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Does Zoom doom creativity in the workplace?

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Did you see the news about Airbnb? Chesky just announced that employees can live and work from anywhere in the world. The big part of that announcement, from my perspective, was the fact that their compensation won’t change depending on where they work. In the fight over geo-based pay, it seems like employees have won this round.

Today: doom for creativity on Zoom, an interview with eBay’s head of DEI and how women really feel about hybrid work.

— Michelle Ma, reporter (email | twitter)

Zoom is not the problem

The Zoom-haters among us got a delicious jolt of confirmation bias this week when the journal Nature released a peer-reviewed study called “Virtual communication curbs creative idea generation.” The headlines came quickly: “Zoom meetings kill creativity.” “Zoom meetings are making us stupid.” “Zoom meetings should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention.” (I made the last one up.)

Should you stop using Zoom and switch to another video conferencing tool to increase creativity?

  • Absolutely not. Or maybe. But not because of this study. Zoom has its issues from problematic plans to allow companies to monitor our emotions to endless competitors breathing down its virtual neck.
  • The results are based on video conferencing, in general. In fact, the participants in this study used Webex, not Zoom. We’re a long way from 2020, but Zoom and other virtual meetings aren’t going anywhere in our new hybrid world.
  • While the research showed that video conferencing “inhibits the production of creative ideas,” the researchers found no evidence that video conferencing hindered a group’s ability to narrow down and select an idea and some evidence that “decision quality was positively impacted by virtual interaction.”

When we focus on a screen during video calls, we generate fewer ideas.

  • Communicating with a face in a Zoom square means we not only narrow our visual field by concentrating on the screen, but we also filter out objects in our peripheral vision that could help boost creativity.
  • Researchers studied participants in the lab and engineers in an office setting, with similar results.
  • Don’t try to blame technical difficulties. They excluded any pairs who had trouble sharing their screen, bad audio or dropped calls.

The Venn diagram of Zoom Haters and In-Person Work Advocates has some overlap, but it’s hardly a circle. Some bosses who want their workers to put on pants and get back on the commuter bus will use this study as an argument against remote work, but there’s a way to increase creativity and remain in your PJs forever — do audio-only calls.

More meeting management advice from tech execs:

Kate Parente, chief people officer at Pegasystems, says the pandemic has taught us “there is no one-size-fits-all for anyone, not when it comes to meeting, collaborating or brainstorming.”

  • “I find myself having some of my best conversations early in the morning while on the treadmill or late afternoons while walking my dog … and that may not be everyone’s cup of tea.”

Whatever you’re doing in a meeting, make it shorter. Asana productivity expert Joshua Zerkel told Protocol that meetings tend to fill up the space that you give them and there’s good reason to give them a little less space.

  • “Let me look away from my computer. For even a minute. Let me take a walk around my house.”

Consider the goal of the meeting before you schedule it on Zoom or anywhere. Rapid7’s Chief People Officer Christina Luconi says, “Whether it's in person or remote, we have the perfect opportunity to do things differently now.”

  • “We need to solve for highly effective moments shared which will deliver the greatest possible impact.”

RippleNet’s GM Asheesh Birla agrees with mixing it up and favors the audio-only walking meeting. He saves the “high-collaboration meetings” to work on new ideas for days back in the office, but also says that managers need to think about whether or not a meeting could be an email.

  • “The best meeting length is not a meeting.”

Tech regulation beyond Big Tech

Companies everywhere are bracing for new privacy legislation and antitrust action, but much of the focus thus far has been on how the biggest tech firms will fare. What about the rest of the sector? How should the thousands of small, medium-sized and enterprise-level tech companies prepare for this new regulatory landscape? Will changing policies bring about a more even playing field, or will growth be stunted for smaller businesses with fewer resources? How should the U.S. avoid one-size-fits-all regulation in such a diverse ecosystem while still checking unfair competition and data abuses? Join Protocol and a panel of experts as we dive into the biggest regulatory priorities of the not-quite-biggest tech companies.

RSVP here.

There are no DEI experts

Beric Alleyne is the global head of Diversity and Inclusion at eBay. He spoke with my colleague Amber Burton this week about his biggest hot takes on DEI. A former finance guy at Goldman Sachs now four years into leading DEI at eBay, he also talked about why DEI leaders tend to have shorter tenures than other C-suite positions in tech.

Read the full story.


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Hybrid work is exacerbating workplace sexism

That’s at least according to new data from Deloitte’s Women @ Work 2022 report. The survey of 5,000 women from across 10 countries found widespread burnout, often leading to a greater desire for flexible work and, in many cases, quitting for greener pastures.

  • 58% of women surveyed reported being excluded from meetings, decisions or informal interactions.
  • 45% report not having enough exposure to leaders in a hybrid setting.
  • Only 6% of women surveyed believe that requesting or taking advantage of flexible working opportunities will not affect their likelihood of promotion.

More stories from us

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Trying to get your workers back to the office? They’re still worried about COVID.

Salesforce is the latest tech giant to commit to limiting the scope of its NDAs, extending Silenced No More protection to all U.S. employees.

Calling neurodiverse tech workers: There’s a new career portal for you.

Jack Dorsey eschews normal titles like CEO. Call him “Block Head.”


At RingCentral, we’re focused on making hybrid work simpler for organizations so they can best set up, run and manage their business. We’re asking ourselves what's the benefit that we can derive, or that we can enable, that is better than the best-in-class in the industry?

Learn more

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

As expected, New York City lawmakers are delaying implementation of its salary transparency law.

“Zero regrets”: Quitters of the Great Resignation say they’re better off emotionally and mentally, if not financially.

Here’s what Apple retail employees in Atlanta are fighting for.

An Amazon employee who got an 11% raise said it’s not enough. Here’s why they’re not alone.

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to Have a great day, see you Tuesday.

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