It’s time to log off Zoom and get back to the office

It really wasn’t that long ago that working from home was an unusual concept for most employees, and daily office meetings were always in person.

Pre-2020, the word “zoom” to many people simply referred to a camera feature used to get a close-up shot. For retro-loving Gen-Xers and millennials, “ZOOM” might have meant the popular 1970s children’s PBS series that was revived in a reboot two decades later.

But when COVID-19 upended our worlds, ‘Zoom’ took on a whole new meaning. Zoom and other virtual meeting platforms allowed us to connect with colleagues and do our jobs from the couch or kitchen table. Now, some employees are so accustomed to this set-up, they’re still balking when their bosses ask them to work in the office a couple of days a week.

Enough already. Get outside the virtual box.

Even Zoom, as the company announced last week, now wants its staffers who live near an office to show up onsite twice a week, which a company spokesperson said is the “most effective” schedule.

Employers rightly point that in-person face time fosters camaraderie and collaboration.

It says something when the business that gave us the capability to join a meeting halfway around the world is now demanding its employees log off and meet in person some of the time.

After all, psychologists point out there are a number of scientific reasons why our brains struggle to process images from Zoom and similar platforms, making us tired and anxious. Maybe it’s time we all just stepped away from the screen.

No, no one is suggesting a return to the old five-day, in-person workweek. That’s likely gone forever for some workers, though it’s worth noting that plenty of essential workers never had the luxury of working at home at all.

More and more businesses are moving toward a hybrid work model. The percentage of people working from home all the time has fallen to 35%, and 41% of employees who have jobs that can be done remotely are working on a hybrid schedule, a Pew Research Center survey from earlier this year found. 

In-person work is especially important for young workers who miss out on career-enhancing mentoring and feedback when they don’t see their superiors in person, a study by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the University of Iowa and Harvard University. 

We got comfortable working from home. We can get used to another “new normal” too.

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