about "office culture", whatever that means. What he's worried is that the very expensive commercial real estate his company signed into long-term leases for is impacting his bottom line, and if the office space isn't utilized by at least a certain degree then he can't use tax write-offs for the lease costs. Office space is expensive, and leases often run 10 years (and sometimes longer), so these are often Millions of $ we're talking about here.

      This is the challenge the CEO faces, how to show sufficient utilization so the business can write off the leasing costs. He couldn't care less about a "healthy atmosphere around the office", that's not his level of problem anyways.

      >> My instinct on this is that a middle ground is likely the best approach, with a couple of "office" days a week, and employees encouraged to be in the office more often than not on those days.

      Sounds more like indecisiveness and an inability to use the large body of evidence we now have about remote working to adapt to a changing work culture.

      And businesses around the world are already finding out that the insistence of in-office work costs them access to the very talent they so desperately need, leaving critical positions unfilled because the talent is no longer interested to waste hours for commuting into a dreadful space, often just to hold virtual meetings with people located elsewhere.

      The only people that are often ready and willing to go back into the office are usually the under-performers, i.e., the ones which require micromanagement to get anything done and which are more a drag on than a real benefit for the business.

      1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        Re: Context is everything

        Given Zoom has been arond for a few years ... can ANYONE name a single innovation from them. THey have thousands of staff, and they are one trick pony... So where is all this innovation they speak of ?

    4. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: and to spontaneous conversations and innovation around the office

      Ah, the non-measurable and completely anecdotal part of the argument.

      "It's difficult to organise a big project, let's put all the people in a big building and hope the right ones bump into each other."

    5. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      Re: Context is everything

      > But he's 100% correct that it comes at a cost to employee onboarding, and to spontaneous conversations and innovation around the office.

      Way to go with the buzz words, and for bonus points b ullshit claims.

      What a load of bullshit, since when did ceos listen to the average bum in the office. Zero, for starters most ceos almost never actually talk, have lunch or even know the names of anybody in the office.

      1. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

        Re: Context is everything

        and here he is, employee of the month, Carbon rod!

    6. Bebu Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Context is everything

      'Programmers use "talk to the duck"'

      Really? Explains a lot. Especially if the duck replies. :)

      Have to wonder what fetish management talk to.

      As for CEOs like this chap the mind boggles.

      These days I have a nasty suspicion that if one were to critically analyse any enterprise in terms of what it is intended to achieve against what it actually delivers and what activity is involved for the latter as against what would rationally be required for the former one would find a complete dog's breakfast.

      All mention of "culture" in these pronouncements I would guess have no scientific or rational basis - I doubt any anthropologist has ever been consulted.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Context is everything

      The head of the nail is "the challenge a CEO faces": it's not something many CEOs have had any training in, nor experienced from the worker side. Having risen to the top by proving you can manage people in a face-to-face environment, many CEOs are out of their comfort/competence zone. Most of management haven't yet learnt how to effectively manage remote workers, or have realised that, in many situations, a shift to remote working actually increased productivity (in the areas that actually mattered to the business, overall).

      The dawning realisation that many businesses don't need as many managers as they have is leading managers to protecting their positions.

      1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        Re: Context is everything

        Shhhhh, dont tell everyone tht CEOS do nothing all day. THey are a big fat tax thats all they are.

    8. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Context is everything

      That assumes everyone uses the same office.

      I have worked at a company where team I was on was on had members in the UK, a few mainland Europe sites and the USA.

      Current team, members spread over a variety of UK locations and 1 mainland Europe site.

      So, in neither of those situations will going into a physical office involve meeting / interacting with many team members as very few of the team within commute range of a particular office.

      Online meetings work OK, and the lack of "in person" meetups / casual knowledge share has a bonus side effect that more effort is made to document things as it means so many of those "casual conversation" questions become redundant as they are often about how to do X, why does Y happen etc (i.e. symptoms of poorly documented processes).

      So remote / distributed staff leading to far better documentation is a big win in my view as dismal documentation is far too common in companies & causes productivity issues.

    9. JoeCool Silver badge

      The Concept IS the product

      Zoom the product needs to be able to facilitate Remote work the concept. That is the mission of Zoom.

