Zoom CEO Eric Yuan kicked off the collaboration vendor's annual conference - Zoomtopia - with a swathe of product updates that effectively showcase how we should be thinking about the future of hybrid work.
It was hard during the keynote this week not to think about how certain companies are forcing employees back to their desks full-time as we enter the Vaccine Economy, and are likely going to miss out on attracting talent and fall behind when it comes to more creative and productive work as a result.
Remote collaboration is still in its infancy, especially when you consider desk work and valuing in-person presenteeism has been the norm for decades. However, for knowledge workers, Zoom has done an effective job this week of demonstrating how sometimes remote collaboration can actually be superior to an in-person meeting (yes, really!).
It's also worth pointing out that Yuan didn't spend his opening keynote advocating that full-time remote work is the future. His approach was entirely diplomatic, recognizing that most companies are going to adopt a hybrid work environment going forward and that they need solutions to solve the challenges in this new reality.
CEO Yuan said:
Since I founded this business 10 years ago, Zoom has always been a company built to connect and bring people together. As organizations shift towards a new business landscape. Our mission becomes all the more important. It's why we continue to innovate and design useful and valuable industry first solutions that make Zoom the trusted choice for enterprises, and individuals alike.
People want a hybrid future in all areas of life - from education to entertainment, from financial services to fitness, and from real estate to retail. It's all the more apparent in work. It's time to adapt our views of what work means, and of where and how it needs to happen.
What's clear is that Zoom is thinking well beyond its video call roots and is creating a platform that's an effective place for people to get work done. Upcoming integrations with the likes of Google Drive and Dropbox are just part of this.
Features such as being able to continuously access and collaborate on content in a meeting, whether that be chats or files, whilst also having call transcriptions instantly accessible within the Zoom client after a call is completed, and having access to Zoom Whiteboard to create visual presentations - and being able to do this wherever you are - gives you an idea of how the vendor is thinking about making remote work as seamless and productive as possible.
The live translation services Zoom is introducing also showcase how the service is becoming increasingly accessible. Demos were showcased where two people speaking two different languages were having a conversation live on Zoom, with closed caption translations appearing live on screen. Is that something that's easy to do at an in-person meeting? I've never experienced it.
CEO Yuan noted that we need to think differently about work in a hybrid environment and warned organizations that don't adapt, will lose out. He said:
[Hybrid] means thinking of work differently - not as a place, but as a space, where people connect, collaborate, and produce. And they do produce in abundance. According to a survey from PWC, 52% of executives say that average employee productivity has improved since working from home. Employees have kept businesses running, proving along the way that this new way of working, simply works.
And employees are happy when they are hybrid. According to Bloomberg, 39% of workers would rather leave a job that doesn't offer flexible work. Companies that want to hire younger workers take note, with millennials, the number jumps to 50%.
The upside of hybrid isn't limited to employees. Companies are benefiting from increased productivity, greater access to talent, reduced cost on everything from real estate to office supplies, and importantly, far more loyal and successful employees.
The product updates
The key product updates coming out of Zoomtopia include:
Zoom Events Conference - a new event type that Zoom plans to make available this fall on Zoom Events, which will allow hosts to organize multi-track and multi-day events in a sophisticated format, with rich functionality, including, event lobby, chat, networking, sponsors, surveys, recordings, analytics, and more
Zoom Video Engagement Center - a cloud-based solution that allows companies to connect with their customers over video. Zoom claims that it will allow companies to engage with customers in a way that "drives trust and loyalty", bringing in experts for additional support or troubleshooting.
Zoom Whiteboard - a digital canvas that aims to bring seamless, real-time and asynchronous collaboration, with the ability to interact with the whiteboard similar to an in-person experience, creating more visually engaging and efficient meeting experiences.
Live Translation and Transcription - Zoom meetings will include real time, automated translation, as well as expansion of its existing live transcription, with support for multiple languages coming later next year.
Zoom Rooms Smart Gallery - creating individual video feeds of in-room participants, so they're viewed clearly and equally by remote employees.
Hot Desking - Zoom's hot desking solution, available later this year, will allow employees to reserve desks and spaces in their offices using an interactive map.
Zoom Chat Huddle View - providing a visual layout of channels to give teams a sense of connectedness while working virtually.
Zoom Continuous Collaboration - making it easier to collaborate across tools with tighter integrations across the Zoom platform and third parties. With these planned enhancements, users will benefit from the ability to share files, recordings and chats from Zoom Meetings to Zoom Chat for easy reference and collaboration on documents and integration with file sharing solutions - all without having to leave the Zoom client.
In addition to the above, Zoom is also working on the integration of Zoom Apps across the entire platform. This will mean that workers can continue to collaborate around existing apps - such as Asssana - without ever leaving Zoom. The announcements coming out of Zoomtopia today tackle the hybrid work problem from both ends. Both from an organizational perspective, where companies are looking for company-wide solutions to challenges such as hot desking and running events. And from an end-user perspective, for connecting remote and office workers, providing them a platform to be productive and creative.
But what struck me most from the Zoomtopia keynote is that companies that ignore the possibilities being presented by companies like Zoom (which is clearly not the only vendor to be thinking these problems through), is that they will be missing out on providing their employees with whole new creative ways of working. Clearly the models of remote work haven't matured yet - companies are figuring this out still as they are presented with new technology opportunities to enable them.
However, an organization that relies solely on in-person meetings will soon look outdated compared to a company that is collaborating globally, online and has created a whole swathe of interesting, accessible resources along the way.