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Collaborating through adversity to solve challenges

As an organisation we are at our best when responding to big challenges. This year, devastating bushfires, smoke, hailstorms, floods and the global COVID-19 pandemic have tested us personally and professionally on every level.

At CSIRO, we’re here to help the nation, but we can’t do our best work unless we’re looking after ourselves and each other. That’s what it means to be a part of Team CSIRO.

Our people have been adaptable and supportive of one another in the challenging circumstances we have been facing. We have rallied to support each other and our communities.

At a time when social distancing pushed us apart physically, it was critical to remember that collaboration and cooperation are the only way to defeat a global challenge, because we can only get further by working together.

A focus on people first from our leadership, like providing flexible work practices via our Balance program, making it real for staff by implementing mobile work practices to support field work, and our ongoing strategy to deliver digital transformation has critically enabled us to get to this point.

Justin sitting in the national park with a camera around his neck and a silver laptop on his lap
Our Research Scientist, Justin Perry, working at Kakadu National Park mixing responsible artificial intelligence and modern science with traditional knowledge.

Virtually unstoppable: how we delivered our new way of working

During COVID-19, we’ve had at least 80 per cent of our people working from home – around 4,600 people.

In response, we scaled our remote access and our collaboration and communication services to cater for the increased levels of use.

On average, we were seeing 28,700 minutes of video calls and 1,600 Webex meetings daily, with more than 7,500 participants from around the globe. Our digital capabilities enabled a relatively smooth transition to working from home, which kept us all connected to ensure we could continue delivering on our purpose.

We had:

  • 80% people working from home
  • 28,700 minutes of video calls
  • 1,600 daily Webex meetings
  • 7,500+ participants from around the globe.

For the common good

Volunteers have an incredibly positive impact on their communities. We have some amazing volunteers among our people who provided their expert services for the common good during the bushfires.

‘During the summer bushfires, I was deployed with the ACT State Emergency Services in support of the NSW Rural Fire Service. I also spent some time at Canberra headquarters in the Emergency Coordination Centre supporting the ACT Rural Fire Service. I have a background in radio operations and volunteered with incident management to dispatch jobs, take radio calls and monitor screens. Volunteering is a great way to get involved in your community, give something back and meet like-minded people.’ Jennifer Zhu, CSIRO Senior Coordination and Communications Officer and ACT State Emergency Services (ACT SES).

‘I was deployed to fight a fire near Tamworth, New South Wales, for four nights over Christmas. I joined the Country Fire Service because I wanted to contribute to the community. The only thing that is valuable to me is time. Giving up your own time to help someone else less fortunate is the most important thing.’ Bill Flynn, CSIRO Education Specialist and Country Fire Service (CFS), South Australia.

Self-distancing support for our working parents

Working from home with young children is challenging. It means working more at night with breaks throughout the day, frequent interruptions, and balancing trying to be a great employee and a great parent.

To support each other, our Director Strategy and Chief of Staff, Mark Bazzacco, started the CSIRO parents working from home surviving COVID-19 Yammer group (an internal online network).

‘We talk a lot about putting our people first, and this group is one small way we are able to recognise the human side of each other’s lives and connect on a more personal level,’ Mark said.

The group has more than 500 participants who continue to share their tips and tricks during this challenging time.