The pandemic has leveled the playing field for remote workers in ways that many don’t yet realize.
Let me set the stage. Eight people sitting around a conference table in Jerusalem for a two-hour meeting, and one other person “zooming in” from New York. Let us be honest: Being the “zoomed in” person from New York sucks.
I hate COVID-19. I hate what is has done for every part of my work and personal life— except one. My Zoom box is the same size as everyone else’s. For the first time, I am not the odd woman out. I am not that coworker who lives on the other side of the Atlantic and can’t attend meetings in-person. I am an active participant like everyone else. The entire room is “zoomed in”, literally and figuratively. We are all equally relevant and the playing field is leveled.
Group dynamics are everything when you want to build a strong team and are a part of a team. If everyone is not an equal participant with a place to voice their opinion – it isn’t a true working group. Even when it is impossible for everyone to be in the room – it’s important to make sure everyone feels heard and a part of the discussion.
However, after working with colleagues through Zoom over the last six weeks, I realize our meetings were previously stunted. Now, the entire team is more present. Everyone shares in the inside jokes, everyone makes small talk together, and everyone feels equal. Nobody has the advantage of sitting together and leaving one odd man out.
We know it is easier to work with people who are sitting next to you. Quick meeting of the minds is simpler than setting up a conference call. But this is no longer the case. It takes just as much effort to connect with team members in New York as with team members in Israel. Moreover, the teammate in Israel may be more valuable for this project or question.
At Masa Israel Journey, we have many different types of teams that work across cultures and continents to ensure that we can support our communities across the globe. Since the beginning of the pandemic, our global team has leveraged the convenience of Zoom to effectively work with coworkers across the world.
This April, I witnessed Masa professionals from New York, London, and Israel build the largest English-language ceremony for Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron. Together, they organized a virtual event with over 140 organizations around the world, providing over nine million people the opportunity to join virtually. This was made possible because the long-time barrier of physical space broke down. The team convened over WhatsApp, Zoom, and the slew of other platforms available to bring us closer in our technological and globalized world. They did not just work with the people who sit in the office next to them; they worked with people in all corners of the world.
Because of COVID-19, the redrawing of boundaries is based on geography that is leveling and makes us closer. We fear we can’t do global because of the detested pandemic, but the emerging reality of global companies online presents a weirdly better version, with many aspects worth internalizing in our new age.
Our work lives will undoubtedly change in the months to come. This unique period has given me – as the leader of a global team – a much deeper understanding of the vast potential and clear limits of online collaboration. Those that can harness this understanding to build happier, more productive, and more connected teams – online and offline – will be the organizations that succeed in the post-COVID universe.
Meara Razon Ashtivker is the NA COO of Masa Israel Journey.