Zoom, the video-conferencing company that has become synonymous with remote work, is asking employees who live within a 50-mile radius of its offices to work onsite two days a week, the Associated Press reports.  

In a statement, the company said it has decided “a structured hybrid approach — meaning employees that live near an office need to be onsite two days a week to interact with their teams — is most effective for Zoom.”  

The new policy will be rolled out in August and September. Zoom, based in San Jose, California, saw explosive growth during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic as organizations scrambled to shift to remote work, and the platform saw increased adoption for non-work virtual gatherings during that time as well.  

However, growth has stagnated in the past year, and the company laid off 15% of its workforce, about 1,300 people, in February.  

Zoom is the latest company to ask workers back to the office, at least on a hybrid basis, in 2023. Given its symbolic connection to remote work, its move is seen by some  as the tipping point in the remote work battle between employers and employees. 

Since January, the average weekly office occupancy rate in 10 major U.S. cities has hovered around 50%, dipping below that threshold during the summer months, according to Kastle Systems, which measures occupancy through entry swipes.   

Google Offering On-Campus Hotel to Lure Workers Back to the Office  

In hopes of further enticing its employees back to the office, Google is offering a special rate at its onsite hotel through Sept. 30, CNBC reported.  

The company said full-time employees can book a room at an on-campus hotel in Mountain View, California, for $99 a night. The promotion is for unapproved business travel, which means the stays won’t be reimbursed, CNBC notes.  

“Just imagine no commute to the office in the morning and instead, you could have an extra hour of sleep and less friction,” Google’s promotional description reads. “Next, you could walk out of your room and quickly grab a delicious breakfast or get a workout in before work starts.” 

The ad goes on to say that after the workday ends, “you could enjoy a quiet evening on top of the rooftop deck or take in one of the fun local activities.” 

The San Francisco Bay Area has some of the country’s highest real estate costs due in part to limited housing supply from decades-old zoning restrictions and elevated demand, most of which comes from high-paying tech workers and executives working in the surrounding tech industry. The city of Mountain View is especially short on housing and contains large swaths of corporate offices — many of which are owned or leased by Google. 

A Google spokesperson told CNBC that the company regularly runs specials for employees to take advantage of the company’s spaces and amenities. 

Some employees have noted that a full month’s stay would total roughly $3,000, which is less than the cost of rent for many apartments in the Bay Area, without all the amenities. However, the general consensus among employees, CNBC notes, is that the option isn't sufficient enough to increase their likelihood of coming to the office more frequently.  

Google began bringing most employees back to physical offices three days a week last year. However, attendance had been sparse in the months that followed a mandatory return-to-office plan in 2022, as employees pushed back

In June, the company became stricter, announcing new enforcements that included using office attendance in performance reviews and tracking badge data. The company’s HR chief even asked already approved remote workers to reconsider their status and rejoin their colleagues in office. 

Thousands of City Workers in Los Angeles Go on Strike   

A union that represents Los Angeles city employees staged a one-day walkout on Tuesday to protest what it described as unfair labor practices by city negotiators and a failure by management to remain at the bargaining table, the Los Angeles Times reports.  

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 721, which represents more than 7,000 city workers including traffic officers, gardeners, mechanics, custodians, lifeguards, engineers and scores of other government jobs, told the Times they have reached their limit with the number of vacant positions that plague city agencies, forcing workers to work huge amounts of overtime.  

“People don’t understand the hard work they do. There’s a lot of unsung heroes in the city,” said David Green, the union’s president and executive director. “So, I think it’s important that the city, that we take a day to recognize that, and let the city know ... they need to respect what we do as city employees.” 

The SEIU’s walkout is one of several labor actions to disrupt workplaces across Southern California in recent months. Workers and executives in the entertainment industry have been transfixed by the first simultaneous strike of Hollywood writers and actors since 1960. The Screen Actors Guild walked off the job last month and the writers’ strike is approaching its 100th day. 

Unite Here Local 11, which represents hotel and restaurant workers, has been staging its own frequent work stoppages in L.A. and Orange counties since June 30, when contracts expired for more than 15,000 hospitality workers at some 60 properties. 

Unlike the hotel union, SEIU Local 721’s contract has not run out, the Times noted. The union is operating under a one-year salary agreement that ends in December, which has provided members a 3% pay increase and a one-time bonus equal to 5% of a worker’s annual salary. 

The 3% raise is considered “pensionable,” which means that it will expand the base used to calculate a worker’s pension once they retire. The 5% bonus, delivered to workers last month in the form of a one-time payment, will not apply to future retirement pay. 

SEIU has not yet submitted any salary proposals for its next contract. The city’s Executive Employee Relations Committee, which gives bargaining instructions to city negotiators, was expected to meet Wednesday to discuss the status of negotiations with SEIU and other civilian employee unions. 

Black Directors Losing Ground in Boardrooms  

The share of new Black directors at S&P 500 companies fell by nearly half in 2023, Bloomberg News reports.  

Black directors made up 15% of the newly appointed board members appointed by companies in the S&P 500 last year, a drop from 26% in 2022 and closer to the 11% mark of 2018, according to a report from executive recruiter Spencer Stuart. The representation of other non-White directors was about the same as a year ago and stronger than in 2018: Hispanic directors were 9% of new appointments, up from 8% in 2022, but still about half their representation in the overall population, the data showed. Blacks make up about 14% of the U.S. population.  

The slowing gains for Black directors come as U.S. companies are facing backlash against corporate policies focused on topics such as climate change, workers’ rights, diversity and corporate governance.  

Boards’ prioritzing ESG topics overall fell from first to third in the study, with more now focusing on board composition. CEOs and candidates with extensive financial expertise are in demand, the data showed, criteria that can dull gains for women and people of color who don’t hold as many of those roles. Many of the previous gains had come from the boards being willing to expand their requirements away from the traditional criteria for new directors that had favored White men. 

Overall, 67% of the new directors were considered diverse when including the Nasdaq definition of people who are female, identify as LGBTQ or are among racial or ethnic minority groups, Spencer Stuart said. That’s a dip from 72% in 2022. About 20% of respondents said their boards are still prioritizing recruitment of women and underrepresented minorities. 

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