Living in a post COVID-19 world? (Part 1)

April 1st, 2021

Anton Barnett-Harris

Chief Executive Officer

Australian Physiotherapy Council

In recent weeks we have passed the 12 month anniversary since the COVID-19 pandemic significantly disrupted the Council’s work and closed our Melbourne-based office. It has given me cause to reflect on how life has been radically changed since that time, and what it means to be a CEO through a pandemic, and how we look to the future coming out the other side. 

We have entered 2021 with hesitant optimism that this year will be a great deal better than 2020. But as recent Australian capital city or even state-based lockdowns show, we are still not out of the woods, and we still face ongoing challenges and disruptions in Australia and around the world due to COVID-19. 

So what have we learnt from the pandemic?

Adaptability – one of the biggest learnings was that we are more adaptable than we thought possible. Change has been on fast forward since the pandemic interrupted our lives, but because of the Council’s values and culture, we have been able to adapt, and will continue to adapt as more change comes our way 

People centredness  I’ve been reminded that people centredness is the key to sustaining productivity in organisations under pressure like ours was during the heights of the pandemic. Our team has been embracing this core value for a number of years, and it was an anchor for us as we have survived through the last 12 months. 

Pandemic fatigue – the sense of fatigue and exhaustion is one that many of us has experienced since life was disrupted in March 2020. The broader community and many countries around the world experienced the tragic impact related to COVID-19 death rates which have been constantly shared in daily news reports. And whether we were directly connected to those who lost their lives or not, the enormity of it impacted all of us in some way. In Melbourne, we faced the reality of local lockdowns and restrictions, inability to travel to see loved ones or for holidays, while dealing with increased workloads and the constant need to stay aware of Government restrictions that affected both our professional and personal lives.  

If left unchecked this ‘pandemic fatigue’ can lead to more serious mental health issues. Therefore it’s vital that each of us is proactive in maintaining healthy minds and looking out for others too. In Australia, we have excellent resources and organisations that provide professional support which I urge us to consider tapping into.  

Beyond Blue even has a specific ‘Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service’ https://coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au/i-need-support-now.html  

Rapid prototyping  many organisations and business were forced to rapidly change and pivot their business activities, as we strived to respond to the changing environment that we were working in. We’ve all heard of major projects that would typically take 3 years, being super charged and being delivered in 3 months!  

At the Council, we found ourselves leveraging our culture, values and previous years investment in upgrading our systems and processes, to rapid prototype a new way of delivering our online Written Assessment using a remotely invigilated model. This is just one example of the ongoing ways we have needed to transform our work to be more resilient to the impact of pandemics. 

These lessons have been important for surviving the pandemic, but as a leader, I’m urging our team to consider how to incorporate these lessons into our current and future ways of working and living. 

Next time I share, I want to explore how these lessons from 2020 are influencing our thinking and planning for this year and the future priorities and focus for the Council. 

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