More than 300 Department of Social Services bureaucrats have volunteered to help out at Services Australia as efforts to redeploy public servants to areas of greatest need ramp up.
And DSS employees based at the Enid Lyons Building in Tuggeranong are being directed to vacate the premises so that it can be turned into a Services Australia call centre.
In a message sent out to DSS staff on Monday, secretary Kathryn Campbell said the number of volunteers was a "positive reflection" on the department but flagged more were needed as Services Australia struggles to cope with a deluge of requests for government assistance.
Public servants have been asked to volunteer for redeployment as the APS seeks to reconfigure its operations to meet the upsurge in demand for government services and support as large parts of the economy shutdown down in a effort to help slow spread of the COVID-19 virus.
APS Commissioner Peter Woolcott has formed a taskforce to coordinate the shift of staff and resources to high demand areas after Services Australia was swamped early last week by people seeking support after suddenly being laid off, causing the myGov website to crash, clogging phone lines and leading to hundreds queuing outside Centrelink offices.
At the Australian Taxation Office, 1000 staff involved in chasing up outstanding debts have been redeployed to the ATO's inquiry line as the agency prepares to implement the government's $130 billion JobKeeper plan to safeguard millions of jobs.
While hundreds of public servants are set to be redeployed, thousands are expected to migrate to working from home after Mr Woolcott said that remote working should be "a priority" for all staff but those whose jobs required them to be in the office.
As of Friday, almost half of the ATO's 16,720 ongoing employees were working from home, and Ms Campbell told DSS staff that from Tuesday "a number" would begin working from home.
"This will be a different way of working for all of us," the secretary said. "It is important that all staff and managers work together to make these arrangements work effectively."
Ms Campbell said staffing and work arrangements would be the subject of continual review, particularly given the need to provide ongoing support to Services Australia.
There has been mounting pressure on the APSC and agency heads to allow staff to work from home amid concern that the health of staff was being put at risk by requiring them to work from an office.
Public servants reported mounting anxiety in the workplace about the issue, and the Community and Public Sector Union accused managers of blocking or delaying moves to work from home.
CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly welcomed the move to allow most staff except those whose job required attendance at an office to work remotely.
"We are glad that they have finally made a directive to protect their workforce and our essential public services," she said, and called on the APSC to "do everything they can" to ensure social distancing measures for frontline employees not able to work from home.
We have removed our paywall from our stories about the coronavirus. This is a rapidly changing situation and we want to make sure our readers are as informed as possible. If you're looking to stay up to date on COVID-19, you can also sign up for our twice-daily digest here. If you would like to support our journalists you can subscribe here.