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Zoom, Barbie and the Return to Office Debate

Last week I shared a post on LinkedIn about the Zoom “back to work” announcement which generated a landslide of passionate comments. 

Having seen Zoom’s agility at the beginning of the pandemic when others were slow, there's for sure the possibility of schadenfreude, a sense of pleasure at another’s perceived bad choices or anticipated outcomes.

Running through commentary is the vibe:

"We didn't catch the rogue wave of the pandemic and they did 😫! 
But we're remote and they're not, so who's laughing now!?"😂

(Yes, I googled “schadenfreude emoji” and this was upvoted on X 45 times as the one. Feel free to suggest others!) 

But most of the dozens of comments were thoughtful, some of which I’ve excerpted below (read the post for the full context, please). 

🧐A sense of compassion for the real challenges the company is under in terms of competing post pandemic. “Like any struggling business, Zoom is trying many things to get back on its feet so to say, RTO at scale is one of those many things.” - Rohit Sathe

🧐There was the real estate/bank angle around broader economic drivers at work, e.g. “if there’s no one in the buildings the banks funded, the owners could sell and could cause a huge issue in the bank real estate portfolio”.  - Denise Beers Kiepper

🧐Some culture and pragmatic aspects at play “…it’s worthwhile to look at this as an opportunity to rethink the purpose of an office… unfortunately many companies have signed on multi-year #leases and whose senior management have long become comfortable going to a workplace to work.” - Winston Thomas

😲💡Could onsite day care centers be the answer to all that excess capacity? One third of working mothers who left during the Great Resignation did so due to child care access and expense challenges, according to McKinsey and Wall Street Journal did a great recent piece on who is doing it well

🧐Others talked about the general sense that Return to Office mandates are the kind of thing you might expect from the fictional CEO the Barbie movie when he says, No one rests until this doll is back in the box!” 


In other words, disconnected from real human challenges.

What we can do is live and lead in a way that takes into account the longer time horizons for leases, capex, company building and the legacy we leave our children and society. 

Figuring out how to manage in the context of a rapidly shifting world is one of our new leadership challenges. To that end, our next Future Proof Masterclass features Be Human, Lead Human author, Jennifer Nash. 

We can also advocate and ensure now that choices are available, we don’t create unforeseen hidden penalties, bias and slanted playing fields and we learn from our experiences using tech and networks to establish feedback loops and make genuine progress.

Let’s stay curious about what is possible as each company makes their imperfect decisions around workplace flexibility.


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