Zoom CEO raises eyebrows by saying people need to go back to the office

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan told staff an all-hands meeting earlier this month that he wants employees to return to in-person work because Zoom is making them too “friendly” and unable to build trust.

“Over the past several years, we’ve hired so many new ‘Zoomies’ that it’s really hard to build trust,” Mr Yuan says in the audio, which was obtained and first reported by Insider. “We cannot have a great conversation. We cannot debate each other well because everyone tends to be very friendly when you join a Zoom call.”

Mr Yuan’s thoughts were accompanied by action: On 3 August, Zoom instituted a new policy requiring employees who live within 50 miles of a physical Zoom office to report to work at least two days per week.

The return to the office policy at Zoom is striking considering that it was the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders that turned the platform from one few people had ever heard of to a part of everyday life for millions.

But Mr Yuan is not alone among senior executives at tech firms. Apple, Meta, and Amazon have all instituted return-to-work policies in recent months, angering employees who have enjoyed the increased flexibility afforded by work-from-home policies.

Since Covid-19 vaccines have facilitated the re-opening of the economy, workers and bosses in many sectors have clashed over the importance of in-person work and the ability of companies to exercise control over their employees whereabouts and schedules.

Some, like Zoom and a number of other tech companies, have adopted hybrid policies in which workers are required to come into the office on certain days of the week but are allowed to work from home on others. But even those companies have faced backlash from workers, many of whom were hired at a different stage of the pandemic when most or all work at their respective companies was being conducted remotely.

Mr Yuan’s comments, which were not meant for public consumption, may provide a measure of insight into how he and other top executives truly feel about Zoom and remote work more broadly — suggesting that it somehow limits innovation by not allowing for the sometimes uncomfortable kinds of interactions that can build trust.

Mr Yuan, who was born and raised in China, moved to Silicon Valley during the late 1990s. He founded Zoom more than a decade ago and became a multibillionaire during the pandemic.