Treating an organisational crisis

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses not only had to rapidly move a large number of their employees to remote working but simultaneously deal with a huge influx of questions and concerns about health and wellbeing.

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Pre-pandemic, most organisations had limited exposure to health-related risks – and these were often centered around occupational health and safety, generally looked after by human resources departments. All of a sudden, executives across a range of industries – including ANZ - found themselves looking for leadership and advice on multiple health-related topics.

"Boards and shareholders are asking for evidence that the company is adopting best practice principles in health and safety.” – Dr Andrew Ebringer

Medical Director for International SOS Dr Andrew Ebringer provided guidance and information to businesses (including ANZ) and government to help create policies and planning to work through the pandemic and beyond. 

“Organisations needed a source of truth to help drive business continuity and plan for the future,” Dr Ebringer explains. “We went from dealing mainly with human resources and safety… to talking with risk managers, CFOs and CEOs - particularly about mental health policies and how a hybrid model [of working from the office and home] may affect employees in terms of their mental health and anxiety levels. We discuss how we can mitigate that [and] support that as an organisation.”

Dr Ebringer says organisations must protect employees’ wellbeing and take an interest in health care if they are truly to be an employer of choice.

“The focus has become more on providing a psychologically safe workplace, developing and promoting resilience in the workforce and the methods to achieve those goals,” he says. “Boards and shareholders are asking for evidence that the company is adopting best practice principles in health and safety - including mental health and safety.”

Dr Ebringer says the obvious example of this is the debate being held globally and across a range of industries around the best way to return to the workplace post-pandemic.

“The feedback is many people are productive at home [and] don't want to come back to the same pre-COVID working environment,” he explains. “This needs to be managed quite carefully. Some senior leaders are dogmatic - everybody must come back to work – while others are much more 'laissez faire' - if employees are able to deliver their product, let's continue to do that.”

Dr Ebringer says ultimately most organisations will adopt a hybrid or blended model of working but it’s important to remember no one size fits all.

“Every organisation works in a different way so it has to be the right fit for your organisation and balance the expectations of the employer and expectations of the employee,” he says.

“The pandemic has really brought this issue to a head and it's quite interesting the different approaches organisations are taking. ANZ will of course be taking their own position and I will help guide the medical aspects of the decision making.”

To hear more of my conversation with Dr Ebringer click the podcast above.

Andrew Cornell is Managing Editor of bluenotes

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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