By: Mary Ann Liebert, President and CEO, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers
Years ago, when I thought about Zoom, it was in reference to a children’s show by that name, which my young son enjoyed. When Teams entered my mind, it was about Little League. Today Zoom and Teams are apps that my staff and I use constantly as the company is working remotely. We’ve been doing so since March when the lock down was mandated. I was the last person to leave our office; my husband kept calling and saying “Leave now. Come home!” And finally, I locked up and left.
I started my scientific publishing company 40 years ago from a corner of my living room. We now have over 100 people on staff, mostly in our corporate headquarters in New Rochelle, NY. I’m very present in the office, and the personal interaction with members of the company is stimulating and effective. Very. An invigorating place to share ideas and to move our prescient journals forward with alacrity.
My office is spacious and modern and has a wonderful skylight in addition to its big windows. In fact, natural light abounds throughout, which everyone can enjoy. It’s all very special and reflects our corporate culture. Now, 5 months later, we are still in remote mode. I’m assured from our officers and managers that we aren’t missing a beat. The reports I get support this claim. That’s very impressive.
Zoom and Teams are the way we have meetings or interact. Yet, as effective as these remarkable apps are, I don’t like working this way. I miss the spontaneity that fuels my curiosity, and what is particularly bothersome is that these technology-enabled interactions aren’t comfortable to someone like me, who has a quick and wandering mind and is always in the moment.
Every day, I try to send a memo to the entire company. I am the CEO and Cheerleader- in -Chief. I try to motivate, reassure and, sometimes, inject a bit of humor. But, it’s all virtual. The spring wardrobe I bought hangs in the closet. I try not to focus on what my husband and I are most missing: the opera, the ballet, the art museums and galleries. Tragically, a very close friend lost her life after a lengthy hospitalization to treat her Covid, during which she was given hydroxycholoquine. She died of a sudden heart attack a few days after she came home. The memorial service was a Zoom event; I felt nothing. And, painfully, I haven’t hugged our young grandsons for these many months.
The staff keeps asking “When will the office reopen?” I have no definite date. But, I know that most of the staff loves working remotely and hopes it will continue. I hope not. The Covid pandemic is so fearsome that I have to respect its power. And I am not its boss.