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Zoom signals the end of an era for the work-from-home phenomenon


Shapshak is editor-in-chief of and executive director of Scrolla.Africa

The poster child of remote working is telling staff to come back to the office, a sign that this period of our lives has come to an end.

The work-from-home phenomenon is officially over. 

Zoom, the video app we all used through Covid, has told its workers that they have to come into the office for a minimum of two days a week.

The rest of the world has been doing that for at least a year now. Long forgotten are our masks and physical distancing, although the habits (and fears) of the pandemic linger on.

“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 told Business Insider this week. 

“As a company, we are in a better position to use our own technologies, continue to innovate, and support our global customers.”

But its own staff have to return to work – albeit for only two days a week if they live within 80km of their office. It’s not surprising, really, as most businesses have insisted on workers coming into the office since last year. 

Some industries simply work better when people are in an office together, especially creative companies like advertising or marketing.

But Zoom became a verb in its own right – even if the software itself was buggy and had notoriously lax security in the beginning. 

South Africa’s own Parliament had some unwelcome guests in its various Zoom meetings, thankfully only pranksters and not hackers.

Zoom was the poster child of remote working. In 2020, as work-from-home (WFH) became an acronym, its shares increased six-fold. But within a year, as vaccines reached more and more countries and people, it lost $100-million in value.

Its software is much better now, and remains a flexible option for meetings – but it annoyingly prompts you to upgrade to the premium offering every time you open it. Zoom limits calls to 40 minutes, but only allows you to set up either 30 minutes or an hour. 

You may say it’s petty to point this out when they provide a free offering – but that is precisely the point. There are thousands of companies that offer this so-called “freemium” model, where most people use the free service and a small percentage pay for the premium.

But why does Zoom have to be so irritatingly pedantic about punting the upgrade to premium? Every single time you open it.

I’m sure the marketers who came up with this irksome prompt thought it was a good idea – just in case someone spontaneously decided to upgrade. Many other apps offer an option to pay an annual fee but without the irritation.

Given how essential it is for any South African, I pay $20 a year to EskomSePush, which has shortened its name to ESP. I haven’t asked why, but the very smart founders told me that angry users often think the invaluable app is owned by Eskom and rant at them. Sigh.

When Zoom laid off 1,300 employees in February, chief executive Eric Yuan said: “We worked tirelessly … but we also made mistakes. We didn’t take as much time as we should have to thoroughly analyse our teams or assess if we were growing sustainably toward the highest priorities.”

Yun said he would cut his salary by 98% and wouldn’t take a bonus. 

By Zoom – the app synonymous with WFH – signalling its staff should return to the office, it’s officially the end of an era. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Tony Aka Tony says:

    This shouldn’t even be an article. A decision made by a billionaire capitalist owner for a single company, does not signal anything. Besides the parents who want to avoid the noise and demands at home; everyone else who can, wants to work remotely…

    • Andre Augustyn says:

      Maybe in your world. There are many who prefer interaction with colleagues and being in an office environment. Extroverts struggle with remote working whilst introverts generally prefer this.

  • Andrew W says:

    We can’t throw away the expensive lessons of a pandemic. The inefficiency of a regular commute making no sense. The answer is, as always, somewhere in the middle.

  • Rosalind C says:

    Not true in the industry I work in. Due to skills shortages we rely on experts from around the globe to support us, being able to manage and drive projects in a hybrid model is an essential skill. The pandemic was really helpful to drive acceptance of remote working models internally and with our customers.

  • Danie Theron says:

    “I have a sense that the assessments and the matric itself are only there for bureaucratic reasons”. This says so much about this guy’s hidden agenda. Back to the bullshit Outcomes-based system that is primarily aimed at lifting poor students, inter alia because of a broken education system, from the doldrums, as if that will lead to success at tertiary level and eventually the work place.

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