March 23, 2020
Connected and Authentic: Q&A with Zoom Exec Lynne Oldham
Lynne Oldham is an expert in inclusive workplaces and has a special view into the world of remote work. She is Chief People Officer at Zoom Video Communications, the videoconferencing tool that is exploding all over the world. Lynne is also is an advisor on CTI’s forthcoming research on Belonging in the Workplace. (This photo is a screen shot taken during our video interview.)
Q: As a leading videoconferencing company, you must have an internal culture that is highly successful at remote work. What tips do you have for those of us who are catching up during this time of crisis?
A: In the past, a quarter to one-third of our employees worked at home. We are now 100 percent remote, so this is new to us too. We are employing more of the same things we’ve done before. For example, several times per month everyone gets on a large video meeting we call a rendezvous. We pose cool questions, then cluster into small groups with Zoom's breakout rooms (which are separate from the main chat), and have a deep dialogue in a more intimate setting. Sometimes we play games or share pictures of our new at-home “co-workers,” such as our pets. Right now we are just trying to bring lightness into this.
Q: How can employees retain a sense of connection and belonging while working remotely?
A: If you have a strong company culture, now is the time to embrace it. Our culture is about one thing: caring—for our community, our customers, and each other. There’s not one thing that we don’t celebrate,whether it’s a life win or a career win. These are tough times and we are trying to encourage fun. We are working, but we build humor into the work. We post GIFs and memes. I recently joined a team meeting and my co-worker had a virtual background of a cow in a grass field, and it looked like the cow was chewing off her ear. It was hilarious. Now more than ever, we can encourage employees to be their authentic selves.
Q: Do you have any concerns about who might be excluded in our workplaces, or “othered” right now? How are you addressing them?
A: I think that people are being more open to difference throughout this process. We are helping one another in new ways. We put together virtual events, such as workouts and meditation sessions and this is bringing people together in ways they haven’t come together before, e.g., across geographies. That said, exclusion is a valid concern during this period of isolation. I have hopes that the connectedness we are experiencing via video(and the equality of "heads" on the computer screen)is going to create even more inclusiveness in the future.
Q: Do you think that positive things can come out of these challenging times?
A: As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. It’s really blowing my mind how companies are becoming more remote so quickly and without problems. It demonstrates how resilient human beings can be. When this is over, companies that were more reticent about being remote are going to realize how productive people can be working this way. I’m an extrovert, so I miss being around people, but I also find that when I work remotely I get a lot more done.