      So every problem case X that he makes should be phrased as

      "We need to make Zoom work for the case of X"

      Also, I have both types of meetings with Zoom - the boring linear ones with Management, and the quick free-flowing ones with people who understand each other.

      I don't need a CEO to decide for me how I should have a meeting.

      1. flayman Bronze badge

        Re: The Concept IS the product

        Zoom the product needs to be able to facilitate Remote work the concept. That is the mission of Zoom.

        It does.

        So every problem case X that he makes should be phrased as

        "We need to make Zoom work for the case of X"

        The CEO of Zoom is not talking about something that needs to be fixed within Zoom. Zoom cannot replace all types of human interaction. Real face to face human interaction is good.

        Also, I have both types of meetings with Zoom - the boring linear ones with Management, and the quick free-flowing ones with people who understand each other.

        Congratulations.

        I don't need a CEO to decide for me how I should have a meeting.

        It would be wise to follow company policy wherever you work.

  4. Filippo Silver badge

    >"We cannot debate each other well because everyone tends to be very friendly when you join a Zoom call."

    I'm sorry, being friendly is a problem now? So you can't be sufficiently nasty in a Zoom call? Is it because your spittle can't reach the other participants' face? Is the lack of spittle hampering productivity?

    >Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently lamented that the company's cloud unit offices were like a "ghost town" so he enforced a desk-sharing scheme to make the team feel the warm and fuzzies.

    Or you could sell the office, if it's useless? Oh, wait, you'd have to sell it at less than what you paid for it. And that will make a red line appear on the balance sheet. And that would be bad. It's much better to just waste thousands of people's time and leave the office's remaining value locked in the form of walls and furniture, rather than liquidate it and do something profitable with the money instead.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "do something profitable with the money instead"

      Or give it back to the investors if there isn't anything more profitable on the horizon.

      1. jake Silver badge

        "Or give it back to the investors"

        More likely, split it up between the Board members ... Daddy needs a new dacha.

    2. aerogems Silver badge

      Now that you mention it... there HAVE been times where I wished I could reach into my screen and just throttle someone, or give them a good smack. Like someone who asked me to do something for them. I do so, ask them if they have any issues. A week goes by, I ask them again, still no response. Then at the end of the second week I close the ticket for lack of response, only for the person to THEN decide to respond maybe 10 minutes after I close the ticket. If that doesn't warrant a good smack upside the head, I don't know what does.

      On a serious note, the research on this topic shows that the further removed you are from the other person, the less polite you will be. So, if the problem is a lack of civility, in-person meetings are the worst way to go.

      And as far as real-estate goes, my rather simple solution is the following. Figure out what jobs need to actually be done in-person, like physically putting things together. Then survey all the remaining employees and find out how many actually want to work in the office. Budget for maybe an extra 10% for new hires who may want to work in the office or people who will be in town for a few days and need a place to park their arse. Then you let go of all excess capacity.

      In a lot of places there's a shortage of housing and you have all these empty office buildings, so it wouldn't take too much work to turn them into apartments. Property owner gets money, there's an increase in housing, companies aren't paying for excess space for people to work in an office unnecessarily.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >> In a lot of places there's a shortage of housing and you have all these empty office buildings, so it wouldn't take too much work to turn them into apartments. Property owner gets money, there's an increase in housing, companies aren't paying for excess space for people to work in an office unnecessarily.

        That would certainly be useful for addressing the housing shortage. Unfortunately it would also mean that the owners of these buildings would have to invest into remodelling for residential use, only to see a lot less income (it might even be below of what they can get from tax write-offs), and then there often also are zoning laws which prohibit using commercial real estate for residential purposes.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "and then there often also are zoning laws which prohibit using commercial real estate for residential purposes."

          So, the local councils also need to move with the times and change, amend or create exceptions in zoning laws. It would likely bring housing prices down a bit in city/town centres and allow people to move back into the area, be nearer to the office for when they need to meet face to face and bring people in general back into the city/town centres. Or maybe even make it affordable for nurses, fire-fighters and police to love closer to work instead of commuting miles in from the outer reaches.

