Embracing the ‘new normal’


A healthcare CIO view of mobilising working from home in three steps. 

By Sami Yalavac, Chief Information Officer, Bupa.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our worlds upside-down. Along with devastating health impacts, elements of everyday life that we once took for granted such as dropping kids off at school, enjoying lunch with friends, or watching a game of footy now seem like distant memories as a result of important social distancing measures.

Our professional lives have also been transformed. Last month, like many workplaces, Bupa made the decision to encourage employees to work from home to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our customers and people. For a company the size and complexity of ours, this was no small feat. In a matter of days, we:

  • Mobilised more than 4,000 office-bound employees to remote working environments.
  • Pivoted 800 employees from our customer-facing teams to digital operations so they could continue to serve customers.
  • Ensured employees had the equipment, access and software required to be able to do their jobs effectively at home.
  • Added additional information security controls to safeguard customers’ information in new environments.

While the capability for our teams to work from home is not new, this technical capacity has never been extended to our contact centres and retail team members. It was a challenge, but as I have always stressed with my team, bridging gaps between challenges and solutions lies at the very heart of information technology. In IT you must dream big and have the desire to follow through… and that is exactly what we did.

Three critical elements of transforming our working arrangements have been:

1. Have the foundations in place

As a business, we have been focused on ‘future-proofing’ from a tech perspective. Bupa has been empowering employees to embrace flexible work arrangements, where possible, with the necessary tools and skills – so the foundations were in place.

2. Use the right tools – both in the office and at home

Tools like Microsoft Teams and Skype were already being effectively used as part of our everyday operations. Armed with this embedded know-how, our people were ready and willing to lean on these tools even further for greater collaboration and embrace a ‘new normal’. Employees were also already up to date on vital security protocols required to keep our customers’ private data private.

3. Focus energies on having the greatest impact

Thankfully, instead of developing Skype 101 PowerPoint packs, our IT team was able to use their time on the areas that would have the greatest impact. We built additional computers, transported servers and installed vital software updates for deployment across multiple locations nationally. The volume and quality of this work was truly astounding – and I am proud of my team.

Of course, we have many of our team members who are unable to work from home. Our aged care workforce continues to meet the needs of our residents’ day in, day out. This can only be done face-to-face. To help them do their jobs and allow the loved ones of our residents connect virtually, we have deployed hundreds of iPads, developed a new connection app and are building a private Facebook group network for each of our 72 homes. This is allowing our aged care team to ensure that our residents are well cared for and connected during this time of isolation.

Amidst unprecedented circumstances, we have adapted, collaborated and continued to offer our customers the services and support they need to live longer, happier, healthier lives.