The Trans-Tasman travel bubble may not matter that much to CIOs

Remote work has made the need for in-person collaboration much less, and CIOs aren’t ready to have their teams resume prepandemic travel patterns.

Many organisations can claim to be trans-Tasman, with IT operations split between Australia and New Zealand. This used to mean their CIOs travelled frequently between the two nations, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced IT teams to work virtually.

Whether the resumption of quarantine-free travel between the two nations—the ‘Trans-Tasman bubble’—beginning 19 April 2021 will signal a return to prepandemic business travel has yet to be determined. One reason is the uncertainty of travel planning while the pandemic rages elsewhere in the world and could break out again in the two countries, which has made the New Zealand government advise caution around travel.

But a longer-term issue is that, according to CIO New Zealand and CIO Australia interviews with CIOs on both sides of the Tasman, business travel likely will not return to past levels now that remote work is proven and widely accepted.

Missing the days of in-person contact

Johnson & Johnson Medical CIO Angela Coble, who is based in Sydney and whose remit covers Australia and New Zealand, says while it has been effective to lead remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, being on the ground with the team across the ditch is extremely valuable. “This bubble will put back in place the in-person collaboration and those ‘meaning moments’ of human contact that I have missed with my New Zealand colleagues,” she says.

Coble is excited about getting her feet back on Kiwi ground and spending time with teams in New Zealand and, when needed, have New Zealanders come over to Australia. “I think everyone is looking forward to being able to gather together in person again when they choose rather than the isolation of the past 12 months,” she says.

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