Interview: Lynne Oldham, Chief People Officer, Zoom

As people slowly return to their offices after the Covid-19 pandemic, Chris Price talks to Lynne Oldham, Chief People Officer at Zoom about the future of the video conferencing software…  

Do you think the shift to home working is permanent or will we see demand for services like Zoom fall with people returning to the office either because they want to or in some instances are made to?

Businesses are embracing a hybrid model for working, so the demand for video communications is unlikely to subside. Recognising the productivity gains and flexibility of both remote and office working, organisations will offer the options to do both when needed, ensuring workers can operate either from home or in-person among colleagues. In the hybrid office of the future, collaboration tools will be a vital part of productive cooperation. 

Do you think video conferencing can ever be as productive as meeting face to face? Obviously it enables you to have more meetings, but are they as useful or productive?

The past year has shown that employees can be as productive working from home as in the office, making video conferencing tools a core part of the office. But excessive video time can be counter-productive; within Zoom, we encourage meeting-free Wednesdays, one day a week where there are no internal meetings, giving employees a break.

Optimal collaboration does not always necessarily require a scheduled meeting; using a tool like Zoom Chat or Zoom Phone in lieu of this could be a smarter way of streamlining communication. Ultimately, it is up to businesses to use the tools in the best way to maximise flexibility and productivity, balancing between meetings and on-the-ground work. 

There is evidence of a ‘reverse brain drain’ from cities to towns and rural areas. However, isn’t one of the challenges often poor broadband speed in these areas, making it difficult to conduct video calls and use technology generally?

Remote working enables businesses to widen the talent pool and find the best workers for open roles, with proximity to the office no longer a vital recruitment factor. One of the main benefits of remote working is that professionals can be hired from further away, making it easier to identify the right person for a job role. This increases the talent and diversity of businesses who incorporate a hybrid model.

On broadband speed, Zoom strives to make it as easy as possible for people working from home to conduct video calls, requiring only 1.5 mbps for a consistent connection. By working to lower the threshold to this level, it means more people can use collaboration services, even on lower speeds in their area. 

Do you think working from home can be isolating, creating potential mental health issues?

The pandemic created a unique scenario where no one could meet each other, which contributed to the isolation that many people felt. For many, video conferencing offered a respite to this. Friends and families turned to what has traditionally been used as business tools to stay connected, which helped to alleviate these feelings of loneliness. As restrictions ease in the UK, a hybrid approach will enable people to enjoy the flexibility of being able to work from home combined with the social fulfilment of seeing others in person.

Will we ever see more 3D or hologram-like video experiences that are more like meeting people face to face?

Our goal is to one day make Zoom meetings even better than face-to-face meetings by adding features face-to-face can’t replicate. These include AI-generated meeting transcriptions, meeting summaries, and real-time language translations. We just announced our acquisition of Kites, a company in the real-time language space who will help us develop this technology. 

Are there any differences between UK and US users of your technology?

We don’t break down our usage statistics by country. The UK is an important market for Zoom and we’re focused on supporting the needs of our UK customers, both during lockdown and in the return to offices.


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Chris Price