University of Wollongong Vice-Chancellor Patricia M. Davidson

What will the post-pandemic workplace look like?

What will the post-pandemic workplace look like?

UOW Vice-Chancellor, Dean of Business join Wall Street Journal panel on the workplace of the future

University of Wollongong (UOW) Vice-Chancellor Professor Patricia M. Davidson and Dean of Business Professor Grace McCarthy will be panellists on a Wall Street Journal online discussion on ‘The Next Era of Work in Asia-Pacific and The World’, held on Wednesday 25 August from 6-7.30pm.

As more people are vaccinated for COVID-19 in countries around the world, companies are grappling with the challenge of figuring out the post-pandemic workplace.

What kind of responsibilities would companies have for the health and wellbeing of their workers? Would corporate leaders need new management skills to effectively navigate a hybrid workforce? What new capabilities would students need to acquire to succeed in the new environment?

And in the Asia-Pacific region, where the pace of the vaccine rollouts are slower than in the U.S. and Europe, what are the possible implications on the mobility of workers, business expansion plans and the overall economic recovery?

Professor Davidson and Professor McCarthy will be joined on the panel by Wall Street Journal senior journalists Australia and New Zealand Bureau Chief David Winning and Senior Reporter Phred Dvorak. Wall Street Journal Asia Pacific Senior Editor Yumiko Ono will be the discussion moderator.

One of the issues the panel will discuss is the role of leadership and the kind of leadership skills that will be needed in a post-pandemic workplace.

Professor Davidson said recovery from the pandemic would present leaders with huge responsibility and huge opportunity.

“After this period of significant change, there’s going to need to be a period of recovery, reconciliation and readjustment, and for anybody in any leadership position at this moment, it’s a huge responsibility,” Professor Davidson said.

“With this, however, we have a significant chance to learn from the past, to revitalise and focus on what our priorities are. For anybody in any leadership position it is a huge responsibility but also a huge opportunity.

“I've always been interested in understanding how things work and, if needed, using those insights to challenge the status quo. Those of us in leadership roles need to look for the opportunities to put this unavoidable period of change to good use to create meaningful and positive social impact. 

“Having seen firsthand the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic it has reinforced for me the need to put people first in our decision making.”

UOW Dean of Business Professor Grace McCarthy.

Professor McCarthy said one of the things the pandemic had highlighted was the importance of the human element of workplace.

“During the pandemic workers and managers learned that it was okay to show their true selves, their whole selves, their homes, their children, their pets,” Professor McCarthy said.

“Workers are not just pairs of hands, and not just hands and heads either. Hearts matter. Some times in our rush to remote working and online learning, we have over-emphasised technology and under-emphasised the human. 

“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of wellbeing, both mental and physical. Managers should be proactive and not simply rely on Employee Assistance Providers and managers need to be able to have conversations where employees are in tears.

“Managers are not counsellors but they can be trained to identify signs of mental ill-health and to be better listeners.”

Professor McCarthy said that another important issue the panel would address was the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on women.

“Women in most countries spend more hours on housework and more hours on childcare. During the pandemic this has even increased, and so it has had a disproportionately negative impact on women in terms of physical and mental health, work and financial stress,” Professor McCarthy said.

“It’s not all women and not all men, but it is common. Many women are exhausted, anxious and afraid. Sadly there has also been a huge increase in domestic violence, the so-called shadow pandemic.

“What can be done is to plan to support women to succeed as we come out of the pandemic. Let’s not wait for us to be out but start planning ahead. We need to articulate what women need to succeed and help them to get a mentor.

“On the positive side, women are comfortable with emotion and showing vulnerability in the workplace. Their leadership style will enable them to be successful post-pandemic leaders – if we provide the support needed to get through this.”

To register to attend the webinar ‘The Next Era of Work in Asia-Pacific and the World’ go to