Image: Westpac’s Access and Inclusion team. Left to right: Louise Rogers (project manager) , Majella Knobel (Director), Felix Nicholson Digital accessibility analyst), Erin McIlroy (Digital accessibility manager).
Over the past year, the world around us has changed. For many our working life has shifted to a hybrid between days in the office and days working from home.
But with this hybrid workforce comes new questions; how do we approach workplace adjustments? How do we ensure that adjustments are available for employees across both their working locations?
In this article, we hear from our platinum member Westpac, who has successfully implemented workplace adjustments in both locations as part of our new working environment.
A forward-thinking culture
In March 2020, when the nation was first told to begin remote working as the pandemic was officially declared, Westpac was ready. Having recently invested in technology, they were able to scale an average of 1,000 people working from home to 22,000 people regularly working from home – all within a fortnight.
Now, with a post-COVID world in sight, Westpac have adapted to a hybrid workforce.
“Many of our people have indicated they enjoy the benefits of working remotely,” says Majella Knobel, Director, Access and Inclusion at Westpac. “But at the same time, we think it’s important that teams come together in person on a regular basis to connect and collaborate.”
The new way of working…
Most of Westpac’s teams are now working between both their home office and their work office, depending on individual and business needs. For employees with disability, it has meant that workplace adjustments have needed to be considered for both locations.
“At Westpac, we want to ensure all our employees are able to do their job effectively and safely, from the location they choose to work,” says Majella.
Westpac already offered flexible working and remote working prior to the pandemic. Following the government order to work from home, all employees were asked to complete a working from home checklist to ensure they had the right equipment for their home set up. The checklist allowed for specialist equipment to be ordered to assist with adjustments where necessary.
Workplace adjustments included access to specialist equipment like chairs and adjustable desks, larger screens, specialist keyboards and assistive software installed on computer and laptops.
Dedicated teams were established to assist employees requiring workplace adjustments at their home location for employees who had never worked from home prior to the pandemic.
“In most cases, we can offer the same adjustments for our people to their work home setup as they would in an office environment,’ – Majella Knobel
Communication is key…
For Westpac, clear communication was the key to success. Through reliable, easily accessible and frequent communication, Westpac was able to engage their employees and build trust between the organisation and their staff.
The frequent communication kept our employees up to date on working arrangements, allowed Westpac to rollout workplace adjustments across home locations and educate people leaders about workplace adjustments and processes.
“Employees are now more confident to know where to find updates on business continuity, and our people leaders have an improved knowledge of the workplace adjustment process, which will ultimately make Westpac a even more inclusive place to work,” – Majella Knobel
“Don’t wait for the next pandemic to drive your processes,” – Majella Knobel
For other organisations who are looking at how to incorporate workplace adjustments across both locations, Majella offers some top tips.
Organisations should aim to have clear, easily accessible information on both working arrangements and workplace adjustments. Majella advises that best practice design of workplace adjustment processes is allow end users to be part of the process conversation.
“Where possible, remove bottlenecks around procurement and approvals,” she says.
It’s also incredibly important, now more than ever, that there are clear and regular communications to all employees.
Majella also urges other organisations to ensure they are regularly checking in with their employees.
“Regular check-ins from all levels of the organization from the CEO, general managers, people leaders and colleagues via virtual ‘teams’ sessions and emails are beneficial for employees wellbeing,” she says, “such communication generally reduces stress and isolation people feel when they are working in a different environment.”