Operating through the pandemic
The CEFC operated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, rapidly transitioning from a highly mobile yet office-based workforce to an organisation where employees were working productively from home. Keeping our people safe and healthy has been the priority throughout.
A COVID-19 Response Team, involving Office Management, Operational Risk and People and Culture representatives, formulated a COVID-19 response plan at the beginning of March 2020. We follow the latest advice from Australian and State Government health departments and have implemented a series of controls aligned with SafeWork Australia guidance.
A rapid, smooth transition
We were required to close our Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth offices from March. Business continuity preparedness, which has been central to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) decision making since inception, meant we were well placed to support a rapid switch to working from home.
In early March, all remaining desktop computers were replaced, ensuring all employees were using laptop computers, supported by cloud based applications. In the first two weeks of working from home, the internal IT support team reached out to all employees individually to ensure their needs were addressed. Some additional ICT resources were deployed in response, including 30 mobile data services and 40 computer monitors. Mobile data usage on corporate services increased 300 per cent by the end of April, compared with early March.
Computer based video conferencing has become an essential part of everyday work life since the transition to working from home. Use of our main video conferencing platform increased more than 500 per cent on pre-COVID levels. Additional products including Microsoft Teams, Lifesize and ON24 were adopted to meet communication and collaboration needs.
An upgraded intranet news portal for employees launched in February has been instrumental in keeping our people informed and connected. User guides published on the intranet and online training sessions have supported new products and technologies.
COVID-19 operational changes
Maintaining safety and wellbeing
While a convenient option, working from home potentially poses new risks for employees related to physical safety, productivity and mental and physical wellbeing. Regular “pulse” surveys have helped us monitor and minimise these risks. We have provided increased access to our Employee Assistance Program, provided additional personal leave as well as virtual exercise and meditation programs. A working from home Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) audit was conducted and reimbursements were provided for home safety equipment and IT accessory purchases. The CEFC also assisted employees who wished to obtain ergonomic office chairs to ensure they could continue to work from home safely.
We have undeniably proven to ourselves our ability to function well as an organisation with employees working from home.Employee pulsesurvey response
Prior to re-opening our Sydney and Brisbane offices, we undertook modifications to ensure our facilities were COVID-safe, based on SafeWork Australia guidelines. Workforce rotations have ensured we have met social distancing requirements, with the return to the office operating on a voluntary basis.
An internal audit of the COVID-19 Response has assisted us to further enhance the design and implementation of key WHS controls already established in our offices, to protect employees who may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to compromised immune systems or chronic illnesses.