It’s Saturday morning, the eleventh day of level 4 lockdown across Aotearoa, and the streets of Auckland are still. No weekend sports or cafe catch-ups. No trips to the hardware store or the garden centre. We’d all hoped we’d left the pandemic behind, but here it was again.
PA Susanne Biddick usually has the weekend off, but today she’s on the phone, calling our team members who are unable to come to work. She’s volunteered to be a listening ear to those isolated by the pandemic. They might be a close contact, or unable to obtain childcare, or were actually in isolation with COVID-19.
Susanne is part of our Staying Connected Employee Care Call Centre, established as part of our response to the current COVID-19 lockdown. It’s staffed by volunteers from across our organisation whose aim is to ease the loneliness of lockdown by building connections across our teams.
“We put a call through to each person to see how they were coping with this lockdown and if we could support them with information, answer any questions they had, or just listen.”
“Most staff were so excited to know they were able to come back to work,” Susanne says. “But for others, it has been so much harder, whether it was a solo mum who didn’t have any family support or a family bored in isolation. It was great to be able to thank each person for the wonderful work they are doing for our DHB.”
Mel Dooney, our Chief People Officer, says that staying connected and checking in is the most important thing we can do for each other at the moment. “The call centre can make sure our people feel supported, have everything they need, have an easy way to get answers to their questions and are supported to return to work safely.”
Mel says that the primary role of the callers is to listen. “All conversations are strictly confidential, and we would only take the discussion up with their manager where the person has given express permission.”
Mel says the call centre will continue to operate for as long as the service is needed. And many of the kaimahi who have been called will be contacted again to see how they’re going.
At the end of her shift, Susanne reflects on her day. “Being part of the call team is a real privilege. I get to connect with staff across the DHB who I would probably never bump into or connect with. I’ve heard some lovely stories where families were able to juggle both partners working and helping their children with their needs, whether for schoolwork or caring for young ones.
“We’re all in this together and I would encourage everyone to reach out to your colleagues, especially those who are struggling and anxious at this time. Sometimes all we need is a listening ear. You can make a difference.”
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