Tactical advice for organisations during Covid-19

This page provides tactical advice for organisations in the current Covid-19 environment. It draws on advice, ideas and experiences from Forum members and international organisations.

Tactical experiences and approaches of Forum CEOs in Alert Level 4

These experiences come directly from discussions with Forum CEOs during New Zealand's period of Alert Level 4 in late March and April 2020. Key themes are communication, connection outside of contracts, and capturing learning to lock-in improvements:

Tactical approaches and experiences of Forum CEOs during Alert Level 4 (PDF, 193 KB)

Are you safe to re-start work?

As a senior leader of a New Zealand business it's crucial you have a clear, considered and coherent safe-start risk plan for how your organisation, and those who it relies on, will get back to work to stop the spread of the virus, ensure no-one gets seriously harmed, and allow you to be productive again. The most effective return to productivity is safely planned, rather than hastily arranged. As a business leader your oversight of that plan is vital. To help assure yourself that your organisation's plan is fit-for-purpose, we've put together the following resource:

Four key assurance principles (PDF, 138 KB). Use them to test and approve your plan.

One Forum member, also a major hazard facility, has shared a survey from WorkSafe that is helping them develop a practical approach to working in Level 4 and 3:

WorkSafe COVID-19 survey (Word doc, 154KB)

WorkSafe also has advice on Covid-19 safety plans, with templates available on the WorkSafe website.

Supply of PPE

Manufacturing New Zealand has provided a directory of NZ organisations who are able to supply PPE related to Covid-19. View the full directory at COVID-19 PPE: NZ Manufacturers.

Governance and working with the board

Forum Chair George Adams and Executive Director Francois Barton addressed Institute of Directors' members on 22 April to discuss how business leaders and directors can lead a clear, considered and coherent safe-start risk plan for their organisations during Covid-19. You can watch this webcast here. Forum members tell us strategies and support that have been helpful from their Board during Covid-19 have been:

  • Support - act as a sounding board and accept we are in unchartered waters
  • Clarity of direction - at a strategic level (not in the weeds, that's our job, or second guessing operational decisions)
  • Breathing space - recognise that it takes time to run the financial models, reconfigure the business and to get our head around this unique challenge
  • Kindness and compassion - recognise that the management team is shouldering a huge burden and that we are human too (we make mistakes, get tired, worried etc.) Regular weekly check-ins with the Board Chair or Board members are helpful.
  • Leadership - stepping up, being visible and being an "equal". Are directors taking pay cuts when they are asking their staff to make huge sacrifices? Are directors focusing on the people within the organisation and their needs? Are they working in partnership with management and being supportive of what's needed to reconfigure the business?

Working with supply chain partners

Forum organisations report some tactics which have been useful in their relationships with clients, and with their supply chain:

  • Being cognisant of the need to retain talent
  • Communicate how you plan to work at every Alert Level
  • Good communication between all supply chain partners
  • Any issues found are raised and addressed quickly
  • Sharing pandemic plans and procedures, and consulting with clients and supply chain to ensure they can work. Where these plans and procedures work well, adopt them and share with other contractors
  • Committing to some minimum hours of work and pay to keep crews and equipment locked and loaded
  • Accepted weekly invoicing and reviewed payment terms from 90 to 30 days.

Options for remuneration

Forum members report they are considering, or have considered the following options for staff pay and use of leave during the varying alert levels. Those options are:

  • Use of the Government wage subsidy
  • Creating volunteer hardship funds for people to contribute part of their salary, so those in need can draw from it
  • Wage freezes
  • Recruitment freezes - except for essential roles
  • Asking staff to take a certain number of days of annual leave before the end of the financial year
  • Executive salary sacrifices
  • Staff salary reductions, and voluntary salary reductions
  • Splitting the business into essential/non-essential staff (where appropriate) and managing leave options and pay accordingly
  • Communicating regularly on all remuneration issues - absolutely transparent with no sugar coating, with information about what to expect in terms of remuneration options at each alert level or scenario.

Vulnerable workers

The Government has provided advice for organisations with vulnerable workers, primarily in the healthcare sector, but this risk assessment may also be useful for vulnerable workers in your organisations:

National guidance for DHBs to reduce risk of COVID-19 infection of vulnerable or at-risk staff (PDF, 429 KB)

Other options being considered by organisations or being used are:

  • At-risk people (those with underlying health conditions, or who are 70+, or who are pregnant, or have been signed off as at-risk by their doctor) are on special leave, and topping up the wage subsidy to 80% of their pay. They are able to use sick pay or annual leave to top up their pay to 100%
  • For those people not wanting to work, or refusing to work as they feel it is unsafe, they have been allowed to take leave for this period, even if the environment is safe and PPE has been provided
  • Providing options for backfilling vulnerable or at-risk people with appropriately skilled colleagues from other areas.

Supporting employee wellbeing during Covid-19

This is a time of extreme uncertainty for organisations and those people working for them. Many are now working in a very different way, especially if they are working from home. Loneliness and loss of connection is a health risk with a significant number of people working from home. For those organisations with people working at home, some options to consider could be:

  • reinforce the important of routine
  • share these 7 mental health hacks while working at home
  • hold 10-minute stand-up meetings via video every morning, asking your teams the following questions:
    • Are you ok? Do you feel safe or unsafe?
    • What did you get done yesterday?
    • What is your number #1 goal today?
    • Are there any impediments to your #1 goal?
  • make sure you're protecting people's time - don't expect everyone to work excessive hours now they're at home and accessible at all hours
  • check with your EAP providers to see how they can support your organisation in this time, some are now offering video counselling, or phone check-ins.

It's also important that as a leader, you consider your own wellbeing and make sure you're looking after yourself in order to support others. One Forum member describes their supportive communications to the organisation focusing on whakakotahi - we are better together.

Key industry information on Covid-19

A number of industry and health and safety bodies have developed, or are developing support and advice on working at varying alert levels during Covid-19 to support their sector work to become Covid-safe.

WorkSafe has endorsed some industry-owned Covid-19 guidance. You can find more about these on the WorkSafe website - Endorsed industry guidance. The WorkSafe-endorsed guidance includes:

Other industry guidance already developed or under way includes: