23 Mar 2020

Workers set up home offices, while others worry about losing jobs

6:33 pm on 23 March 2020

The country is preparing for the first day of nationwide self-isolation tomorrow.

Man working on notebook, with a fresh cup of tea or coffee. Home work concept.

Photo: 123RF

Workers are setting up home offices and parents are gathering home-schooling resources, to get ready for battening down.

About 10 percent of the working population was estimated to be working from home today when news hit that tomorrow it would be almost everyone.

Auckland parent Joe Jackson is already working from home and his children's school has provided online learning tools.

"My two are at the age - 10 and 11 - where they're quite self-sufficient. They know how to log online and manage their learning so I'll just check in with them and see how they're going," he said.

Many have bought supplies ahead of today's announcement.

Stationery and office supplies company Officemax's New Zealand managing director Kevin O'Bern said office supplies had been in high demand for weeks.

"We've seen base products like paper and printers, ink and toner, increase by about 90 percent over the last month. But also things like webcams were about 406 percent up at the moment."

O'Bern said he was waiting to find out if his business was classed as an essential business.

"We've certainly had some discussions with MBIE over the last few days about being an enabler for school type products to be available to school kids and preschool."

The Public Service Association has 76,000 members across five sectors.

Its national secretary Glenn Barlcay said he was concerned for those who may lose their jobs.

"We're concerned about those members who may be working as contractors or for labour-hire companies, and their future will be uncertain."

Auckland City business association Heart of the City monitors activity, including foot traffic.

Its chief executive Viv Beck said the city centre has changed significantly since last Monday with some businesses starting to work from home.

Beck said businesses needing information about government assistance could contact Heart of the City.

"It's so unusual to see places that are usually thriving just so quiet. It's a very unusual feeling."

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

Beck said Auckland businesses needing information about government assistance could also contact Heart of the City.

"It's pretty devastating for people to see their livelihoods under such sudden threat. We've just been endeavouring to communicate with people and make sure they've got access to the help they need."

For those who can work from home, PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay said it could be an opportunity to do work that had been put to the back of the list but acknowledged working from home can be difficult.

"We want employers to be reasonable about this because not every home environment is a good place or easy place to work. The ability of someone to both work and look after children in the home is going to be a challenge," he said.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

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