A number of Australian companies have advised their employees to work from home if possible to prevent the further spread of COVID in the coming winter months.
Telecoms group Telstra and financial services firm Westpac have instructed staff to make arrangements so that they could work from home for the time being. The move comes after the recent spike in COVID cases over the past few months.
Professor Paul Kelly, chief medical officer of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), urged companies to allow their staff to “work from home if feasible”.
Alex Badenoch, a Group Executive at Telstra, said the company has changed its guidance in response to Kelly’s appeal.
“With the rise in COVID case numbers and changing health advice, we have updated our people on how they can stay COVID-safe,” Badenoch said.
“We are strongly encouraging our people to work from home if they can, wear a mask when they can’t socially distance, and get their booster shot if they’re eligible.”
Badenoch added that Telstra staff who cannot work from home, such as retail members and field technicians, will be provided with face masks and rapid tests.
Meanwhile, Westpac announced that it had updated its guidance even before the AHPPC released its recommendation. The company said it had already adopted a hybrid workplace model since last year. Employees who wished to work from home could do so “with no requirement to be in the office”.
“For employees who are required to attend a workplace, such as our branches, we have a range of health and safety measures in place to keep our people safe,” a Westpac representative said.
While private companies have begun offering flexible work arrangements, some government departments reportedly have yet to follow suit. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese himself stopped short of asking employers to let more of the staff to work from home.
In a press conference earlier this week, Albanese was asked by reporters about the AHPPC’s advice. He did not explicitly back a return to working from home, leaving the choice to employers instead.
“Businesses will continue to make those decisions,” Albanese said. “They need to make them on the basis of safety, but also for some people we need to recognise that they can’t work from home.
“It’s a matter of getting the balance right. I’m confident that with a bit of common sense applied we can do that.”