Notes on the Pandemic

Kathleen Mosier, IEA Immediate Past President

This has been an extraordinary time to serve as IEA President. The role of human factors and ergonomics has never been more essential than it is today, as highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am pleased and honored to report that members of IEA–the Executive Committee, IEA Council, and member societies–met the challenges of COVID-19 with adaptability, creativity, flexibility, and a positive, problem-solving attitude. Our revised website served as a central repository for HFE guidance and solutions from our member societies on a wide range of COVID-related topics including donning and using Personal Protection Equipment, designing and manufacturing ventilators, reducing stress, disaster management logistics, vaccination programs, keeping healthcare workers and patients safe, using computers and devices, and issues involved in remote work. Together we provided a wealth of information for stakeholders across the globe.


Among the documents addressing COVID-19 issues are the IEA/ISQua Collaborative Supplement on HF/E issues and contributions to COVID-19, a project accomplished jointly with the International Society for Quality in Health Care. We facilitated the translation of the Japanese Ergonomics Society’s Seven Practical Tips for Teleworking/Home-Learning using Tablet/Smartphone Devices into more than half a dozen languages. Executive Committee members wrote two documents for the International Labour Organization (ILO) World Day for Safety and Health at Work, Work at the Sharp End: Human Factors/Ergonomics for Protecting Healthcare Workers and Patients, and Work from Home: Human Factors/Ergonomics Considerations for Teleworking.


Because of COVID-19 restrictions the IEA Executive Committee was called upon to make many adjustments to our usual practices, and we had to find ways to continue work and fulfill our mission and goals within the constraints imposed by the virus. IEA2021 is perhaps the most salient response to the challenge of COVID-19, as all of us can appreciate the adept pivot of the Congress from an in-person meeting Vancouver, Canada, to a virtual global event. It was an amazing accomplishment by Ian Noy and his organizing committee.


The new ‘socially distanced’ virtual mode had downsides and benefits.  On the negative side, we were not able to continue the in-person working meetings that enabled concentrated reporting, discussions, and planning among the Officers, Executive Committee and Council members. We sorely missed these interactions.  We were not able to send representatives to human factors and ergonomics or other conferences to establish new relationships and strengthen old ones.  However, we were able to take advantage of the positive aspects of remote work, including the capabilities of Constant Contact and Zoom remote meeting software, to build and increase our communications and collaborative activities.  We met frequently and regularly among the officers and with the Executive Committee (extra meetings in 2020), Standing Committee Chairs, and internal stakeholders (society officers and members). We discovered that virtual meetings can be highly inclusive – for example the number of Council members who attended the 2020 virtual Council meeting was higher than for most in-person meetings, and for many society representatives it was the first time they were able to attend an IEA Council meeting. Virtual meetings are now a cost-effective and integral part of our infrastructure. However, they can never completely replace the face-to-face interactions with our friends and colleagues.  I hope we will be able to be together soon.


Lastly, I am honored to have been the 20th IEA President during these unique times and to have served with such an excellent Executive team. I am vastly grateful for their hard work and want to recognize them and here: Sara Albolino, Vice President/ Secretary General; Jose Orlando Gomes, Vice President/ Treasurer; Yushi Fujita, Past President and Awards Committee Chair; Andrew Todd, International Development Committee; Michelle Robertson, Communications and Public Relations Committee;  Max Chang, Professional Standards and Education Committee; Thomas Alexander, Science, Technology and Practice Committee; Elina Parviainen, Development and Promotions Committee; Margaret Graf, Swiss Resident Director and Chair of the Certification SubCommittee; Juan Carlos Hiba, Future of Work Task Force; and Ian Noy, Chair of the IEA2021 Organizing Committee.  Two EC members stepped down during this term:  Ernst Koningsveld, IEA Historian, who led the creation and publication of the History of the International Ergonomics Association 1985-2018; and Takashi Kawai, ICT Director, who managed our previous website and supported its re-creation.  Lynn Strother, our Administrator, is not an official member of the Executive Committee, but she was and is invaluable to the smooth and efficient functioning of the IEA EC and our interactions with our Members.  Thank you to all Executive Committee members for their extraordinary efforts, described in their respective sections of this Triennial Report.  It has been a rewarding and invaluable experience to work with these extraordinary people.