From a cursory reading of behavioural psychology literature, it takes a little over two months for a habit to form. What new habits have we as a community potentially formed these last months?

In Geelong, we are now in the midst of a second Stage 3 lockdown. After our first Stage 3 lockdown imposed in March, we have been forced to change many things including how we work (for those who are able to), shop, socialise and exercise. These measures have caused incredible stress on our mental health and our economy. At the Committee for Geelong, we have tried to stay focused to derive some value for Geelong from this situation. Each week we host a Zoom forum for all members on a range of topics to help stay connected, informed, supported and work through the challenges and opportunities. These forums have proved to be invaluable source of feedback and discussion.

One significant change many of us have had to face is working from home. With access to improved digital technology and access to broadband, this enforced shift to home-based work has escalated discussions around workplace productivity, the role of the office and online collaboration.

Recently, Skilling the Bay with The Gordon, Deakin University and the Victorian Government released the Geelong Education & Workplace Profile report. While the research was conducted prior to the pandemic, the strategic thinking about the future of work and our skills needs is valid and prescient.

The report discusses the need for a learning ecosystem that would drive collaborations and resource requirements for future skills and workplaces. Key aspects of this learning ecosystem would include the creation of “spaces and places that will drive radical inclusion of all Geelong citizens in learning, including digital spaces and places, and non-traditional partnerships that enable the community to take control of learning in Geelong” and to “Work with business and industry to explore and trial new models for workforce skills development, including cross-sectoral innovation and solution-making.”

Some of these ideas are currently being put into practice in organisations across our region due to the nature of the pandemic-imposed restrictions. Our new work-from-home environments and ways of interacting with each other are transitioning into permanent behaviours. In fact, many organisations I have spoken with have confirmed that more than 60 percent of their workforce wish to continue working from home for two to three days a week in the future.

The Future of Work is a key action in the Committee for Geelong’s Strategic Framework 2019-2022, and this area of interest has increased in importance for our members and the larger community. We will be hosting a forum in the coming months with a view to developing a series of actions in support of Geelong’s workplace skills and learning needs.

What exactly our ‘new norm’ will be is still uncertain. But what we do know is that our desire to leverage the opportunity to work flexibly in greater numbers will continue. This significant change to workplace interactions and the skills required is profound. It will only accelerate the opportunity for our ‘learning ecosystem’ to work on the recommendations in the Geelong Education & Workplace Profile report.

Committee for Geelong is hosting a meeting via Zoom featuring Carley Brennan and Joe Ormeno from The Gordon where they will be presenting the Geelong Education & Workforce Profile report next Wednesday 19 August.

Jennifer Cromarty

Chief Executive Officer, Committee for Geelong