Room, not Zoom

Plus: Merchants of Etsy and why you should kvell this week in The Memo.
Room, not Zoom

Hello, Quartz at Work readers!

Oh, the contradictions of the remote work company asking its employees to return to the office. Late last week, videoconferencing company Zoom informed its staff that all workers living within 50 miles (or 80 km) of its offices must come work in-person at least twice a week.

Sure, the mandate seems ironic. But it’s also fundamentally unsurprising, writes Quartz’s Gabriela Riccardi.

With its new guidelines, Zoom joins a slate of Big Tech companies—including Google, Salesforce, Microsoft, and Meta—in taking firm stances on formerly soft hybrid work policies. The companies that build the tools of remote work, it seems, don’t believe in it themselves.

But Zoom presents its own fascinating case study in the hybrid era. In the pandemic, Zoom became synonymous with remote work—and a bonafide verb, a near-universal shorthand for taking a video call. But believe it or not, the company has never advocated for the end of the IRL office.

In fact, the company has cast itself as leading the redesign of the modern office. “One of the things I think this huge experiment that we’ve all been a part of has proven is that [the office is] not necessarily to get work done,” Matthew Saxon, Zoom’s chief people officer, told The Wall Street Journal last year.

The notion feels a bit ridiculous. What’s the purpose of work but doing work? And if the office isn’t a place to get work done, what’s the point?

Zoom’s reasoning—along with that of an increasing number of companies, Big Tech or not—reveals the rationale behind in-office mandates. In some ways, research has found benefits to a hybrid work approach.

But Zoom’s new mandate also captures what executives are missing when they call workers back to cubicles. As companies wrestle with workers about when and where they should be working, Quartz examines what leaders are overlooking.


“We’re striking for respect.”

That’s from more than 11,000 Los Angeles public workers that walked off the job yesterday, a labor action that stalled operations across the city.

Organized by the Local 721 chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the action is the city’s first major strike in 40 years. The strike covers a wide span of workers, from sanitation collectors to coastal lifeguards, who say they’re seeking a fair bargaining process.

The walkout also comes hot on the heels of a series of regional strikes, first by California’s hospitality industry workers, who picketed in early July for better pay and protections, and in parallel with Hollywood actors and writers striking for the same. Quartz’s Faustine Ngila looks at how LA’s public workers are pushing on the picket line.


It’s not just California feeling the heat of labor action. Across industries and borders, workers are joining up as comrades, compiling demands, and delivering blows when corporate leaders won’t meet them midway. The collective energy even has a name: the Summer of Strike.

You may have heard of the Starbucks baristas, the Hollywood writers, and the UPS drivers waging collective action. But other groups are organizing, too, like:

🧶 Merchants of Etsy. The e-commerce platform is scrambling to stop a sellers’ strike after UK-based Etsy shop operators began a boycott over its payment practices. And while the company crafted a response to their concerns, sellers aren’t satisfied.

⚡️ VFX avengers. Visual effects crews at Marvel Studios have filed for unionization, initiating a significant shift in a role that has remained largely non-union since the days of Star Wars. The Marvel Cinematic Universe plays a part in their grievances.

⚾️ Home run hitters. US minor league baseball players voted to unionize last September—and promptly pursued a lawsuit accusing Major League Baseball (MLB) of violating minimum wage laws. Last week, the minor league players scored a $185 million settlement. It’s not the only dispute they have at bat.


Last week, The Memo suggested the German idea of freudenfreude, or finding pleasure in someone else’s good fortune, to help steer you toward excitement (rather than envy) when someone else earns a win at work.

Reader Ronit Avni wrote in to point out its similarities with another widely-used word, this time from Yiddish: kvell. To kvell, she adds, “means to experience pride and satisfaction from seeing others excel (especially your own family, but not exclusively so). Someone who rejoices in that success is kvelling.”

🗯 Which other expressions help you be a team player? We want to hear them. Drop us a line at


Difficult as it is, a few questions can tell if it’s time for a team member to be let go. As a manager, the hardest thing you will have to do is terminate an employee. If the decision is yours to make, it can be even harder.

If you have to make that call, Quartz contributor David Dodson writes, a series of questions can keep you grounded in compassion.

  • Emotion check: If the person came into your office, resigned for a great opportunity, and provided a smooth transition, would you be relieved, neutral, or devastated?
  • Rehire check: If you were filling a vacancy, would you hire this person for the same position for 125% of their current salary?
  • Future check: Does this person have a place here in three years?

📝 Find the other questions—and what to do with them—by reading the story.


📬 There’s new advice on the best time to send an email, and good managers should completely ignore it 

💻 It’s no surprise Zoom wants workers back in the office 

🎶 Meta’s new AI-powered tool is like Dall-E but for music

💬 4 questions to ask how AI will impact your job

✈️ United Airlines pilots don’t want to be promoted 


Send questions, comments, and personal home runs (bargained-for or not) to This edition of The Memo was produced by Gabriela Riccardi.