As COVID continues to cause disruption and hardship in workplaces, there are particular challenges for self-employed public health consultants, writes Rebecca Zosel, on behalf of the Australian Public Health Consultants network.
Rebecca Zosel writes:
The nature of work and workplaces is changing, and the new work order brings more flexibility and job insecurity than ever before.
As outlined in a previous Croakey article, there is a rise of flexible working arrangements, including part-time, casual, independent contracting, and self-employment in Australia and globally.
The trend towards flexible work is set for continued growth, fuelled by the disruptions and changing patterns of work resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
There has also been much discussion about the ‘great resignation’ – the unprecedented rise in the number of workers resigning from their jobs following the pandemic, as people reflect on what is important to them and how they wish to structure their work life.
Connections, support and advocacy
The Australian Public Health Consultants Network is a professional networking group that connects, supports and advocates for consultants working in public health.
Social connection is critical for this segment of the public health workforce, as self-employed workers experience high levels of insecure work, income instability and professional isolation.
This free network for public health consultants was established in 2016 by co-founders Rebecca Zosel and Kristy Schirmer who run the network on a pro bono basis with the ethos ‘cooperation over competition’.
The network currently has over 80 members in an online networking group and over 480 stakeholders subscribe to the network’s e-newsletter.
The benefits of the network are widespread and include getting emotional and social support from other workers to help people cope with the stress of working alone, and being alerted to work opportunities.
Dr Iain Butterworth said: “The network mirrors the principles of the Ottawa Charter: building individual skills, building a community of practice, supporting consultants to help reorient health services, create supportive environments and influence policy and practice.”
Dr Becky White said: “Being connected via the Facebook group means I can see tenders and opportunities being shared. The quarterly catch ups are a great way to stay connected.”
On 7 April 2022 the network ran a free webinar Lessons from Consulting: Insights from Australian Public Health Consultants.
Some of Australia’s leading consultants from diverse fields came together at the event to share their experiences of working as a public health consultant.
The event was designed for the public health workforce, including aspiring public health consultants and established consultants looking to enhance their business.
The Australian Public Health Consultants Network were pleased to provide this one-hour webinar on a pro bono basis and free of charge to all. Over 115 people registered to attend.
The discussion focused on the challenges and opportunities of consulting, reflections on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted how business, and key lessons and tips for running a small business.
The event was chaired by Rebecca Zosel with co-host Kristy Schirmer and panel members Nikki Teggelove – NT International, Dr Iain Butterworth – Iain Butterworth & Associates, Stephen Bendle and Dr Becky White – Reach Health Promotion Innovation.
The webinar can be viewed here.
The graphic recording below is by Diana Ayoub from Sh8peShifters.
The discussion met with positive feedback from fellow consultants, participants and panellists themselves.
Nikki Teggelove said: “The webinar provided a wonderful opportunity to reflect on my consultancy, practice and the impact of the pandemic on my work – as well as to learn from the experiences of fellow public health consultants.”
Dr Iain Butterworth said: “We panellists were thanked for our honesty and authenticity. For me, these are our superpowers and value proposition – both as public health consultants and as change agents.”
Stephen Bendle said: “It was also beneficial to me to reflect what has worked, what hasn’t and what I would do differently. I hope that also helped others in the network.”
Some words of wisdom and parting tips came from panellist Nikki Teggelove:
Be responsive – the pandemic has changed our work and our world. Agility, flexibility and adaptivity are key tools of public health consulting that enable us to respond to ever changing work environments and emerging public health challenges.
A focus on self-promotion and self-care should be integrated into consulting work practice – we are often better at talking about it than actually doing it!”
Sign up to the Australian Public Health Consultants Network e-news to stay informed about all public health consulting and the network. We welcome established, self-employed public health consultants to join the Facebook group here.
• Contributors to this article include: Kristy Schirmer, Dr Becky White, Dr Iain Butterworth, Nikki Teggelove, and Stephen Bendle.
- Australian Public Health Consultants Network website
- Planning to pivot to consulting webinar recording, delivered by the network in 2021
- Blog: The ABCs of looking after yourself and your consultancy during the pandemic – a guide for self-employed consultants
- Croakey’s Around the Traps series developed by network members.
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