COVID-19: InternetNZ’s preparedness exercise

A blog post by Jordan Carter, Chief Executive, InternetNZ
10 March 2020

With the global spread of COVID-19 on everyone’s minds, we’ve been reflecting on what it means to be a responsible employer in New Zealand. How do we protect staff and their families? How can we ensure our staff feel supported during this time? What plans do we have in place for dealing with a pandemic now or in the future?

We are preparing for how we will deal with an array of possibilities related to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, or any future pandemic, in Aotearoa. We’ve been closely monitoring the situation and developing responses for now and in the future, using the Ministry of Health workplace pandemic influenza guidance. While we hope our staff and communities remain safe from COVID-19, the government has confirmed over 6,000 people as having been or being in self-isolation in New Zealand, so we must be ready. 

Considering remote working and working from home preparedness is a vital part of responding to the current situation as well as being prepared for potential spread.

To test our ability to carry on with our work in a situation of quarantine, where people aren't able to access the office, we are running an organisation-wide remote working trial from Tuesday 10 March through to Thursday 12 March. Nobody will be in our offices, and we will be doing our work from the places we would aim to be if there was a quarantine situation in place.

This trial is relevant both to the COVID-19 situation and to the wider set of risks that we face as an organisation with most staff in Wellington. Being away from the office is something that could happen for a range of reasons. 

The Internet can connect staff from wherever we are. There’s no shortage of video-conferencing tools, communication and collaboration tools to keep staff interacting and operations proceeding. It’s a real case of harnessing the power of the Internet. 

We’re fortunate to be in a position where we already offer these tools and many staff members already work from home occasionally. Our recent research, New Zealand’s Internet Insights, shows 54% of New Zealanders have the ability to work from home. 

But we know there are barriers to working from home in New Zealand. The most significant hurdle employees have when it comes to remote working is the number of face-to-face meetings, with 46% of research participants citing it as the reason they can’t work from home.

Meetings are just one of many things we’ve had to start thinking about as we embark on this trial. Some of the questions we want to answer are:

  • Do staff have stable home Internet connections?

  • Do staff have home setups in line with health and safety best practice?

  • Do we have the right tools in place for staff to complete work online?

  • Will our video conferencing tools work with 50+ staff online at once?

  • Are there wellbeing issues that surface when isolated at home?

Having all staff work remotely at once is a step into uncharted territory but it’s an important step for us to take in response to COVID-19 and our overall pandemic and general business continuity preparedness. 

We are taking this proactive opportunity to iron out any kinks in our system so we can ensure staff health, safety, and wellbeing, and our ability to sustain operations (especially of .nz) should the outbreak expand significantly.