        2. aerogems Silver badge

          Not saying it's a perfect solution, but if more people start working from home then the property owners will still need to pay the loans they took out to buy them. If they aren't going to lease them out to corporate clients, they could get at least some income by converting them to residential apartments.

          1. jake Silver badge

            "they could get at least some income by converting them to residential apartments."

            That costs an arm and a leg in plumbing and re-working the electrical. Maybe two arms and two legs. To say nothing about putting firewalls and insulation between individual apartments. And adding enough windows to comply with fire regulations. HVAC. Ventilation (cooking & bath). Floor loading. Etc.

            Turns out that it's not (usually) cost effective. Depends on jurisdiction.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Their problem. They have a choice of two problems to solve: that one and getting no rent.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              "Turns out that it's not (usually) cost effective. Depends on jurisdiction."

              That's certainly true in the UK and again, as per my other post, laws need to change to suit the circumstances. Currently, it's often cheaper to demolish and replace a building than to refurbish or repurpose it. This is at least partly, possibly primarily due to VAT constraints. There's no VAT on building materials used for new constructions but there is VAT charged on materials used in refurbishment. It's probably a bit nuanced than that, and probably requires tax specialists be involved in projects to look for all the exceptions and loopholes just to do what really ought to be a relatively straight forward conversion project.

            3. aerogems Silver badge

              In the real world, I've found that generally you get to choose the least shitty option as opposed to the best option. So, property owners get to decide between eating those costs and then getting some income from renters or leaving the building empty and getting nothing. Both are shitty options, but one is arguably less shitty.

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "Unfortunately it would also mean that the owners of these buildings would have to invest into remodelling for residential use, only to see a lot less income (it might even be below of what they can get from tax write-offs), and then there often also are zoning laws which prohibit using commercial real estate for residential purposes."

          The income from residential would still be more than the zero from an empty property. Tax write-offs only become worth while it you have income on which you're paying tax.

          The local authorities are already complaining that lack of people going in to work means the small businesses which used to provide services for those people are closing down, they're losing the income from those property taxes and the whole place is starting to look run down. If they're against re-zoning they need to start joining the dots.

    3. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

      In America office space isn't owned, it's leased. You have a 5 year lease on a building (or floor) that's 90% empty every day. No, you are not getting out of that lease.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are any of these corporations uninstalling Teams/Zoom now?

    No. Therefore it's productive.

    Making you commute to the office to talk to the rest of your geographically dispersed team via Teams or Zoom is, however, utter stupidity. I guess the managerial class haven't evolved from Victorian workhouses (see photo).

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Are any of these corporations uninstalling Teams/Zoom now?

      Actually, yes.

      Several of my clients have banned zoom, teams, and other similar products, along with access to all social media. Makes it far, far too easy for humans to do what humans seem to do best ... fritter away the hours gossiping.

      All report productivity is up. Way up for the companies which fired the middle-management who most actively opposed the new routine.

      1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

        Re: Are any of these corporations uninstalling Teams/Zoom now?

        Odd, as my company found just the opposite - when people know they are being recorded on Teams and phones, there is no gossip - work only. In person work though, and the gossip flows like the mighty Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico. I like it, no gossip means no inane chatter I have zero interest in listening to.

  6. DS999 Silver badge

    As always, "it depends"

    I've consulted for over 20 years, and in the past 15 almost all of it has been 100% remote. I had a contract once where I worked for two years alongside people who I knew, and knew me, as just a voice on the phone or a name on an email. Never met in person or every had any idea each other looked like. Didn't matter as far as establishing trust, that was done by ideas and results.

    That said it is different having certain isolated people working this way while most others work in person versus having everyone work this way. Some people need that social factor of being around others, some people cannot (or will not) work effectively if there is no one "watching", as it were.

    I don't think either 100% remote or 100% in office is best, but how to make the decision of who gets to (or has to, depending on your view of it) work remote versus who comes into the office, and how often, is a very difficult nut to crack. I can see why companies don't want to make those hard decisions and are instead trying split the baby and make everyone come in three days a week.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: As always, "it depends"

      "some people cannot (or will not) work effectively if there is no one "watching", as it were."

