Nib chief Mark Fitzgibbon on working from home and the state of healthcare in the pandemic

Feeling At Home: Nib chief executive Mark Fitzgibbon with his first granddaughter Charlie, while on a Zoom call with his executive team.
Feeling At Home: Nib chief executive Mark Fitzgibbon with his first granddaughter Charlie, while on a Zoom call with his executive team.

Health insurer Nib says its work from home policy is about advances in technology, as well as the pandemic.

Nib's managing director and CEO, Mark Fitzgibbon, said staff could "choose to work wherever they want to now, subject to health and safety and technological requirements".

Technology such as online video, mobile communications, email and the Internet of Things had disrupted traditional workplace models.

Nib staff go to the office for induction training, team meetings, client meetings and celebrations, but otherwise can work from home or elsewhere.

As such, Nib is paying staff a $1200 a year allowance to work from home.

"That recognises that we're effectively renting their homes for offices. And because we've sub-leased most of our existing real estate, we've made a massive cost saving," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

"We think, philosophically, we should share that productivity improvement with our people."

Mr Fitzgibbon believed it was "very important we get back to normality", now that vaccination rates have reached 80 per cent for people aged 16 and over.

"One of the interesting things about pandemics is they eventually convert to endemics," he said.

"As a society we need to live with it and take proper precautions like protecting the elderly and infirm, and practice more sensible social behaviour."

He believes hospitals will cope.

"I don't expect any crisis because so many are vaccinated now and the disease won't be as deadly, the pressure on beds and ICUs and ventilators won't be as great and we'll manage that," he said.

"Probably the area hospitals will come under most pressure is with their workforce - the availability of nurses and doctors.

"It will mean more elective, non-urgent surgery will be pushed out more in the public and private sectors. We've seen that already."

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While lockdown and restrictions suppressed the spread of COVID-19, they also negatively affected many people's lives. This included rises in unemployment, depression, anxiety and relationship troubles.

Asked if NSW had struck the right balance between COVID risk and people's livelihoods, Mr Fitzgibbon said: "We rely on our community leaders to strike that balance".

"There have been times during the pandemic where I've felt we haven't given sufficient emphasis to important economic and community goals," he said.

"But look, people can write about that in years to come."

Asked if he thought we'd been too accepting of harsh restrictions, he said: "In times of crisis, you follow the precautionary principle and err on the side of caution. These kinds of pandemics can wipe out civilisations. Look at the bubonic plague in the 14th century. You can never be overly cautious about something as virulent and deadly as COVID-19."

He said the pandemic had contrasting fortunes on healthcare. Lockdowns and restrictions meant a lot of healthcare didn't happen.

"That can have consequences, like the early detection of cancer. On the other hand, we've always known there is a lot of over-servicing in the healthcare system.

"So we've seen a lot of unwarranted care not happen, which is a good thing."

Restrictions had prevented the spread of COVID, along with flu and pneumonia, and accelerated "the investment we've always needed to make in virtual healthcare and digital connection".

This story $1200 to work from home: new normal for Nib staff first appeared on Newcastle Herald.