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Remote working

Remote working and responding to COVID-19

Coronavirus COVID-19 has forced businesses around the world to ask employees to work remotely and from home. Vodafone New Zealand has a range of measures in place to protect our employees, customers and partners as Kiwis grapple with how to respond as well as contain the spread of the virus.
 

We will continue to share topical news via our news site at news.vodafone.co.nz, so check there for any updates including our initial COVID-19 Care plan to help customers impacted by pandemic and our official statement on responding to COVID-19.


Read on for information about how Vodafone NZ is responding to the needs of employees who are working remotely from their ‘home office’, as well as business continuity planning (BCP) and network preparedness, plus advice for other businesses doing the same.

 

Getting in touch with us
Due to precautionary measures around COVID-19 in New Zealand and internationally including self-isolation efforts for our staff, our call wait times are going up.

If you can use a digital way of contacting us, please do. Our digital customer channels include:

Our Business Continuity Checklist: How Vodafone is responding to COVID-19

At Vodafone New Zealand we are monitoring the spread of COVID-19 closely and continue to prioritise the health and safety of our employees, customers and wider New Zealand.

We have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) action group set up locally, and are working closely with our international colleagues at Vodafone Group, to respond to the impacts of COVID-19.

We follow all NZ Ministry of Health guidelines and have been communicating regularly with our staff regarding travel restrictions and precautionary measures. Our BCP allows for all our people to work remotely, including contact centre and engineering staff. Our processes also require that our suppliers demonstrate that their BCPs are documented, managed and tested, and we routinely audit our key suppliers’ responses.

We are closely monitoring device supply levels, maintaining good relationships with our vendors and suppliers and working dynamically to mitigate any supply delays that emerge.

What can your business do to minimise business and customer impacts from Coronavirus COVID-19?
 

Tips for NZ businesses to adapt to remote working

Flexible and remote working practices have long been part of a business tool-kit, however the advent COVID-19 forced businesses to shift towards a flexible and distributed workforce, especially for knowledge workers and white-collar roles.

But for many businesses it is not as simple as just sending staff home. Employees need to be equipped with the right tools and your IT infrastructure needs to be set up to support it.

Equipping your people

  • Having the right tools to work remotely will mean those not suffering symptoms can get on with business as usual, from the safety of their own homes.
     
  • Devices include laptops or tablets, and smartphones – plus headsets that might make collaboration that little bit easier. If your devices don’t come with an in-built camera suitable for video conferencing you may want to consider supplying a webcam.
     
  • Workers will need access to the internet – whether it is via fibre broadband, wireless broadband delivered via mobile networks, laptops with SIMs or hot-spotting from phones.
     
  • Businesses should consider subsidising home broadband and mobile plans, or providing SIM cards in laptops to minimise Wi-Fi constraints.


Connecting your people

  • Collaboration tools can drive productivity amongst teams and assist with essential social connection. Audio and video conferencing solutions or instant messaging services keep your teams in contact. 
     
  • If you have phone-based staff, you will need to think about how they can still make and receive calls – can they log into your organisation’s PBX system or can you divert calls to their mobiles? 
     
  • Hosting all documents and files in a cloud-based system will allow your people to access them from anywhere and provides easy collaboration. Having a virtual private network (VPN) system allows staff to link into the business’ private network securely.


Securing your systems

  • If your people are working from a number of different locations, this adds extra complexity when it comes to making sure your IT systems will still keep running and will remain secure.
     
  • Many organisations don’t expect their staff to work remotely at the same time when purchasing their VPN system, so it is important to check the number of licences you have for remote access and scale up if need be.
     
  • Securing all work devices with endpoint security controls such as firewalls, anti-virus and malware protection will go a long way to preventing any unwanted IT intrusion. Additionally, using a unified endpoint management (UEM) solution will give you peace of mind that you are maintaining a secure IT environment.
     

Business Continuity Checklist

Some of our customers have asked us how they can prepare for a potential disruption to their workforce and customers. COVID-19 acts as an ongoing reminder to ensure we have good processes and systems in place to keep our people safe and our businesses working throughout unexpected disruption.

To help, we’ve created a Business Continuity Checklist. This will help you start assessing whether your business is set up to adapt quickly to a more mobile, remote workforce if needed. If you identify any issues while completing your checklist, you can contact us to discuss how we can help.


Download our Business Continuity Checklist (PDF)

Remote working tips for employees

If your business is shifting to working from the ‘home office’, Vodafone also has some tips to help you minimise the impacts of the travel bans and self-isolation efforts.

  • Set-up a home office
    • A dedicated working space with a comfortable desk and chair can help ensure you are more productive at home.
    • It’s even better if you can set up double monitors, a wireless keyboard and mouse.
       
  • Crank up the communication
    • Pick up the phone instead of emailing if a quick decision is needed.
    • While audio calls are great, video calling can help avoid feelings of isolation or disconnection. Have regular video conferences with your team to check-in and collaborate.
       
