Telstra has announced late this afternoon that its office-based workforce will be working from home come Monday 16 March, and will remain so until the end of the month at the earliest.

Telstra made the announcement on its corporate news site this afternoon, emphasising that it was not as a result of any team member testing positive for COVID-19, but more as a result of wanting to keep it that way.

Telstra’s Alex Badenoch notes:

This unprecedented situation requires decisive action, and it’s important we are flexible and ready to adapt to this evolving situation. Getting ahead of things now will mean we are prepared should the issue escalate quickly.We need to maintain our focus on serving our customers and the essential role we play in connecting Australians.

To be clear, this step is not an action or represent a point of view from Telstra on the medical nature of the health risks. It is a practical response to decisions and guidelines from experts being made around us.

It is important to note there are some essential operations which cannot be fulfilled remotely, including store and field teams, call centres, and some other functions. We will continue to have additional procedures and safeguards in place for teams not able to work from home.

Telstra joins a growing number of businesses here in Australia and around the world stepping up the response to the COVID-19 pandemic which is quite literally sweeping around the world. Google has sent its North American workforce home, and others are actively examining work from home options for part or all of their workforces.

If you can work from home, and if your employer allows it, it’s probably a good idea to start planning for this becoming less optional and more a requirement. Sensible measures which Telstra is taking, and which others have implemented this week include:

  • Limiting any face to face meetings only to those which must essentially occur; meetings across Australia have been rescheduled to phone conferences, Skype meetings, Zoom meetings and the like;
  • Limiting (if not ceasing) domestic and international air travel;
  • Cancelling any gatherings of large numbers of people. Telstra has cancelled anything with more than 25 people, and our Prime Minister has urged that any event with more than 500 attendees be cancelled from Monday 16 March;
  • Encouraging active, regular practice of hand hygiene; and
  • Discouraging hand shakes, fist bumps and all interpersonal contact.

These moves come as events around the country are being cancelled or significantly changed; conferences are being cancelled, sporting events cancelled or suspended, or played in front of empty stadiums, schools being closed and some businesses closing up entirely.

Things are evolving rapidly, and we’re happy to see Telstra taking some proactive steps in this situation.