BusinessNZ estimates at least 10 percent of the county’s workforce will start working from home today because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This will include thousands of public servants.

The government is encouraging anyone who can work remotely to do so.

BusinessNZ has crunched the numbers and come up with a figure of about 200,000 people working from home out of 2 million.

Its chief executive Kirk Hope said the 10 percent of workers who are able to work remotely reflects how many jobs in this country require face-to-face contact with customers.

”Where as the people we are talking about are essentially the people who will be supporting those businesses in the background or their business is essentially a knowledge-based business which makes it easier for them to be able to transact remotely.”

He said frontline staff particularly in critical infrastructure will still need to go into work.

”Where people are really the advisors to or the support staff or they are looking after a broader set of stakeholders and they are able to work from home that the type of people who will be able to work from home so it will be a bit of a mix across businesses, it won’t always be everyone working from home.”

Telecommunications company Spark said the majority of its 5500 workers are out of the office working remotely.

Chief executive Jollie Hodson said the company is a lifeline utility and is expected to remain up and running regardless.

“It’s really making sure teams are split for critical teams that actually have to come into a building so we have done that already and we have had many of our people working remotely from non-frontline roles but obviously retail stores are different and therefore we have increased our cleaning and hygiene protocols in relation to those sites where we do have people there.”

The Southland Regional Council is one organisation aiming to have most of its 180 staff working from home by the end of the week.

Chief executive Rob Phillips said customers won’t notice too many differences in service.

”We are looking to maintain out services as close to normal as we possibly can in these extraordinary times, there will be some differences but we want to try and maintain what we are doing as much as we can.”

The Waikato Chamber of Commerce executive director, Don Good said large companies have trialled all staff working from home quite successfully, but smaller businesses may struggle.

“It’s going to be a real mixed bag out there and I am not sure the government at this stage has got their handle on how everyone is going to cope.”

Good said working from home is not likely to be a problem once and technical issues are sorted out.

”In the situation like this you do have to trust staff there is no question of that, you can’t be looking at them all of the time, but the technology is there, you just have to become familiar with it .”

Unions are supporting workplaces offering the chance to work from home in support of the government directive trying to contain the virus.

Richard Wagstaff from the Council of Trade Unions said workers need to feel safe working from home and not feel they are being forced into it.

”That means making sure the workers have the necessary equipment to be able to work from home, basically having arrangements at home that are comfortable and suitable.”

He said there may be some people who for a number of reasons can not work from home.

”I am not aware of anybody who doesn’t want to get behind the nation’s call to do what we can to contain this virus and I hope that is what everyone does.”

”Equally we would expect employers to listen to their workers if they can’t work from home,” he said.

Richard Wagstaff said he hopes both sides can figure it out to everyone’s satisfaction.

This article was originally published on RNZ and re-published with permission.

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