  • Make sure you have enough data
    • Whether you are relying on your home Wi-Fi, hot-spotting off your phone or a laptop with a SIM card, you need to make sure that you have enough data to support both your work and personal life for the next while.
       
  • Get what you need without leaving the house
    • It’s not just supermarkets and takeaway outlets that do home delivery, stores such as Noel Leeming can deliver your technology needs too.
    • Online messaging boards and social media platforms can help you stay connected to friends and family.

Frequently asked questions

Last updated 24 March 2020

At Vodafone NZ we are monitoring the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) closely and continue to prioritise the health and safety of our employees, customers and wider New Zealand. We have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) action group set up locally, and are working closely with our international colleagues in the Vodafone Group, to respond to the impacts of COVID-19.

There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Vodafone NZ.

We follow or exceed all NZ Ministry of Health guidelines and have been communicating regularly with our staff, contractors and suppliers regarding travel restrictions and precautionary measures. Please see below for answers to our frequently asked questions around Vodafone NZ’s response to the COVID-19 situation in New Zealand.

 

What is Vodafone NZ doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand?

We have taken a firm line on travel restrictions for our people and have implemented the following travel policies at Vodafone NZ:

  • All international business travel cancelled until further notice and no domestic travel between offices for work purposes
  • Any staff that has travelled internationally from Wednesday 4 March onwards is required to self-isolate for 14 days

What about the spread of infection within Vodafone NZ offices? How are you preventing that?

We have now asked all our staff to work from home with the exception of our retail staff and a small number of office-based staff that are business critical and cannot work remotely.

We have significantly increased our cleaning protocols to include the following:

  • Disinfecting all high touch point areas every 24 hours
  • Increased frequency of cleaning
  • Hand sanitisation stations have been set up in the foyer, lifts, and high-use areas of Vodafone NZ’s offices, and additional soap dispensers have been provided in the kitchens
  • See this Radio New Zealand video for more information on how we have increased our cleaning protocols in our offices

We also frequently remind our staff about personal hygiene such as washing hands regularly with hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds, covering coughs and sneezes with tissues.

What about those that can’t work from home?

The vast majority of our staff can work from home and are equipped with devices such as smart phones and laptops with SIM cards so they can work from home. There are small numbers of business critical staff that need to come into our office locations to perform their job (e.g. network engineers) therefore we have split these teams amongst office locations and are restricting inter-office travel to prevent possible contamination. Any staff still based in the office are mandated to exercise physical distancing at all times and restrict movements between office floors.

What are your processes if one of your staff contracts or comes into contact with COVID-19?

Our communications to our staff have been to follow the Ministry of Health guidelines should they feel ill and have symptoms of COVID-19. This means:

  • immediately self-isolating at home
  • calling Healthline’s dedicated COVID-19 number on 0800 358 5453 or their GP to assess if they need to be tested. If recommended to do so we ask that they get tested as soon as possible.

We have also asked our staff to immediately inform their line manager if they feel unwell and we have a self-isolation form to capture important information around areas the staff member has worked in and the people they have dealt with. Vodafone NZ will then use this information to:

  • decontaminate any work areas the staff member may have been in (if applicable)
  • ask any staff members who have been in close contact with the staff member to self-isolate (‘Tier 2’ in the table below)

Furthermore, Vodafone NZ is taking the extra precautionary steps to also ask all staff members who have been in close contact with anyone who in turn has been in close contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to self-isolate. These staff are identified as ‘Tier 3’ in the below table.

The self-isolation period will end when:

  • the staff member with suspected COVID-19 is tested and confirmed as NOT having COVID-19, OR
  • 14 days has passed with no COVID-19 symptoms

Close contact is defined as:

  • living in the same household
  • having been within one meter of the person for a period of 15 minutes or more
  • having spent two hours or longer in the same room or another closed space

A guide for our requirements regarding contact with COVID-19 is in the table below:

 

Tier

Description

Ministry of Health requirements

Vodafone New Zealand requirements

Tier 1

Confirmed (or suspected) case of COVID-19

Follow medical guidance.

Self-isolate until advised by medical professionals.

Self-isolate until declared medically fit to return to work.

Advise health, safety & wellbeing team.

Tier 2

Been in close contact with someone confirmed (or suspected) with COVID-19 (May not be showing any symptoms)

Self-isolate.

Self-isolate by working from home for 14 days.

Advise health, safety & wellbeing team.

Tier 3

Been in close contact with someone at Tier 2

No action required

Self-isolate by working from home for 14 days.

Advise health, safety & wellbeing team.

Tier 4

Been in close contact with someone at Tier 3

No action required

No action required

 

How are you communicating with your staff, suppliers, contractors, and customers as the situation progresses?

We are communicating regularly with our staff through email updates, app notifications and through a dedicated Sharepoint site created to host up-to-date information.

We have communicated our new policies with all our suppliers, contractors and third-party vendors.

We have created this webpage for all our external communications around the COVID-19 situation.

Vodafone NZ has an official statement regarding COVID-19 which will be updated regularly. The most up-to-date statement is hosted here.

For our enterprise customers our Account Managers are available via phone and video conferencing for any questions or issues.

