The first 6 months of 2020 have been a massive shake-up for Australia. Who would have thought that in this short period we would see devastating bushfires around the country and a global pandemic? Events that have put a strain on the economy and our society in general. The social distancing and isolation period created by COVID-19 has been like a giant magnifying glass on many of our existing social issues, making them more visible to the wider society and entering mainstream conversations around the country. Social isolation, mental health issues and domestic violence were problems that existed before the pandemic, throughout it and will continue to exist after the pandemic unless we do something different. The difference now is there’s a wider level of awareness and empathy for these issues. Either through lived experience or the increase in the number of cases being publicised in the media. Unless we take action, once that magnifying glass is taken away and we return to ‘normal’, we may lose that momentum to create change and these issues may become less visible again.
What opportunities does this pandemic create for your organisation? In the following months, will you lead your organisation to design the future you want to create for the people you care for, or return it to the status quo?
I don’t believe the other side of this pandemic is going to be as dramatic as a clean slate to design a new society, but what I think it will bring is a number of opportunities to do things better than we have before, because in many cases there will be a need to change, but also due to reasons mentioned earlier - an added level of support to change.
Here are 3 questions to consider, to help you to start thinking about designing the future.
Are there things that were designed to be temporary that should continue?
Many temporary changes to existing services were implemented to ensure service continuity. What have we ‘tested and learnt’ over this period that can be applied to our normal practices?
A good example of this is the various telehealth services that were set up to avoid face to face health appointments. It would be possible to keep these going post COVID-19 for any appointments that aren’t absolutely necessary to be in person. This has huge benefits for people that live in remote areas, have mobility issues and many others. If set up correctly I could imagine that they would be commercially beneficial to health organisations, as it would be more efficient than managing face to face appointments and all of the associated infrastructure.
What is your organisation's ‘telehealth service equivalent’ or what have you seen other organisations do that has made you think “we could do that?”
What has changed that has shifted your perspective?
Opportunities are everywhere and when change hits they become even more obvious. What have you learnt about society during the pandemic and how has that changed your perspective on things?
One for me that stands out is how we usually work 5 days a week. Due to the virus many people were told by their employer that they must work fewer hours per week to help keep the organisation running. Will some of us realise that working 5 days a week is not always necessary and want to keep our shortened hours as a trade-off for more time to spend with family, friends or on creative ventures? I do believe that working 5 days to get 2 off is a pretty shitty deal and one I am confident in the future we will look back on and ask “why did we do that?” I understand that to do this we have to be in a privileged enough position to do so, but if so, could working fewer days give us more time to spend with our loved ones - which could increase the amount of contact people that are socially isolated or lonely receive? We may have to learn to budget better or live with less, but it could also potentially help with reducing unemployment numbers over the next year and beyond. The days we all take off could translate into a job for someone else.
What has changed your perspective and how could your organisation do things better, now that you see things differently?
What parts of the status quo will you challenge?
What have you seen that has got you fired up? What causes need your support to make things better?
One thought that I’ve had lately is about - how can we stimulate and rebuild the economy in a way that is more inclusive? To get our way out of economic recession, construction and infrastructure projects are traditionally a government ‘go to lever’ for rebuilding the economy. However, this approach further drives the status quo, hiring a predominantly male workforce usually of certain demographics. Leaving women, people with disability and many others out of the employment opportunities it presents. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it, but what other ways could we also stimulate the economy that makes sure there's ample opportunity for everyone, rather than just doing what we’ve always done?
What part of the status quo are you fed up with and will ensure you challenge and champion from here on out? What can you do to support change?
We have the opportunity to design the future now. Looking for opportunities and not accepting a fall back to the status quo is a way of thinking, and all it takes is making the decision to challenge it and do something about it. There will be many opportunities in terms of service expansion, new markets, and even grants will become available that can help you build this future. I’m hoping you feel empowered to move forward and create the future you want, and a future that the people your organisation cares for, need you to create.