Employers in South Canterbury are adapting and are implementing work from home and social distancing policies in line with Ministry of Health instructions.
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BEJON HASWELL/STUFF Non-essential visits at Oceania Dairy in Glenavy has been halted. (file photo)

Oceania Dairy, Fonterra and the Timaru District and Mackenzie district councils have all confirmed they have asked staff to work from home as the Government implements a four-stage threat plan to tackle the spread of Covid-19.

New Zealand is into threat level two – meaning the virus is contained but the risks are growing because there are more cases.

At that level, over 70-year-olds and those with certain medical conditions should stay at home. Workplaces have also been told to implement plans to reduce person-to-person contact, including working from home where possible.

As of Monday, Timaru District Council staff that can work from home are likely to, after 117 staff members worked from their homes successfully on Friday to check the capacity of its IT structure, council spokesman Stephen Doran said.

A meeting of its crisis management team this week would determine which people could continue to work from home.

He said staff were well equipped to do so as they usually worked on a remote desktop, connected to a central server.

The council would work to reduce the number of staff in its King George Pl building to help with physical distancing.

“We will still have people at the front desk, public and community services but with strict rules in place.”

Members of the public could go online or phone if they did not want to come into the building, he said.

Mackenzie District mayor Graham Smith announced on Sunday the reception in both the Fairlie and Twizel council offices will be closed from Monday.

“Therefore it is best to phone in first for assistance before coming into the council offices. We will continue to update our community and business partners as needed.”

A post to social media on Saturday from the Waimate District Council said it would establish a communication and welfare unit as of Tuesday to co-ordinate resources and key messages.

Glenavy’s Oceania Dairy has stopped all non-critical travel for staff and had trialled work-from-home measures where possible in the wake of the spread of Covid-19, general manager Richard Hickson said.

Staff have also been requested to restrict travel during their own time to avoid spread of the infection, to advise the company if they have travelled and non-essential visits to the Glenavy site have also been halted.

Hickson said the company, which employs up to 400 people from South Canterbury and North Otago, was aware of its responsibilities to keep people well and remain employed.

Hickson said this was a stressful time for everyone in the community and staff were able to access free counselling if they needed to.

Fonterra, which has South Canterbury operations in Clandeboye and Studholme, has also banned its staff from organising large gatherings, face-to-face meetings in the workplace and all site visits, and it has advised against domestic and international travel until May at this stage, a spokeswoman confirmed.

South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wendy Smith said businesses were talking about working remotely and she expected many would be starting to do so from this week.

She said keys when working from home were communication, routine and exercise.

Providing as much clarity and transparency as possible was important, even if it was only what was known, over the next few weeks through an open forum.

Getting into a routine and sticking to it was vital when working from home. If people were looking after children they needed to adhere to a routine as well.

“We recommend people get dressed up as they would for work, the same tea breaks, and Skype the team at set times.”

Her advice was to avoid isolation and working in a vaccum.

Keeping up exercise meant going for a walk or cycle.

“Get out of the house – healthy body healthy mind.”

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) today applauded the Biden administration for its initiation of a second U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) dispute panel concerning Canada’s ongoing refusal to meet its USMCA dairy trade obligations.

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