      I don't employ people who need micro-managing. I have employees to make my life easier, not harder.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: As always, "it depends"

        That's a reasonable strategy to attempt (whether you do it successfully is another matter) when you own a business small enough to personally know all of your employees. It isn't feasible when your payroll gets into the thousands and beyond, no matter how much you try to make the management layers under you hire that way.

        I mean you could just as equally say you hire only people who are in the top 10% of performers. Lots of companies make that claim, but even the few who match those words with pay in the top 10% range don't come close in my experience.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: As always, "it depends"

          > I mean you could just as equally say you hire only people who are in the top 10% of performers. Lots of companies make that claim

          Always love coming across those claims - and the strange delusion that that could ever be true!

          Presumably the companies that publicly make those claims are intentionally looking for people who are equally as incompetent at simple statistics.

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: As always, "it depends"

            It is theoretically possible to do, at least for job roles where it would be reasonably possible to measure individual performance. But almost all companies who claim this offer pay that's "industry average" at best so even if they could identify applicants that in the top 10% they wouldn't be able to land them.

    2. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      Re: As always, "it depends"

      If they cant get anything done by themselves, why are they employed in the first place ?

  7. HMcG

    Oh well, at least he has given all the competitors marketing departments plenty of new material for their next ad campaigns.

    1. Smirnov

      This could be difficult to exploit for Google, although Pichai was at least honest and admitted that RTO is really about showing use of the empty office buildings.

  8. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge
    Meh

    I'll give you cooperation and innovation...

    I have a voice that naturally carries. A lot. That's just how it is (*). A reverberating baritone. It's either that or down to a whisper that is a) incomprehensible and b) makes my throat hurt.

    When I'm in the office, and someone comes to me for some of that synergy and cooperation and innovative chattedy-chat, it will take a minute before the dirty looks start - on the other side of the building, courtesy of the abomination of open plan offices! Go to a meeting room? With those paper walls, it either does nothing, or you'll feel you're next to an obnoxious nightclub, where you hear nothing but a deep base droning.

    That's when I'm calm. If I get excited about something (or annoyed, but that almost never happens in all things IT, amirite?), my voice increases in volume and carries across several floors.

    Be glad I'm almost never in the office anymore!

    (*) back when I was in the military, I was sometimes roped in for leading drill and parade duty. My bellows would bring a tear of joy to Sergeant Fred Colon.

  9. Natalie Gritpants Jr

    What a great resignation letter

  10. ecofeco Silver badge

    LMAO!

    Bwhahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. ariels-again
    Terminator

    Missing the point of VC for many manglers

    This is important to understand. In many cases VC is not intended for you to use instead of going to the office. It is intended for you to use at home, after you're back from the office.

    I have worked places like that back when I was younger, smarter, and an idiot.

  12. sabroni Silver badge
    WTF?

    What is it with all the back to work bullshit?

    Planet not killing us quickly enough?

  13. Julian 8 Silver badge

    To me, trust is established when someone is capable of doing what is set / expected. So, being at meetings, having done whatever is needed in prep for the meeting, workshops, competing stories in time for a release, quality documentation. If someone can do that, I am not worried. If they constantly fail, then I start to distrust them (there are some mitigating circumstantes, but I am excluding those)

    I also feel that new starters and juniors are the worst affected. New starters can find it hard to join a team if members know each other and maybe a bit "clicky", but they can get over that but takes more time. It is a bit quicker if a new project starts as most people need to get to know each other first)

    Juniors are harder.

    If I am i an office with a junior, I can expect them to ask me or get my attention and I will get there as quick as I can. I may even call them over to show them something as ti is just quick and easy to do NOW. They will also overhear conversations and then ask more about a point or topic - great.

    WFH it is not quite so dynamic. We have no idea if the person is there or online (espeically if you have multiple client devices / VDI's so you appear as away), so they don't always try to get hold of you and I don't stop to show them things (though may do if I feel it is worth it in a weekly meeting) There is the lack of office conversations where they will pick things up.

