It’s time to stop turtling up

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May 2021
Recent research from Yale confirms what many of us suspected: our professional and personal networks have shrunk during the pandemic. What may be surprising is the delta of the decrease: about 16% — or more than 200 people — on average, and that it has impacted men more severely.


A shrinking network is bad for employees and bad for companies.


For companies, smaller networks reduce creativity and innovation. Organisations with employees who feel unconnected are at risk of high turnover or even fraud and negligence. For employees, a decreasing network makes developing important work connections, finding a new job, being promoted, or progressing in a career less likely.


Until recently, our networks have mostly remained steady or grown over time, even when we move or change jobs. At most, they churn as new relationships are created to replace those we have lost.


What’s unusual about the pandemic is that old relationships are not being replaced by new ones. And this is problematic because people need connections for business and social benefit as well as for mental health.


If you think of your network as a series of concentric circles that decrease in emotional intensity as you move toward the larger outer rings, the innermost circle contains the five or so people you turn to in times of severe emotional and financial distress. The outermost ring is made up of the roughly 1,500 acquaintances or weak ties whom you would recognise by sight. When the Yale researchers compared the personal and work networks of hundreds of individuals pre- and post-pandemic, they found that the size of the outermost ring had shrunk. That shrinkage was accompanied by a strengthening of connections with people in the innermost ring.


Researchers call this “turtling up.” A Harvard Business School study of digital interactions in a tech company found that exchanges between close collaborators increased by 40% post-lockdown at the expense of 10% less communication between more distant colleagues. Over the long term, turtling up and a dearth of opportunities to interact with strangers are leading to network shrinkage.


Interestingly, this network shrinkage is predominant in men. Women’s networks haven’t shrunk nearly as much. When researchers compared the networks of 200 individuals in June 2019 and then a year later, they found that the men’s networks had shrunk by more than 450 people, or close to 30%. Women’s networks hardly shrank at all.


It is unlikely that women are spending more time networking than men during the pandemic. The difference is probably due to women’s natural networking style providing an advantage. Women talk to maintain emotional closeness. They talk face-to-face, on the phone, etc. Evolutionary psychologists found that was not true of men. Instead of talking, men do things together. They play sports. They drink. They fish. They play cards. They don’t talk like women do, according to the data. And WFH restrictions made it more difficult for people who do things together to stay connected.


As CBDs come back to life in Australia, it’s critical to focus on reconnection now. Without an active effort at regenerating lost relationships, the consequences of network shrinkage are likely to be enduring. And regenerating networks does not mean more Zoom calls. In fact, research shows that video conferencing is not useful for keeping social connections. (It’s impossible to maintain eye contact with your audience when you are looking into a camera.) You need to get out there and re-connect in person. It’s time to stop turtling up. Your social wellbeing, your business prospects, and your mental health depend upon it.


Yours sincerely,

April Palmerlee, Chief Executive Officer

American Chamber of Commerce in Australia


I’m delighted to welcome these new members and here are links to their websites:

Company Spotlight

AmCham is pleased to announce the appointment of Caroline McMillen as Vice Chair of the South Australian Council of Governors.

Prof Caroline McMillen AO

Vice Chair, SA Council of Governors

Chief Scientist for South Australia

Department for Innovation and Skills

We are also pleased to announce the appointment of the following new Governors:

Tom Christodoulou

Governor, VIC Council of Governors

Regional Sales Director

Zebra Technologies

Prof John Dewar AO

Governor, VIC Council of Governors

Vice Chancellor and President

La Trobe University

Chris LeBlanc

Governor, NSW Council of Governors

Managing Director Australia and New Zealand

3M Australia

Gönül Serbest

Governor, VIC Council of Governors

CEO Global Victoria

Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions

Member Spotlight

Jane Kelly

CEO | CMAX Clinical Research


With a background in nursing and business, Jane was one of the inaugural staff members at CMAX when it was established over 27 years ago and has a long history of leadership within the early phase clinical trials sector.


When the pandemic hit, business could have gone either way. However, with Australia controlling community transmission, and the US and Europe closing for prolonged periods, companies needing clinical trials turned to Australia and particularly South Australia as a preferred destination. CMAX almost doubled its workforce within 12 months from 150 staff to 275 staff and it is not slowing down.


