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Experts predict how COVID-19 will impact industry

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We asked experts how the pandemic will transform their field.

2020 will mark a defining moment in history when life as we know it changed.

From the way industries operate to the way we interact with one another, we are living through a time of transformation. But as we emerge, the question is, will this be remembered as a temporary setback or a catalyst for new ways of living and working?

Interior design: will the office become a thing of the past?

When social distancing rules came into effect, many employees began working from home. Love it or hate it, the shift proved that work could be achieved outside the traditional workspace, raising the question: will this signal a reimagining of the office?

Curtin alumnus Stirling Fletcher is the Workplace Interior Design Leader for global architecture firm Woods Bagot. He believes the rise of flexible work will shape the way workplaces are designed in the future, but it won’t result in the complete demise of the office. While working from home provides peace and quiet from distractions, collaboration and creativity thrive with many brains and bodies in the room.

He believes that future offices will therefore be designed with an emphasis on collaboration rather than ‘head-down’ work. There will be shifts in the way we approach work and engage with technology; shifts Stirling believes will require some consideration by interior architects.

“Organisations will re-think ideas of ‘line of sight’ management and shift toward outcome-based management,” he says.

“This will impact architecture by re-thinking that people, through technology, can work anywhere, any time. Architecture will need to contemplate this paradigm and associated amenity as part of a working ecosystem rather than pure built form.

Future offices will be designed with collaboration in mind.

“One major trend will be a realisation that the office is primarily social at a primeval human level and those tasks that demand collaboration will dominate the office as a place of being together, while focus activity will be done at peripheral space, either in the office or somewhere else, like home.”

“The office is primarily social at a primeval human level and those tasks that demand collaboration will dominate”

“I don’t subscribe to a return to highly-partitioned office environments because working from home during COVID-19 has begged the question, why not just be in your home office instead?”

International relations: could we be witnessing the rise of a new world order?

COVID-19 has seen borders closed and movement restricted, largely between global superpowers. What does this mean for the balance of global power?

Internationally renowned expert in strategic studies and international relations, Associate Professor Alexey Muraviev, says this could be the start of a more united world, or a more divided one, depending on what we do from here.

“We’re at the crossroads. We can take a very positive approach and focus on our shortfalls and weaknesses that COVID-19 has exposed and work on it to make us more resilient and independent. Or we can try to hang onto the pre-COVID-19 international model which is in crisis,” says Muraviev.

“The way the pandemic hit us and the way the governments were compelled to respond to it effectively caused a massive assault on the very concept of globalisation.”

“Globalisation may undergo a significant transformation, which would pose challenges and opportunities. An opportunity is that the failure of the global supply chain may actually reignite the debate about needing strong sovereign industrial capability and economic capability – not being over-reliant on things being made elsewhere. So, it may create more jobs and make states more self-sustaining. But it also requires a massive paradigm shift in our thinking.

Globalisation may undergo a significant transformation as a result of COVID-19

“If we believe that COVID-19 was just a temporary hiccup, move on and pretend that the world hasn’t changed, that may actually be a massive challenge because we don’t know what the next pandemic will look like.

“A challenge for us is to be ready for something much worse than COVID-19 and to be ready to accept new realities. I think there’s going to be change in the international system. If globalisation collapses, that means that the western liberal world may lose its edge and lead as the mantle of the rest of the community.

“COVID-19 may really accelerate the rise of emergent economies.

“One of the great puzzles is who is going to come up with an alternate model to globalisation. I don’t think it will be the United States because they will try to preserve this globalisation model, which suits their economy and their strategic interest.

“Whether China, Russia or another power comes up with an alternative model to reflect new realities, who knows? But I think that may be the watershed that was triggered by COVID-19.”

Could China come up with an alternative to the traditional model of globalisation?

Education: should brick-and-mortar institutions be worried?

Workers weren’t the only ones sent home during the strictest COVID-19 restrictions. Many students, from kindergarten to university, had to quickly adjust to some form of online education.

Has the transition challenged or simply reinforced traditional teaching models? Dr Rebecca Walker and Mr Craig Sims from Curtin’s School of Education say the biggest benefit of online education is accessibility.

Mr Craig Sims and Dr Rebecca Walker from the Curtin School of Education

“It’s exciting to see students engaging in their studies in an online mode and educators thinking differently about their teaching practices. Online education provides an opportunity to access higher education for a wider group of people, especially those people who might not normally be able to because of where they live, their personal circumstances or their life commitments,” says Walker.

She says even disciplines like teaching, where face-to-face interaction is a fundamental skill, can be taught online effectively.

“What we’ve seen in teacher education is that online teaching graduates have a high level of success in their practical placements. For many teaching students, online education means they can study in their community and then go on to teach at local schools.

“For many teaching students, online education means they can study in their community and then go on to teach at local schools.”

Sims says we won’t see online education replace face-to-face, but in the wake of COVID-19, successful institutions must be committed to offering both options.

“One type of education does not suit everyone. Institutions that don’t acknowledge the diversity of student educational needs and work to meet these where viable, should be worried,” he says.

“Online education provides an opportunity to access higher education for a wider group of people” Dr Rebecca Walker

“Those universities that were well-resourced and able to pivot to online are likely to be the ones that come out of this both financially secure and with a cohort of students that have had a quality experience, thereby securing the university’s future.

“We are hopeful that people will start to see the real benefits of online education for themselves but also for their communities.”

Entertainment: will animation fill the live-action void?

While streaming services, videogames and other forms of indoor and online entertainment may have carried us through isolation, the industry itself was not immune from the fallout. New releases have been put on hold, cinemas closed and TV shows forced to improvise to get episodes out as planned in the midst of social distancing.

With much of our entertainment being produced in the US, which is nowhere close to being out of the woods with COVID-19, what’s going to happen with the entertainment industry?

Curtin alumnus Eddie Chew, senior animator on Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse, says the film industry is going to have to continue to be creative to keep things moving and that animation could fill the void, as it can be produced with minimal social contact.

Senior animator Eddie Chew

“Filmmakers have already been using their creativity and resourcefulness in the past three months with things like direct-to-streaming film releases, video-on-demand options and resuming some productions entirely virtually, like CBS’s legal drama All Rise, which produced an entirely virtual episode,” he says.

“NBC’s The Blacklist is another example. In an experiment designed to salvage a partially filmed episode and fashion a satisfying season finale for the crime thriller, they incorporated animation to fill the gaps, giving it a graphic-novel-style finish. I think we’re going to see more of this across the board.”

“In an experiment designed to salvage a partially filmed episode and fashion a satisfying season finale for [The Blacklist], they incorporated animation to fill the gaps, giving it a graphic-novel-style finish.”

“More animation created where live-action would exist, maybe even the possibility of entirely animated films using all CG characters – they’ll certainly be looking to try this out.”

The film and TV industry have been forced to improvise during COVID-19

“There’s a huge opportunity here for both studios and animators. Studios suddenly have a huge available pool of talent to select from without needing to incur costs for things like work visas for non-residents. For animators, it’s the same thing. Studios you once dreamed of working for are suddenly within reach.”

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