Centre for Optimism chief operating officer Victor Perton answers your questions

As offices reopen and people get back to work, there is a groundswell of opposition from many to returning to the work-life they had pre-COVID, a global survey has found.

The survey by the Melbourne-based Centre for Optimism has found that the phrases ‘the new normal’ and ‘getting back to normal’ are dead in the water.

To date, 550 people from 17 countries have contributed to the centre’s online survey, and more than 70 per cent said they want a ‘better normal’.

Well over half (57%), also saw a ‘better normal’ for the country and their community.

People are rejecting corporate and government thinking on the ‘return to normal’ and want to keep the work-life-changes they have made under COVID-19 which lead to a ‘better normal’, said the centre’s chief operating officer, Victor Perton.

“Companies and government should rethink their return-to-work plans and communications and focus on a better normal,” he said.

“People don’t want a return to old ways or nebulous new normal; they have experienced better in the crisis and they want to benefit from change.”

Mr Perton, a former trade and investment commissioner, adviser to the Australian G20 presidency and author of the book The Case for Optimism: The Optimists’ Voices, founded the centre in August 2019.

He said people wanted more in the post-COVID world.

“The old normal was no longer working for most people with diminishing productivity and wage growth,” he said.

“Having weathered the COVID-19 crisis with better community spirit and optimism, they want better for their future and their children’s future.

“ It’s now time for the public and private sectors to deliver more, engage more and include more people and communities in all their planning if they want to build on the goodwill they have achieved from their communities and customers. Authoritarian state-of-emergency rule is wearing thin.”

The centre’s chair, Robert Masters, said true leaders must use the lessons learned from COVID-19 to build a ‘better normal’ to reassure, strengthen trust and build confidence with realistic optimism.

“Crisis management planners need to rethink the phase back to normal, or business as usual, and develop their strategies around how they can do better in their services, processes and procedures,” he said.

“This has now become the trust building phase of crisis management. The old plans and thinking need to change. If we go back to the way things were, we will have lost the lessons.”

Mr Perton will join News Corp’s Ask The Expert Q&A session today, and will be answering readers’ questions from noon-1pm (AEST).

You can ask your questions in advance in the comments section below, or during the hour-long session.

Due to the number of questions, Mr Perton may not be able to answer everyone.



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