How ACE New Zealand is preparing for Covid-19

It’s a time of considerable uncertainty. No one knows what the best way to respond is, but undoubtedly we must take this seriously. So, with that in mind, I am sharing what we are doing as an organisation.

Not because it’s a perfect plan, it’s far from it, but simply because I want people who haven’t had the time to plan to benefit from the work we have done. So, here goes.

Take a precautionary approach:

First things first, our policy is, if you are feeling at all unwell, or you have risk factors, then stay home and seek appropriate medical advice.

If my people are concerned about medical costs, impact on leave and the like, then I have emphasised let’s have a conversation.


Here are a few tips the Prime Minister has shared. They are eminently sensible, and we should all be doing this.

  • Wash your hands
  • If you sneeze, do it into your elbow (not your hands)
  • Wash your hands
  • Stop handshakes, hugs and hongis. Maybe switch to the East Coast wave instead

Staff wellbeing:

At ACE, like most organisations, our staff are our biggest asset, and this is a stressful time.

Not only do they have ever-evolving work demands to manage, but they’ve also got families and friends to worry about too.

It’s important to emphasise to your people that it’s ok to not be ok. It’s essential to be open.

My consistent message to my team is, if you are worried about anything, however big or small, let me know. Most things aren’t insurmountable, we are smart, and we will find a way through.

Ensuring that you keep an open, honest and communicative staff culture (even if working remotely) is critical.

However, we do need to recognise that not everyone is going to be comfortable to speak openly about things in a work context, so we also have EAP Services such as counselling and other support in place. If you have this, make sure your team know it’s confidential, and that they know how to access it.


Events and training activities are a big part of what we do. So, we have made the call that from 21 March all our event activities will be postponed for at least the next month.

It was an easy decision; it’s about managing potential exposure and risk.

However, we recognise that our members will still want to engage in a range of ways, so we are looking to transfer several events to a webinar format. While the current situation isn’t normal, let’s try and maintain some degree of normality.

Internal operations:

We are actively monitoring the situation, so we can respond promptly as information comes to hand. However, we are planning on the basis that we may all need to work from home with as little as one day’s notice.

This means getting everything in place now. Three of our team already work remotely; however, the other three are predominantly office-based, so we have been ensuring:

  • Our emails and files are all accessible (be sure to test this under load)
  • Phones can be diverted, and we have a protocol around how and when this is done
  • Collaboration tools are working well, and everyone knows how to use them (we use Microsoft Teams and GoToMeeting)

If we are working remotely for an extended period, then maintaining a positive and collaborative team culture is something that will need ongoing work.

In practice, it means prioritising video calls over email and chat and ensuring that our regular team meetings have the opportunity for people to catch up with each other. It can’t be all work and no play.

It may even mean that we will have more regular team meetings, like a daily virtual stand up.

Lastly, the other thing to consider is that while people may be ok to work from their kitchen table for a couple of days, that’s not tenable for more extended periods. So think about ergonomic factors such as chairs, keyboards and screens and order these now.

Meeting with external parties:

Our approach is that from next week, all meetings with external parties should be via video collaboration tools. Where this isn’t possible, then we need to ensure that we manage our risk factors. We should be checking that:

  • The person isn’t unwell
  • They don’t have risk factors (e.g. exposure to a sick individual, recent overseas travel)

And of course ensuring that we continue with good hygiene, avoiding handshakes, hugs and hongis and maintaining a safe distance.

Video and collaboration tools:

I have already mentioned these a couple of times. These are going to be critical for the foreseeable future. We use the following, all of which are relatively affordable:

  • Microsoft Teams (individual chats, team chats, and one-to-one video calls)
  • Trello (for tasks and workflows)
  • GoToMeeting (for group video calls where we may need to share screens or record)
  • GoToWebinar (for large scale presentations)

However, there are a bunch of options depending on your size, needs and budget. Other common ones include Skype and Zoom.

One which I have recently discovered is WhereBy. Its basic plan is free, and you don’t need to download any software as it works in your browser (you do need to have Google Chrome).

Let us know what you are doing:

I hope these small tips might help your business, and we are keen to hear from you and learn from your experiences.

In closing, I’d say that not having a plan isn’t an option. Let’s all make a plan and hope we don’t need it.

As Z Energy’s Mike Bennetts is framing it, let’s make sure we are “prudently overreacting”.

Cheers, Paul