Childhood dream job?

When I was very young, I wanted to be a teacher, as I only wanted to draw on the blackboard, then I wanted to be a Vet. However, during my senior years at high school, I volunteered at St John’s and this exposure to providing first aid and medical services drew me to nursing where I focused on Trauma and Emergency.


Favourite fictional character and why?

Pooh Bear – oh, for the simple life! The world we live in is so complicated and there is a lot of stress and pressure, especially over the past year with the pandemic. I think it is important to take time out, evaluate and slow down, take care of our mental health and wellbeing.


Personal motto that helps you power through obstacles?

Stop… breathe… think… react. When I was young and working in the trauma department, we didn’t have time to stop and think – lives depended on us taking action. When working in corporate leadership, we need to make the right decision, most of our jobs are not literally “saving lives”. So, stop and think, we make better decisions when we have time to contemplate the outcomes.


What book are you reading now?

The Midnight Library, Matt Haig – very inspiring. I won’t give away the ending, but the context is, what would our lives look like if we had taken a different path? For example, If I pursued teaching or veterinary science …. It is the “what if’s” book


If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something, what would it be?

Languages. I have been learning Japanese for five years ever since CMAX was acquired by a Japanese company. The Board Meetings are translated between English and Japanese, however, I often wonder what the side conversations are occurring that get “lost in translation”.

Company Spotlight

CSIRO Innovation Partnership Bolsters NSW Science and Tech Strength



The NSW Government has signed a historic five-year Innovation Partnership agreement with Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, to drive digital technology, manufacturing and health excellence across NSW-based innovation precincts.


Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said that the partnership would emphasise the state’s global reputation as a base for technological innovation, knowledge and expertise and drive new opportunities for businesses to invest, expand or locate in NSW.


“The NSW Government has a long history of working with CSIRO and this agreement through Investment NSW takes our strategic partnership to an historic next level,” Mr Ayres said.


“The partnership will immediately accelerate innovation and commercialisation, create new jobs in growth industries like advanced manufacturing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital health, and increase economic growth as part of our strong recovery from the pandemic.


“Engaging CSIRO as an Innovation Partner also enables us to work together to explore future opportunities to align and collaborate on research and innovation, with the potential to open up a range of new industry development and investment attraction opportunities across the state,” he said.


Through the partnership, CSIRO will continue to consolidate its Sydney operations, focusing on advanced manufacturing, quantum technologies, aerospace, defence and agribusiness at the future Bradfield Aerotropolis, digital focus at Tech Central in Eveleigh, and health capabilities in the Westmead Health and Innovation District.


CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the agreement recognised the importance of connecting the NSW business and research community with Australia’s largest commercialisation network, as well as access to world-class expertise in emerging fields like genetics, materials, quantum, synthetic biology, and space.


“CSIRO’s partners in NSW will have access to the country’s best scientific and commercialisation expertise, as well as world-class research infrastructure, to harness the power of science to create jobs in NSW and make life better for all Australians,” Dr Marshall said.


Network News

Federal Budget 2021



The last year has provided significant challenges for stakeholders across the board with COVID-19 and its response. Leaders are facing and navigating a broad range of issues with the primary focus being recovery and the mitigation of issues. Continuing to move Australia forward in a proactive manner remains high on the agenda.


Our team of experts have analysed the 2021 Federal Budget announcement and how this will impact businesses, the economy and industries moving forward. KPMG's analysis below is aimed at assisting you to understand, prepare and anticipate the suggestions and changes forthcoming.


Federal Budget Insights 2021-2022



A lot can change in a year.


In May 2020, 12 months ago, the first instalment of JobKeeper had just been paid. JobKeeper, a wage subsidy paid by the Federal Government to businesses significantly impacted by COVID-19, would go on to be the largest single fiscal initiative in Australia’s history.


Although we had just emerged from the first wave of COVID-19 infections better than some of our international peers, the economic outlook in May last year was decidedly bleak. Reputable commentators — Treasury included — warned of an unprecedented economic recession, with unemployment potentially reaching 15 per cent.


Fast-forward to today, and in the words of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, delivering his third budget, “Australia is coming back”.


Old Jobs, New Tricks?



