AWWA Articles

Career Zone -- Connecting in the age of Zoom

By Stuart Karasik

Career ZoneI wish I had been smart enough to buy stock in Zoom Video Communications in February 2020. The company’s value has nearly tripled since the COVID-19 pandemic sent us all home to shelter in place and communicate remotely.

Who would have known that the use of Zoom -- or Microsoft Teams or other virtual meeting platforms – would become such a constant in our lives?

We now connect online for work and family check-ins. Our children connect for school. We even connect virtually for happy hours, medical appointments, weddings and funerals. With all the online connecting going on, no wonder many of us have become “zoomed out.”

One of my strategies during these turbulent times has been to focus on the positive. So, rather than complain about how challenging it is to conduct so much of our daily life online, let’s take a minute to look back and see how platforms like Zoom have made a positive impact on the workforce and working environment.

Here is my list of positives:

  • The vast majority of people have access to online meetings through various technologies and devices, including desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
  • More people can attend online meetings and provide input during these times of travel restrictions and remaining safer at home. The truth is that attending an online meeting has less of an impact on our schedule than in-person encounters did pre-pandemic.
  • The meeting organizer or moderator has more control of the meeting through the “magic” mute button. Oh, how I dreamed of having such a button at my disposal during previous in-person meetings when someone strayed from the agenda, ignored time frames or rambled on about unrelated topics. What a beneficial addition!
  • Questions can be vetted for their relationship to the topic. The moderator can direct attendees, up front, to post questions in a private chat to him/her. The moderator can choose to share the ones most pertinent to the project. You can start to see the tremendous benefits this technology brings to meeting productivity and effectiveness.
  • Virtual meetings are more environmentally friendly. There is no need for hard copies of handouts, spread sheets, slides or other documents. All the speaker needs to do is share their screen. Participants also can post links to on-line resources in the “Chat Box” during the presentation.  

It’s clear that virtual meetings are here to stay. As major conferences and conventions continue to be canceled to protect public health during these uncertain times, forward-thinking organizations are quickly exploring methods to offer these major events virtually to attendees around the world. As technology becomes more sophisticated, this experience will only improve.

Don’t get me wrong. Virtual meetings don’t provide everything that you get from an in-person experience. We will always need human interaction. However, these online technologies are here to stay and it’s best to jump on the bandwagon now, rather than be left in the dust.

Stuart Karasik has spent most of his career in the human resources/personnel arena. He has a Ph.D. in education, a master’s in biology, and was previously the training program manager for the City of San Diego.