How is Zoom keeping its employees happy?
Over the past two and a half years there’s been a seismic shift in the way we work.
Many employees were forced to switch from the office to a remote working during the early days of the pandemic and now, in many cases, are negotiating a hybrid environment.
While this shift to hybrid working has given many a better work-life balance, some workers still crave the community aspect of working in the same environment and find remote working isolating.
But how does a tech company like Zoom, which played such a pivotal role in switching to the world of remote work, address this need in its own offices? And what is the video conferencing firm doing to help customers that use its services with their own employee wellness?
Zoom has consistently been recognised as a company with some of the happiest employees in America, reaching the top 10 in 2021, and number one in 2020, during the lockdowns caused by the pandemic – which suggests it has the hybrid working model pretty figured out.
According to Magnus Falk, CIO Advisor at Zoom, employee happiness is in Zoom’s DNA, adding that employee wellness should always be a part of a founder’s vision.
Falk explained that Eric Yuan, founder of Zoom, was unhappy at his previous workplace [Cisco WebEx] because his calls for a better video conferencing UX were repeatedly ignored.
And not only was Yuan unhappy, but he saw that his customers were too, so he quit his job to address these issues with the launch Zoom Communications.
Falk recalls a time when video calls used to be stressful experiences thanks to technical issues that meant someone was unable to join or somebody else was unable to talk, or it took about 10 minutes to start a meeting and by then everyone was frustrated.
“Yuan built Zoom to be the easy-to-use, multi-platform, stress-buster that it is today by making it video-first,” Falk explained.
“Now, you hit one button, and boom, you’re in and the meeting starts,” Falk enthuses. “So, I think wellbeing actually stems from that.”
According to Falk, Yuan’s negative experiences in his previous role has informed Zoom’s measures to keep its own employees loyal and happy and they are based around three principles.
The first is purpose: “You’ve got to know what purpose you have, and you have to know you’re working for a purposeful organisation.”
Zoom does this by keeping a check on “the Zoom happiness measure,” which is a system dedicated to recognising when an employee may not be happy and proud of their work.
It has also set up a charity function called Zoom Cares where the meetings app donates to organisations and encourages employees to do the same by matching their donations to charities.
The firm also urges employees to volunteer and help organisations they care about, giving them a heightened sense of purpose.
The second principle is care. “It’s really important to know you have someone who cares about you in your organisation,” Falk says. In the office, he explains that it could be someone who works two desks down from you, and if you’re working from home, knowing someone cares “does transcend” through the screen.
For Falk, it’s important to have someone who will notice when a colleague is burning out and working too hard.
The third principle- one which he points out that the whole world woke up to during the pandemic – is flexibility. Says Falk: “What is the point in getting someone to travel in to answer emails in an office?”
When coming to work includes expenses such as travel and food, and time spent commuting rather than spending time doing something more productive and enjoyable, “flexibility becomes a real wellbeing choice,” he argues.
“I think it’s good that the remote option starts changing the dynamic. Now, you’re fitting work around your life, rather than fitting your life around work,” he adds.
On top of these three principles, Falk says there are a number of benefits a company can offer to its employees that fit specific situations such as particular care to aid those who have special needs.
Additionally, Zoom has a range of policies such as encouraging no internal meetings every Wednesday, so employees can spend time focusing on their own work and clients.
Other efforts include a group within Zoom that is literally dedicated to happiness, which creates events to encourage employees to come in and interact. “Not always drinks, but foosball competitions as well and other simple things that people want to do,” he says.
He claims these activities benefit the company as well “because they’re mingling, or coming into the office that afternoon because something is happening.”
Zoom offers 1000s of applications on the Zoom marketplace, including wellness apps, and this is something that firms using the service for their own internal communication can take advantage of.
Falk points out that these apps can integrate “into the heart of a Zoom call”, live for employees to use together, Falk explains.
Zoom’s apps include ‘Wellness Coach’ which offers employees desk-friendly workouts, stretching practices, mindfulness tools to help productivity and meditations that can be used as part of a meeting.
Nutrition and fitness service WW (formerly Weight Watchers) also has an app available on Zoom called ‘Wellness that Works’ which reminds employees to stay hydrated throughout the day, offers breathing techniques, healthy dinner inspiration and healthy snack ideas for those working from home.
There’s also an app called ‘Donations’ by donation app Pledge which allows employers to fundraise during virtual Zoom events.
Besides apps, Zoom has decisively given customers options to make their Zoom meetings less stressful and more enjoyable.
While the solution was built with keeping usability as stress-free as possible in terms of joining meetings seamlessly, there’s the option of hiding self-view during meetings.
Self-view can be a cause for quite an unnatural and uncomfortable conversation experience, “I’m not holding up a mirror when you’re sitting talking to someone. So it’s been taken away so you can just be natural,” explains Falk.
In terms of the future of work “The worm has turned”, Falk hails, and it’s changing for the better.
He predicts that, for the majority of organisations, flexible working will be the default option for those who don’t have to be located on site; and wellness will improve as people fit work around their lives.
The CIO Advisor adds that technology will remain at the heart of making hybrid working work and he is very excited about the next generation of video walls – something that Zoom has on its roadmap.
“I think I’d be reasonably happy to invest in a video wall that was always on, looking into an office, Falk explains. “Someone could walk up to my video wall and have a conversation, and you would feel like you’re there but you’re not.”
He concludes that the choice between remote and office “will start blending a little bit more, it will be much more seamless.”
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