    Finally, my company. I know the people in my division who are in my team, my immediate management and others I have worked with on projects. There are a number of people within my division I do not know, let alone from other divisions in my company who I have never clapped eyes on. Being in an office you at least start to recognise people, see them at coffee machines / shops and overhear somethig and strike a conversation - that is missing

    1. DugEBug

      I've been 100% remote for 4-years with two separate companies. Love it. However, I've got 40+ years of experience and can get right to work without delay. If I were a recent college grad, I think it would be quite difficult to integrate with the company and to be mentored remotely. It will be interesting to see how the newest generation of engineers are going to develop. I suspect it will be the subject of several PhD studies in the next couple of years...

    2. druck Silver badge

      WFH it is not quite so dynamic. We have no idea if the person is there or online (espeically if you have multiple client devices / VDI's so you appear as away), so they don't always try to get hold of you and I don't stop to show them things (though may do if I feel it is worth it in a weekly meeting) There is the lack of office conversations where they will pick things up.

      If you set up appropriate groups on slack or teams, the a team member with a question can ask on there. If its something simple the response will come straight back from whoever is around, if it's more complicated someone will offer to jump on a call in a few minutes when it's convenient and talk them through the problem. Very rarely it takes more than 10 minutes to get a response throughout the day and often in to the evening, and it's less of a distraction to those answering the questions than if they were physically interrupted at their desks in an office.

      1. jake Silver badge

        "and often in to the evening"

        I hope you're getting paid for those evening hours ...

        Many moons ago we were given pagers to carry "for emergencies". I turned mine on when I got to work, and off again when I left work. My reasoning was that I wasn't being paid when I was off work, therefor they had no right to try to contact me. Needless to say, management wasn't very happy with my interpretation. They called HR, to get me to see reason or to fire me. HR took my side (!!!). Long and short of it, everybody with a pager wound up with an extra dollar per hour for each and every hour we were required to be on call when otherwise off duty.

        A couple years later a few of us were presented with DynaTacs ... we all said "more money, please". This time, we were compensated $1.75/hr. For awhile there I was collecting for both the pager and the phone. It was quite lucrative, added up to a hair over $18,000/yr in mid '80s dollars. Fortunately Upper Management liked me more than they liked the mid-level idiot who ran our division ...

        Then Middle Management discovered email. Every single last one of us refused to use email out of hours because actually sitting down and typing was entirely too disruptive to our RealLife. That was the end of it ... until the Blackberry made email a telephone thing (yes, I know, there were attempts before the Crackberry, but RIM put the concept on the map, at least for the non-technically inclined). Thankfully, I was already out of the 9-5 loop by the time that happened.

        Daftest thing is that you idiots actually use YOUR OWN EQUIPMENT to do your company's business! WTF are you thinking? If they need you to check your email outside of working hours, Shirley they can bloody well pay for the gear required to do so, right? The entire BYOD thing boggles my mind ... how much money are corporations, world-wide, saving by forcing workers to pay for the privilege of doing their jobs?

        And then there is the actual meaning of "BYOD", to wit "Break Your Own Defenses". One wonders how many emails world-wide are being opened at home as I type that would get the user fired if he printed it out and tried to carry it out of his office at knocking-off time ...

        Suggestion: It's called a 9-5 for a reason. Treat it as such. Leave work at work, even if "work" is a company-issued laptop on your kitchen table. Close it after hours, and LEAVE IT CLOSED until after breakfast tomorrow. Your life will be a lot happier.

        /rant

        1. druck Silver badge

          I hope you're getting paid for those evening hours ...

          I'm only working into the evening because I've taken an hour or two during the day to go to the shops, or do something with the kids during the holidays - the benefits of flexible working from home.

          I'm actually doing the reverse of BYOD - TCDH Take the Company Device Home. I don't bother plugging it from all my monitors and use it remote in to my various bits of equipment to do stuff. Trouble is if I forget to change my availability status on the work laptop, people think I'm working all hours.

  14. -martin-

    Trust filters down from the top, it has to be mutual.

  15. flayman Bronze badge

    I suggest the author is missing the point

    The author quotes the CEO: "Trust is a foundation for everything. Without trust, we will be slow., " and then writes "So it is apparently impossible to collaborate on the collaboration platform?"

