Work from home? ANZ narrowly avoids IT problems as ASX, Westpac staff infected

ANZ Bank has brushed off a brief scare about its IT systems not being capable of supporting large number of staff working from home, as a staff member at the ASX and another at Westpac tested positive for coronavirus.

The Australian banking sector has been scrambling to ensure their about 10,000 staff members are able to work remotely given new social-distancing recommendations from the federal government to stem the spread of the virus.

ANZ was left scrambling over the weekend after admitting to all staff it couldn’t cope with large numbers of staff working from home. Credit:AFR

An internal email from ANZ sent to staff late last week asked staff to still come into the office if they were not sick as its systems could not cope with large numbers of employees working from home.

"The rapidly increasing numbers of locations affected by COVID-19 has put pressure on our current working from home capability so we are working hard to increase capacity as quickly as possible so more employees who wish to work from home are able to do so in the future," the email said.

"We are asking for the cooperation of office-based employees changing any working from home plans next week effective from Tuesday 17, March (and Monday if you can)," the email said,

"Specifically, if you are feeling well but want to work from home due to concerns regarding COVID-19 we ask that you come into the office next week."

The email asked staff who were feeling unwell or felt strongly about not coming into the office to apply for leave or ask for special permission.

But sources close to the bank insisted on Monday that ANZ was able to rapidly increase its system capacity to allow for swathes of its staff to work from home this week and that the email from last week was now out of date.

Some ANZ staff are still working from the office, including workers in the bank's high-level trading teams who rely on sophisticated trading software and systems while branch staff are still working but using social distancing practices.

Staff at the ASX were asked to work from home if possible this week after a staff member tested positive to coronavirus.

Meanwhile at Westpac, a number of staff have been asked to self-isolate after a colleague tested positive for the coronavirus.

The bank has decided to not name the person involved in internal correspondence to its staff due to it being a private medical matter, though this has caused concern among some staff who say they have the right to know the name of the person in case they have come into contact with that colleague.

"As soon as we became aware of the suspected case we took every precaution including a special pandemic clean of affected areas and rooms," Westpac said in a notice to all staff.

Westpac chief executive Peter King said in a note to staff seen by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that the bank was considering a range of options including work from home arrangements for staff who are vulnerable to the illness including older workers.

Mr King told staff that executive managers would be implementing a range of measures including social distancing, change of work hours to reduce staff interaction and working at fixed desks.

"These arrangements will not all commence at once, they will be phased in over the coming days and weeks," Mr King said.

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