Post COVID: Resetting our face-to-face global engagement

29/09/2020 | 3 mins

Callum Cowell, UWA Director of Global Engagement, says COVID-19 has dramatically reshaped our face-to-face interactions.

In early 2020 we had no idea how our world would be affected by COVID-19. Beyond the sad and obviously damaging health impacts of the pandemic, our world has become compartmentalised. 

Be it through border closures, quarantine zones, movement restrictions or full-on lockdowns, our face-to-face interactions have been dramatically reshaped. 

Notwithstanding ignorant exceptions, most people across the world have looked beyond selfish short term interest to do their part to reduce the COVID spread by isolating: enabling valuable time for either a vaccine or other viable prevention & cure management strategies to emerge.

 Western Australia free of community transmission for some five months

Here in Western Australia we saw quick action to minimise the movement of people into the State through the application of a “hard border”. This strict measure has delivered us a remarkably low case load with no new community transmission for some five months and has allowed us to enjoy many pre-COVID local freedoms of movement and lifestyle, unlike many other locations around the world. Fortunately, in WA we have not had extreme community lockdowns and for that we are blessed. The border closure, though, means that travel beyond our State is not an option, for now.

Our isolation from the rest of the country does mean that many, personal and business interactions have had to be limited to the online environment.

The preparedness to innovate and embrace this online world, through which we are continuing to sustain our operations and advance opportunities in International Education and Global Engagement has been inspiring. 

Spending time in the room, not just in the Zoom

Post COVID, we are unlikely to simply return to what we had before. We will take the myriad of online learnings we’ve had from 2020 and build ourselves a new post-COVID norm. When travel nationally and internationally becomes possible, I suggest there will be more measured and tempered decisions about whether we need to get on a plane to conduct as much of our business as we once did. 

There will be potentially even more value derived from the face-to-face connections we do decide to support in the future. Greater will be the appreciation of the nuance of body language, eye contact and shared experiences that help build and sustain our relationships. 

I am excited about what the future holds as we recalibrate the balance in the way we connect: leveraging the online technologies yet holding on to the perennial benefit of warm and genuine face-to-face Global Engagement.

I sincerely look forward to seeing you in person as soon as this becomes possible. 

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