    No, this is a false dichotomoy - a non sequitur. Zoom and similar tools like Teams are very good at collobaration and are effective at solving remote working challenges. But Yuan is right. What he's talking about is not a challenge of remote working per se. It is a cultural challenge.

    The CEO of my company gave a town hall last year where he said something very similar. Hybrid working would be the new normal. Barring specific exceptions, everyone should be in their local office at least two days a week.

    He recognised that some people are more productive working from home and that remote meetings work well. Notwithstanding that, you lose out on some of the social benefits of office working, such as impromptu "water cooler" discussions and active mentoring. You lose cohesion. He was willing to trade some productivity loss for the perceived cultural gains. I agree. Others may disagree.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I suggest the author is missing the point

      Would he be prepare to put his the company's money where his mouth is? Pay commuting time as company time, pay commuting costs and pay for relocation for those who have moved out of commuting range?

      1. flayman Bronze badge

        Re: I suggest the author is missing the point

        I don't know what you mean by this. Cost of living has always been a factor in salary. Commuting time has never been company time. People trade commuting for where they can afford to live. Why should it be any different now? And to answer your question, I don't know, but I'll bet that he is willing to compromise. There are still some employees who fully work from home. They have worked that out.

  16. russmichaels

    Ignorance is bliss

    These ignorance and stupidity off this pussy and shines the comments is just shocking.

    It literally says at three start "only to recall employees living within 50 miles(!!!) back to the office this month for at least two days a week."

    2 days a week..... Not 5, not full time, just 2... And only those who live close.

    Because anyone with a brain knows full well that people need to actually interact with each other occasionally. Working remotely 100% of the time and never ever physically interacting with other humans is deteimental.

    Afaik zoom has never claimed that it can 100% replace all human interaction, not does the xto wanting stay to do this mean zoom doesn't show what it says on the box, which it clearly does.

    1. Citizen of Nowhere

      Re: Ignorance is bliss

      >These ignorance and stupidity off this pussy and shines the comments is just shocking.

      Ahem...

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Ignorance is bliss

      anyone with a brain knows...

      Your argument might have been more convincing had you cited anyone with a brain.

  17. Johnb89

    Extremists eh

    Just because Zoom et al can replace SOME meetings doesn't mean such tools are good for ALL interactions. That's it, that's the key, its easy to understand if one tries to do so just a little bit.

    Being absolutist about anything is wrong. Being absolutist about remote working being perfectly fine in ALL circumstances is silly at best.

  18. SEDT

    I see no paradox in what he has said or is doing. It stands to reason that actually being with your colleagues in person will lead to a deeper understanding of each other and thus, hopefully, improved results.

    What the boss of Zoom is doing here is instructive.

    His message is that Zoom works, and it can work even better when combined with some physical time together.

    Best of both worlds.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      It stands to reason that actually being with your colleagues in person will lead to a deeper understanding of each other

      Assuming the consequent.

      Care to try to make an argument that's not simply a logical fallacy?

  19. packetguy

    The fakest of fake news

    I see the illumilefti are still pushing the telecommuting myth. Just because Zoom’s CEO wants certain employees to come in from the demonstrably inefficient home work environs doesn’t mean that he’s French horning the Zoom product line. There are loads of useful uses for Zoom that aren’t telecombricking: webinars, demonstrations, inter-office meetings, customer confabs, help desk helping, just to namify a few. El Reg needs to get out of its gutter news mode and talk about real issues, or it’s going to be El Sludge.,

  20. Mike Friedman

    Astoundingly idiotic. But not a surprise.

    I've been working on remote software development teams for 3.5 years. And we've done just fine, thank you very much. My company has its problems, but they are very clear that we don't need an office to do our work, and they're RIGHT.

    There is an office if you want to go there (and I do occasionally, it's not far from my house) but it's not necessary to do the work.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      I've been working remotely for 24 years. It's never been a problem.

      I notice most of the claims in favor of in-person teamwork here simply assert that it's better, with no evidence or actual argumentation. They're just unsubstantiated opinion. Put up or shut up, kids.

  21. Ignazio

    "everyone tends to be very friendly when you join a Zoom call"

    Same way the royal family thinks UK smells of fresh paint and bunting. How many people pick a fight with the CEO of their company, face to face or remotely?

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