NSW Telco – Flex in their stride: Whether bushfires or pandemic, NSW Telco Authority were well prepared
Company name = NSW Telco Authority
Industry = Telecoms
No. of employees = 235
“If not, why not?” has been the mantra to offering flexible work for all roles at NSW Telco Authority (NSWTA), the state agency responsible for the Public Safety Network. This philosophy is one that starts with trust and understanding: trust in how their people need to work based on their needs and the understanding that flexible work empowers people and drives team productivity as well as engagement.
With a highly distributed workforce across NSW – often in remote or hard to access locations – who interact daily with industry and government agencies, NSWTA has a large remit and executes complex types of work. As a Statutory Authority within the NSW Department of Customer Service, NSWTA supports NSW Government agencies that use operational telecommunications for critical and operational purposes. These include emergency services organisations, essential and community service providers for which the use of telecommunications is a vital part of their work.
During the 2019/2020 bushfires NSWTA played an integral role in enabling emergency coordination of telecommunications infrastructure across the state. During the March 2021 rain and flood events, NSWTA coordinated mobile assets and fast-tracked Public Safety Network sites under construction to support the emergency response. Contingency planning and being prepared for a crisis is clearly a big part of what they do.
“Flexible working allows me to live regionally while leading a Sydney-based team. We connect online daily and I travel to Sydney to meet with colleagues and customers in person, as required. I have young children and Telco provides a supportive environment which also includes working flexible hours in support of a work/life balance.” – Kristie Clarke, Director Customer and Stakeholder Services
NSWTA implemented regular reporting mechanisms to get a clear picture of how many staff were using flexible work, and what type of flex. This has been key, and the agency is happy to report that 100% of their people have a flexible work arrangement of some kind – including all of their senior leadership team.
When the pandemic and lockdowns began last year, the organisation adopted a ‘working from another approach to agile working. Team members’ computer equipment, desk chairs etc were delivered to homes, and virtual ergonomic assessments were completed to ensure all staff had the appropriate resources to work safely. Additional features were added to our online Work, Health and Safety (WHS) tool which allowed staff to capture incidents and hazards in real-time remotely. With the shift to online, the WHS team used technology to complete assurance activities via virtual WHS & Leadership inspections. A new virtual process was designed for interviewing, induction and onboarding of new staff with 125 team members hired during the peak of COVID last year.
In 2020 NSW Telco Authority put particular focus on ensuring the wellbeing of their employees as they worked from home and remotely, implementing initiatives like Mental Health First Aid accreditation, work from home safety assessments, and online trivia nights and town halls.
For many of their team members, remote working during COVID was simply an extension of flexible arrangements already in place. However, additional resources and support were made available throughout the lockdowns, many of which continue now including Mental Health First Aid courses for staff to gain the skills to support their team members.
“A flexible & remote work offering is not only about empowering your people, but it’s also about business continuity. When your organisation embraces new ways of working you can achieve so much more.” – Jane Want, Director Strategy, Risk and Performance
For an organisation with a small (but growing) team, the pandemic and 2019-20 bushfire season did not slow them down. In fact, over the last 12-18 months, NSWTA key programs and activities continued to gain momentum:
- In 2020 more than 50 new sites were added to the Public Service Network (PSN) across NSW. The PSN is a single, integrated radio network providing operational and mission-critical communications for Emergency Services Organisations (ESOs), essential services and other government agencies.
- The agency’s Telecommunications Emergency Management Unit staff worked 24/7 for more than 175 consecutive days supporting ESOs and telecommunications infrastructure throughout the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires.
- Fast-tracked the delivery of 24 new or enhanced PSN sites to support firefighting efforts.
- Hired 125 new team members in 2020 and will have added another 100 people by mid-2021.
- During the March 2021 weather events, NSWTA fast-tracked six new PSN sites to support NSW SES and Fire and Rescue NSW efforts during the emergency response.
- Delivered 13 towers under the Mobile Black Spot Program during 2019/20 FY. To date 176 of 201 sites have been delivered under both the Commonwealth and NSW funded program
- Supported over 40 infrastructure, connectivity and cyber security projects and BAU initiatives
- Introduced a new Environmental Sustainability Policy
- Published NSWTA’s first standalone annual report
Importantly, the organisation’s people adapted well to remote working and now a hybrid mix of work:
- 80%+ prefer to be back in the office one day per week
- 3% want to be back in the office 4 or 5 days per week
- 63% prefer hybrid mix of home / in the office
- 36% prefer to mostly work remotely
- Staff enjoyed not having to commute daily and found they had more quality time with family, though missed having face to face interactions with their teams
- 95% flexible working satisfaction rate. This increased by 8% from 2019. This is also 29% higher than the sector i.e. 67%. Source: NSW Public Sector Employee Survey 2020.
With such strong performance and people outcomes, many might think NSWTA’s flexible work approach is more than enough. However, the Authority isn’t pausing for breath. It’s this constant dedication to best practice ways of working that has earned NSW Telco their FlexReady Certification from FlexCareers – one of the highest-scoring organisations in our Certification framework.
Whilst few organisations can fully predict what challenges might lie ahead when it comes to their ways of work and people, we know that NSW Telco Authority will be well prepared.
The 2021 FlexReport bridges the gap in expectations between employers and employees. It examines how new hybrid ways of working are being used to enable growth out of the adversity faced through the pandemic. Growth, both in the corporate sense as employers redefine the future of work inside their organisations, and on an individual level as employees reprioritise the different parts of their lives – inside and outside of work – and how they want to grow personally.
Download the full report here.