Our customer service team is available via 0800 800 021 or at www.vodafone.co.nz.

What are you doing around interactions with customers and suppliers etc.?

To protect both our staff and our customers we have decided that all face-to-face customer or supplier meetings are no longer permitted (with the exception of a fix/install - see below). Instead we are encouraging our staff to use digital communication methods such as video conferencing or a phone call. Vodafone staff that spend the majority of their working time based on customer sites will also work from home unless it is critical for them to be in that office to do their job.

How are you prioritising urgent requests from the Government and key customers for service or resources?

We are receiving a high number of requests from customers for extended services as a result of challenges created by COVID-19 and are therefore having to prioritise these requests. This may mean a delay to some active projects and requests as we aim to first and foremost assist the Government with a national response to COVID-19 where needed.

Our whole industry has been asked to support this approach, and is working together to ensure resources are allocated to customers and activities with the highest need. We will continue to work collaboratively and share resources as an industry to ensure ongoing network resilience and connectivity for New Zealand

We would like to help all our customers but we need to prioritise work that will make the most difference to New Zealanders at this time. Therefore, our current prioritisation is as follows:  

  1. Government agencies and other customers who provide healthcare services (e.g. Ministry of Health, District Health Boards or primary healthcare workers) or adjacent services such as welfare or welfare enabling service (for projects directly related to COVID-19) 
  1. Emergency services: Police, Ambulance, Fire (only for projects directly related to COVID-19) 
  1. Key lifeline infrastructure (only for projects that are directly connected to COVID-19 response) 
  1. Other customers (related to COVID-19 response) 
  1. Non-COVID-19 related projects

All customer requests received by Account Managers will be assessed against this prioritisation and responded to accordingly.

We have in place a TRT (Technology Response Team) which is activated immediately in the event of major incidents such as responding urgently to emergency services requests and we will always prioritise any Government direction made under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act (CDEM) and national CDEM plan. We have also engaged with Civil Defence for collaboration as required, for example escorted access to sites locked down.

What about your retail stores? How are they affected?

At present our nationwide network of retail stores is available as usual, has new health and safety measures in place such as more frequent, deeper cleaning and new signage in place to educate health and safety guidelines for customers.

From time to time we may need to close specific stores to deal with staff shortages due to Vodafone NZ asking certain staff to self-isolate in our ultra-cautious approach to COVID-19 (see the above question around our processes should our staff come in contact with COVID-19). We apologise for any inconvenience to our customers, however the health and wellbeing of our employees and our customers is of utmost importance.

How are your call centres coping? Are they affected?

Due to precautionary measures in New Zealand and internationally, our Customer Care teams are managing the impacts of COVID-19 while dealing with higher call volumes. We therefore ask our customers to use digital customer service methods wherever possible to reduce the reliance on call centre staff.

How are you helping people or businesses who go into hardship because of COVID-19?

We are continually looking at what we can do for our customers, especially for those in hardship. We have announced the first wave of our COVID-19 Care Plan, providing customers broadband and mobile data certainty, removing disconnections and late payment fees, and helping people access key education and health sites for free.

Can your systems support so many of your staff working from home?

We have recently conducted a large-scale test of remote working procedures for all staff and are confident in our ability to shut down our office sites if needed without affecting the service we provide to our customers. 

What about when a lot of New Zealanders work from home. How are you ensuring your networks and systems can support so many more people working from home?

We have added extra capacity to our fixed, broadband and mobile networks to cope with the extra demand as people work from home.

Our networks infrastructure is closely managed, health checked and monitored 24/7.

Applications associated with working remotely have been tested and adapted ready to be up-scaled.

Security of data, platforms and infrastructure has been adapted to mitigate typical risks associated with mass scale remote working, for both Vodafone and customer teams.

What about your supply chain and stock levels of devices and SIMs etc.? As more of your customers start equipping their people to work from home will you be able to keep up with the supply?

We are closely monitoring supply levels, maintaining good relationships with our vendors and suppliers, and working dynamically to mitigate any supply delays that emerge.

We are keeping track of hardware, spares, mobile devices and SIM card supply levels, forecasts have been increased and extended and we are actively managing any constrained stock lines.

We have provided priority access SIM cards to Emergency Services, a mobile device and SIM card distribution Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is in place and regularly tested.

We are working closely with Vodafone Global Procurement Company (VPC) who consolidate all Vodafone global requirements and stock levels. We also have an agreement with other telecommunications operators in New Zealand to share resources for critical emergencies if required.

Our provisioning staff have extended their working hours and will expand their services further if demand requires it.

What about the contractors you rely on for network support? Have you checked their BCPs and are you confident they can continue to support Vodafone with its network service?

Absolutely. We have reviewed the BCPs of all our major contractors and we are satisfied that they can continue to support Vodafone’s network service. We continue to maintain close contact with these contractors and have contingency plans in place should we discover any issues.

How can I ensure I have thought of the correct things when it comes to my business’ BCP?

We have provided our business customers with a Business Continuity Checklist for reference when creating their own BCP.

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