It’s a brave new world, and we need all the bold ideas we can get to drive us forward into the sunlit uplands of a post-COVID world. Our CEO Andy Penn today shared his thoughts about the opportunities we have to change our work, life and world for the better post-COVID. Here are some of the key things we took from his speech.

1. We’ve blown all the trends out of the water, and 2021 could be even more unpredictable

If you picked up a trends report in 2019 that talked about how we would all live and work over the next 10 years, it would have showed you a world we have now realised by January 2021.

“On a global scale, some estimates are that we vaulted 5 years in terms of digital adoption in a matter of a few months,” he said.

The Christmas and New Year break should have been one for rest and relaxation after a tough year, Andy shared, adding that there’s “every chance 2021 will be even more uncertain than 2020”.

“The facts are, we still don’t know how this pandemic will evolve, what difference the vaccine will make and when, when we will be able to travel again and to where or when we will be able to get back into the office consistently.

“Most importantly, as leaders we need to see the opportunities in 2021 that stem from the disruption of 2020. We need to do things differently, to show up differently as companies and as a country,” he added.

2. We need courage, now more than ever

Leadership, Andy explained, is about providing clarity and confidence of direction. In the proverbial grocery store of life, clarity and confidence are two items in short supply, right next to the baking ingredients and toilet paper. But, ever the optimist, Andy shared that we must “have the courage to radically change”.

“There are many examples through history where bold decisions made in the wake of a crisis fundamentally changed trajectory.”

And it’s time to seize on those opportunities before they pass us by.

3. Working from home will become more about how you work, not just where

Home is where the heart is, and in 2021, the conversation will turn from not just where we all work from but how, with more of our work done around life.

“As leaders, we need to deepen our understanding of the challenges of working from home – in situations like shared households and to consider workplace layouts that give our people a space to work which isn’t their bedside table, as one of our people was found to be doing while his flatmate was using the kitchen bench.”

By giving more flexibility with where and how we work, we’ll perform better at work and at home so it’s a win-win.

4. Location will no longer impact hiring choices for office and contact centre roles at Telstra

In fact, many of our new hires in 2021 will be for positions with no fixed address advertised.

“In the new era of remote and hybrid work, where an employee lives is no longer a limitation.

As a major employer we are moving to a ‘location agnostic’ approach for all office and contact centre-based roles. Jobs will be advertised without a location, initially in Australia and then internationally, opening up the talent pool beyond the typical CBD.

How about that!

5. We shouldn’t learn to live with COVID

Andy shared that he had seen commentary around that suggested we strive to return to “normal”.

“Let’s not strive to return to normal,” Andy challeged. He wants Australia and the world to aim higher, do better and “take control of the situation”.

While others are searching for the new normal, Andy says we should look for “the exact opposite”.

“Let’s not just accept a world with COVID, we can do better than that. Let’s take control of the situation, use it to our advantage to enhance the quality of life for our people, our customers and our communities.”

6. Embracing different ways of working to close the gender gap

It’s no secret that corporate Australia has work to do when it comes to women in the workplace. One of the opportunities presented to us by COVID, Andy says, is to propel this work even further forward by ensuring we are flexible on where and how work is done.

“As leaders, we need to understand the parenting and educating burden still often falls to women and support them with the flexibility they need to juggle their work and home lives.

“We cannot afford to go backwards on female representation or gender pay. In fact, we should use this as an opportunity to make great leaps forward in diversity in the workforce,” Andy said.

7. The office is just a resource now

Early in the pandemic, many of us felt that to get our “real work” done we needed to go into the office.

But instead of thinking that we need to go to the office to do our work, we should think of the office like a resource instead of just a venue.

“We’ve proven over the last 12 months that we don’t need to be working in the office together to innovate, let’s build on that experience and challenge ourselves further,” he said.

8. Tech is here to help us work and understand each other better

Back in 2016, we knew we would see further evolution of technology, and that’s why we invested $3 billion to build the networks of the future, and completely rebuild our digital environment. As we progressed and launched our T22 strategy in 2018 to simplify and digitise the business, we found ourselves with a suite of digital business tools to help us understand, serve and reach our customers better, Andy explained.

For example, whereas people used to queue outside stores for the new iPhone, 50% of our orders for the latest Apple smartphone were through our online app.

Technology driven change is only going to accelerate from here. It’s a fundamental paradigm shift, all underpinned by strong connectivity and networks built with the future in mind.

9. How Telstra is weathering the storm

It’s an uncertain time for the world, and the business community has been profoundly affected by COVID-19.

Andy shared that 2021 is an inflection point for our business in particular as we pick up speed with the changes we’ve been making as part of our T22 strategy.

And we have our work cut out for us this year: we’re restructuring our business; migrating customers to our new technology environment; extend our 5G population coverage to 75% by June, and need to move ahead with our long-flagged job reductions next week, many which have been put on hold by the pandemic.

“We said at our Investor Day in November, we expect FY21 underlying EBITDA to be weighted to the second half.

“No doubt there will be plenty of headlines but, as we continue to transform, the underlying trend for Telstra is good.” Andy added.

You can read the full transcript of Andy Penn’s speech here.