Issue 1 • 2021

Our College’s learnings from COVID-19
Many organisations speak of being in a ‘new-normal’ post the pandemic, with seismic changes to work practices, communications and events. Our College commissioned a detailed report in late 2020 documenting our many learnings from this unprecedented public health crisis. We’ve distilled some of the report’s key findings below.
Virtual events and meetings The future of digital member meetings require somewhat different protocols to face-to-face meetings to compensate for participants being unable to read body language and having to raise a digital hand to contribute.
RACP leaders advise that digital meetings also require staff to be more dexterous in supporting Chairs by monitoring questions posed over the meeting’s digital message function. With the opportunity to share messages with all participants or privately between individuals, the Chair can find it difficult to read the room and be unaware of multiple side conversations within the meeting.
RACP leaders consistently reported Committee and Council members indicating preference for three digital meetings and one face-to-face meeting in a future where travel is possible.
As such, it is realistic to plan for a full suite of digital meetings in 2021 or until such a time as an effective vaccine is widely available to members and staff. While there is a rise in hosting/carrier costs for increasing the balance of digital meetings, this is entirely insignificant when compared to the cost of mobilising and accommodating members or moving staff to attend face-to-face meetings.
Making such a move during COVID-19 has given the College opportunity to test out a digital committee model, whilst also contributing to infection control and being fiscally and environmentally responsible. Online Congress
Like many other Colleges and businesses, RACP member events have been forced online... opportunities to create dynamic online events abound and many companies have been highly successful in hosting multi-dimensional summits, conferences, masterclasses, learning quests and workshops.
Technology enables concurrent streams and protocols to allow for live Q&A. Whilst the technology costs associated with dynamic online events may be higher than face-to-face events, the lack of large venue costs more than offsets this and allows value to be translated into the delegate experience.
In 2021, RACP Congress is planned for delivery in six Aotearoa New Zealand sites over a two-week period. Delegates can purchase a ticket to attend virtually or a face-to-face day ticket and view all other days’ content on-demand. This allows equity of access to the face-to-face dimension of the event but also a switch to full online delivery should health orders require.
Opportunities for delegates to network via digital breakout rooms and online communities are also being explored, since this is a key reason that delegates attend RACP Congress each year.
The shift to online events is unlikely to snap back post pandemic. This is therefore the time for the RACP to formalise a whole of College online event strategy. Questions become “should we ever return to large scale face-to-face events or convert fully to a digital future?”. Such a direction would not preclude the RACP from retaining the flexibility to turn on smaller, safe, face-to-face member events in satellite locations as health orders and mobility permit.
Remote working Remote working has generated many positive benefits with less traffic, less time spent commuting, a reduction of emissions, more free time, and greater levels of engagement and productivity as employees are able to engage in somewhat more flexible work arrangements and feel a greater locus of control over their environment and safety.
The RACP like other knowledge businesses and education institutions, has proven its Board, Committees, Councils and staff can maintain business continuity and work effectively remotely.
With all staff already enjoying mobile working on laptops with applications and cloud solutions that allow remote file sharing and collaboration, the RACP was able to leverage existing features such as Microsoft Teams to further enhance remote productivity. This enabled the maintenance of business continuity from meeting schedules to payroll; from Zoom-based Board and Committee meetings to Fellow-led adaptation of the Divisional Clinical Exams. Increased communications to keep members up to date RACP communications intentionally adopted a more personal and humanistic tone with the onset of the pandemic. This was in alignment with the RACP Service Principles, and something that has been well received.
The clear, detailed and regularly updated COVID-19 information available to staff has increased a sense of transparency which has helped to grow the confidence of staff in the organisation and its focus on their safety and that of its members.
Members who wish to read the full 41 page report can access it on the College website.
© 2021 The Royal Australasian College of Physicians