It wasn't until the COVID pandemic hit that I realized how much of my social interaction had been through volunteering. I'd already been working remotely at World Wide Technology for a few months, but at least I could still visit my students as a volunteer with Ready Readers. Then came the pandemic, and suddenly, I was a helpful car on blocks. Not only was I alone in my basement, but I'd also lost the relationships and purpose that had come from serving my community, side-by-side, with friends and colleagues. 

Thankfully, we're again able to make face-to-face connections, and WWT has resumed its local community service initiatives. Even so, those of us who don't live near a WWT location aren't able to participate in these in-person events. Those of us who belong to distributed teams continue working together but aren't able to gather and serve side-by-side. All of which increases the sense of isolation that so many struggle with today.   

While looking for ways to build community within our distributed workforce, I found Goodera. This company partners with over 50,000 non-profit organizations worldwide to arrange virtual volunteering events for remote teams. A Goodera facilitator starts with an ice-breaker and introduction to the organization the team is helping. Then, the team is led through an activity that benefits that organization in a practical way, like recording children's books for cancer patients of the Ahmad Butler Foundation, or reviewing the résumés of Hispanic youth for the Association House of Chicago

In the fall of 2023, the leadership of WWT's Technology, Delivery, & Engineering (TD&E) group accepted a proposal to begin a pilot partnership with Goodera. We held our first volunteering event in October: learning American Sign Language and recording a birthday message for a student of Feel the Beat, an organization that provides dance classes for students with deafness and other related disabilities.

WWT empowers community involvement by offering the benefit of a Day of Caring, which traditionally is to be used in one- or half-day increments. However, group virtual volunteering opportunities had been challenging enough to find, let alone any longer than an hour or two. To encourage participation in this new initiative, WWT updated its policy to allow employees to use their Day of Caring volunteer time in two-hour increments. 

Since then, we've held one event each month, focusing on organizations that align with WWT's core values and initiatives. In November, we created holiday cards that were printed and delivered to home-bound residents of Senior Access, and in February, we reviewed the LinkedIn profiles of prospective graduates from Stillman College, an HBCU. For Women's History Month in March, we'll be recording audio versions of women's health articles for the Audiopedia Foundation

WWT colleagues demonstrating their newly learned ASL on a video-conferencing call.

While one more Zoom meeting on the calendar may sound distressingly familiar, there are two important distinctions from the usual status meeting where people forget to unmute themselves. First, I see delightful, excited, new faces from across WWT, most of whom I wouldn't see even if I were working from a shared office. Second, we're all working toward a purpose and a real need that's larger than our projects and daily tasks. 

I've found that even these limited-hour events provide the meaningful connection that's so often absent while working remotely. Our time and interactions are brief yet powerful enough to bring me closer to my colleagues and help me feel valued and proud to support WWT's service to our communities.