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Case study - Our response to COVID-19

In March 2020 Australia found itself in the grips of a novel coronavirus named ‘COVID-19’ as it spread across the world.

DHA worked quickly to ensure it could continue to support Defence capability through its operations, but in a very different way.

As soon as it became clear that the situation was rapidly evolving across Australia, DHA enacted a Command Activation Team (CAT). Under DHA’s Business Continuity Framework the CAT is alerted and briefed if an event, threat or physical activity is expected to cause harm, or is likely to occur to DHA or its facilities. The CAT’s key role for COVID-19 was to make decisions regarding DHA’s operational activities, ensure the health and safety of staff and customers, and to ensure that all stakeholders were communicated with in a timely and responsible manner. Along with the Leadership Team, the CAT invited key business subject matter experts to attend including representatives from the Work Health and Safety, Human Resources, Communication and Media, and Information Technology teams as well as Operations.

In its first meeting the CAT established two keys areas of focus as critical for business continuity: the ability to continue to provide housing and related services to ADF members, and the ability for the workforce to operate remotely.

In just a matter of weeks, the world changed. How we do business changed. While we already had plans in place to become better connected in the delivery of our services, the health emergency afforded us an opportunity to make some significant progress and accelerate these plans.

To keep pace with the ever changing environment we switched to video conferencing to support the staff to work remotely, enhanced self-service options for ADF members, and started conducting property inspections online. Many of these changes simplified our operations and interactions with ADF members and will become business as usual processes into the future.

While the external environment is continuously changing at an increasingly rapid pace, internally we needed to ensure that our people were keeping up with the pace of change. A COVID-19 hub was established to provide staff with real-time information about the developing situation.

Within days of the Australian Public Service Commission directing public servants to work from home where possible, DHA had developed an interim COVID-19 home based work policy and had more than 90 per cent of its workforce working remotely. Various other corporate policies and procedures were developed to support staff, including material on remote based work, working from home safely and managing dispersed teams.

While business has continued, and the changes have been welcomed by both staff and customers, we have successfully established a new way of doing business for our future, in the
face of a worldwide crisis.