Zoom orders employees back to office, How ‘loud laborers’ affect workplace culture

Plus: Amazon accused of tracking badge swipes to enforce office mandate.

Greetings comms pros! Let’s look at a few stories from the last week and draw some lessons from them.

1. Despite enabling remote work for millions, Zoom orders its employees back to the office

As Alanis Morrissette would put it, this is ironic. Video calling platform Zoom announced that employees near any of its corporate offices will be required back to their physical desks at least twice a week.

According to CBS News:

The new corporate policy marks the end of a fully remote era for the software company, which benefitted enormously from the COVID-19-driven rise in remote work.

“We believe that a structured hybrid approach — meaning employees that live near an office need to be on-site two days a week to interact with their teams — is most effective for Zoom,” a Zoom spokesperson said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. “As a company, we are in a better position to use our technologies, continue to innovate, and support our global customers.”

The company said its technologies will remain essential to its operations  framing its products and services as a solution to keep “dispersed teams connected and working efficiently.”

On the one hand, it’s rather odd to see one of the companies that made remote work possible asking employees to come back to the office. But it’s also notable that Zoom mentioned keeping their dispersed employees connected via their technology. Remote work through tech platforms like Zoom enabled countless organizations to expand their talent base beyond basic geography during the pandemic, and the larger the talent pool you can pull from, the more perspectives you’re able to bring to your organization. That’s undoubtedly a good thing.

Now, the company must do more to not only position its employee brand — but also its whole operating model —through the lens of hybrid and displaced work instead of remote. We’ll be watching this closely.

2. Quiet quitters aren’t the biggest issue for your company culture — it’s ’loud laborers’ you need to worry about

Right when we all got sick of hearing about quiet quitters, we’ve got another jargony term referring to problematic workplace issues — this time, it’s “loud laborers”.

According to CNBC:

But for a long time, you’ve probably known co-workers who are the “noisier cousins” of quiet quitters — they’re sometimes calledloud laborers,” a term coined by André Spicer, an organizational behavior professor and dean of Bayes Business School.

These are employees who place more emphasis on making their work known, rather than “focusing on the work itself,” said Nicole Price, a leadership coach and workplace expert.

“They use various methods of self-promotion, talking more about what they are doing or plan to do rather than getting on with their tasks.”

According to Price, there are two easy ways to tell who’s a loud laborer: You don’t see much work getting done, and they talk “an awful lot” about the work they are “doing.”

“Loud laborers are often quite politically savvy and are very active on professional social networks, where they publicize their tasks and achievements,” she added.

Ah, everyone’s favorite person, the shameless self-promoter! It goes without saying that when someone does a great job at work, they deserve praise. But it’s easy to see how grating someone that wants the glory for themselves can be to those of us working to cultivate a sense of shared culture and unity. As comms pros, a great way to combat this is to drive home the fact that the accomplishments we attain at work aren’t all individual efforts — they’re the result of teamwork. That’ll go a long way toward creating and sustaining a place where everyone feels equally valued.

3. Amazon tracking badge swipes to make sure employees are complying with return to office mandate

Amazon, a company that has had a few hiccups in the public eye regarding employee treatment, is reportedly tracking whether or not their employees are showing up to the office by looking at who phsyically swipes their badge to enter  the building.

According to GeekWire:

Messages sent by Amazon to some employees this week, asserting that they aren’t complying with a corporate mandate to return to the office at least three days a week, is creating a new round of blowback over the policy.

“We are reaching out as you are not currently meeting our expectation of joining your colleagues in the office at least three days a week, even though your assigned building is ready,” read the messages, viewed by GeekWire and other publications. “We expect you to start coming into the office three or more days a week now.”

The messages were sent based on data about individual badge swipes to gain access to buildings, the company acknowledged in response to employees who said they believed they received the notifications in error.

According to Amazon’s reply to an internal support ticket, the emails were sent in cases where employees have badged-in fewer than three days a week for five or more of the past eight weeks, have not badged-in three days a week for three or more of the past four weeks, and their building has been ready eight weeks or more.

Amazon, a company that’s faced accusations of union busting and questionable employee treatment, still has an opportunity to greatly improve the gap between its internal practices and external reputation by taking a truly mixternal approach to employee communications. This means assuming that any internal issues will eventually be external and starting from within to set expectations for operation, culture and communication that are sustainable and consistent to all stakeholders — whether they be customers or employees.

4. How about some good news?

Have a great weekend comms all-stars!

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.


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