Supporting employees through the COVID-19 pandemic

2 min
25 August 2020

When government restrictions were put in place across the country to control the spread of COVID-19, we knew our employees’ wellbeing would be impacted. We were determined to help them remain well and productive during this very difficult time as well as maintain our strong organisational culture.

Many employees were working remotely and others were at our assets supporting our residents and tenants. Some of our people were caring for their children, home schooling while working. Others are were on their own, feeling isolated, pressured or lonely. Some employees were concerned about their financial situation, including job security, and cases of Domestic and Family Violence increased in the community. In addition, our 2020 Our Voice results told us that the number of people who indicated they felt anxious at work had increased to 54 per cent.

The right technology in place

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had already provided the majority of our employees with technology devices and applications that increased their mobility and flexibility. This was instrumental in the smooth transition to remote working and increased employee engagement during the COVID-19 government restrictions. To build on this, we fast-tracked the implementation of Microsoft Teams, rolling it out to 100% of employees within 14 days. Microsoft Teams helped our people remain connected and enabled them to collaborate effectively.

We also created a range of tools to support employees working flexibly, including manager and employee guides to flexible and remote working.

Open, two-way communications

From March 2020 to the end of June, regular employee virtual live events were held with our Executive Committee providing updates on the current situation and spending time answering employee questions.                          

Focusing on safety and wellbeing

We launched 30 Days of Wellbeing in April 2020, led by our Wellbeing EAG Executive Committee sponsor, Louise Mason, Group Executive & CEO of Commercial Property.During the month we shared hints, tips and experiences to help support the physical and mental health of our people. We partnered with our CARE Foundation partners R U OK? and ReachOut, as well as The Wellbeing Outfit (our wellbeing training provider) to hold virtual seminars and to develop educational content.

A webinar hosted by Louise Mason, Ashley De Silva, CEO of ReachOut Australia, and Katherine Newton, CEO of RU OK? outlined the important work both charities do to support people with mental health challenges. Ashley and Katherine shared some of the things they have been responding to, the communities they’ve been supporting and practical tips and advice on managing mental health and wellbeing. They discussed the uncertainty COVID-19 has brought and the importance of staying connected,listening to others and providing support to our families,our colleagues and our staff over the coming months.As we started to move toward the recovery phase of COVID-19 we were aware employees would now be feeling anxious about the return to the office. The Wellbeing Outfit hosted virtual seminars with our employees, offering strategies for better mental health and resilience.

Leading the Recovery

Our people managers are critical in leading our response to COVID-19 and protecting the safety and wellbeing of customers, communities and their teams. To help support our people managers to lead during this time we developed a program called Leading the Recovery,including tools, resources and learning experiences for managers, leaders and employees. This program provided support for our leaders as we moved from Containment to Recovery in having conversations about flexible work, performance reviews, wellbeing and setting priorities.In addition, we wanted to leverage the learning from COVID-19 and accelerate improvements in our culture.Leadership seminars were held including:

• Leading real conversations – to support managers in having difficult conversations.

• Leadership during turbulence – to reframe the crisis and proactively create the future.

• Leading the recovery – to lead during volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

• Team Blueprint – to help develop ways of working to support wellbeing, productivity and business priorities.

To support these live seminars, we packaged together a range of leadership tools and resources to help support our people. All these tools and resources were made available on Leader Zone, our online virtual learning site.