Inside the budget lockup on Tuesday evening, the pervasive sense was that other than pre-announced policies including large provisions for aged care and childcare, there was little to get excited about. The figures do show the Federal Government’s economic management in the first phase of the pandemic has been strong. A combination of this, as well as resilience from Australians, high demand for our commodities and a sprinkle of luck has delivered us a better than expected budget position.


2021-2022 Federal Budget Summary



As you know the Federal Budget was handed down the evening of 11 May. Mazars have released an analysis of what the budget means for business, families, individuals and superannuation.



is a link to this year's Budget Summary, or watch it


Network News

Be Unstoppable.

Grow your business with greater savings on international shipping with UPS.


Use promo code AMCHAM at checkout and receive up to 62% off normal rates when shipping from Australia to anywhere in the world!


Simply go to and click the Create a Shipment icon on the homepage.


This offer is valid until 31 December 2021 for eligible international export shipments from Australia using the following services where available: UPS Worldwide Express Plus™, UPS Worldwide Express™, UPS Worldwide Express Saver®, UPS Worldwide Expedited®, and/or UPS Worldwide Express Freight®. Business or personal shipping, parcels, documents, letters and palletized loads accepted. No account required. Cannot be combined with any other offer or existing pricing incentives.

Network News

MetLife Finalist in ALUCA Life Insurance Excellence Awards 2021



MetLife Australia has been named a finalist in all ten categories in the upcoming (Australasian Life Underwriting and Claims Association) Life Insurance Excellence Awards 2021, which recognise excellence in life insurance claims and underwriting.


MetLife has been shortlisted across all individual and team award categories demonstrating the strength of the organisation’s Operations team, who responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by innovating and ensuring customers received the best possible experience, as well as being supported through their health journey.


The winners will be announced by ALUCA at an awards event on Thursday 10 June 2021 in Sydney.


Virtual International Internship Program

Deakin University


Deakin University invests significantly into Deakin TALENT, their Graduate Employment Division, to build employability and support students, graduates and alumni to contribute the asset of education to employers and into industry. Deakin pioneered the FreelancingAGENCY as a Hub and part of their social contract to build capacity and solve real-world problems for not-for-profit and charitable organisations.


FreelancingAGENCY is now accessible as a timely and welcomed extension of this offering. It works to solve current business challenges through providing contracted access to multi-disciplined teams formed by bringing essential skills from within key disciplines in the University together. Strategic access to short-term and on-demand talent is singular emergent challenge and prominent in tactical planning for 2021 and beyond.


The team at DeakinTALENT welcome conversations big and small with new and existing partners and appreciate opportunities to support members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia. Please do make contact at .


Weekly publication – The Washington Short

FTI Consulting


FTI Consulting is a global strategic communications firm. In addition to having a presence in Australia, it has a large office in Washington DC. It publishes an impressive weekly newsletter, The Washington Short, which provides an informative update on what is happening on Capitol Hill. to keep up to date on legislation and staffing issues on the Hill.

Network News

Wondering what the business climate and outlook is like for foreign businesses in China now? Interested in the financial performance of foreign companies there over the past year? Want to understand the challenges and opportunities post-COVID? How is the vaccine rollout going and when will international travel resume between Australia and China? Concerned about the safety of foreign expatriates living or visiting China? Wondering what may happen with the upcoming winter Olympics?


Join AmCham Australia and AmCham New Zealand in hearing from our counterpart at AmCham China. CEO Alan Beebe will present the findings of AmCham China’s latest annual business climate survey as well as address these topics and take questions from the audience. Joining Alan is former Australian Consul General in Hong Kong and currently the CEO of the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations, Michaela Browning. Michaela will bring her experience and observations with Australia's business dealings in China.


Please join us for this unique and exclusive briefing. The discussion will be Chatham House Rule – no media, please.

Next week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will host the inaugural on May 18 and 19, 2021, featuring a line-up of leaders across the public and private sectors. They are pleased to announce that Bill Gates, Co-chair and Trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will join the Chamber's President and CEO Suzanne Clark for a wide-ranging discussion.


Gates will discuss lessons learned on pandemic response and health system resiliency, the role of technology in addressing climate change and energy challenges, and the importance of work to promote an inclusive recovery both in the United States and around the globe. and we hope you'll join the conversation next week.


For Any Questions: Contact the team at .

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The American Chamber of Commerce in Australia

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