COVID-19 has definitely brought the Exec. Team closer

James CHIA Vic2 - Copy

Unison Acting CEO, James King recently contributed to the Victorian Community Housing Industry Association's special COVID-19 edition magazine. Here is his story.


When Covid-19 hit, the first decision our Executive made was to focus on the wellbeing and safety of our staff, tenants and clients.

Covid-19 has definitely brought the Executive team closer. We meet first thing every morning to consider the latest information at hand, identify and assess any risks associated and plan for the potential impact on our teams and residents. The issues we consider daily include working arrangements (working from home or from site, depending on the restrictions and type of work), tenant welfare, the financial impact on Unison, any communications required, most recent Government announcements and updates to Government and sector guidelines.

I strongly believe regular and consistent communication is key.  All staff get regular email updates from me. These were daily during the first weeks of the pandemic but as the teams and Victoria in general settled into the new normal, we reduced them to weekly.   In a constantly changing environment, these regular updates are critical.

We foster staff feedback and connection within teams and across the organisation (for example via Social Club activities and our internal e-newsletter), which staff confirmed was important to them in our recent staff wellbeing survey.

I am very proud of how our teams quickly adapted to the new environment and to delivering our services in new ways. There have been some great initiatives to ensure our tenants and clients continue to be supported. Our Place Managers phone vulnerable tenants regularly to check in on how they are going. Team members who were normally located within a community, are now working from home, so these calls and extra attention are making a difference to our residents’ lives.

Our homelessness services’ workload has increased dramatically. Every week the number of households we are supporting to stay in motels increases and we recently passed the $2million HEF milestone. 

The pandemic has been a great disrupter, but I believe some good can come of it. On a personal level, it put things in perspective for me, and encouraged me to focus on what matters. Unison and I’m sure other organisations will also learn from this experience and consider activities, delivery models and approaches that will best serve the organisation into the future.


You can read more stories in CHIA Vic's special edition magazine, here.

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