We continue to hear from credit union leaders that a chief concern among their members is the health and well-being of the credit union people who serve them. Several cooperatives have reported a large number of calls from members asking how employees are being accommodated and protected during the COVID-19 crisis. This is just one of several ways our industry’s “We’re in this together” spirit has manifest over the last few weeks; it’s been incredibly uplifting to experience in the face of so much turmoil.
So, what can be done to ensure credit union employees are well taken care of as the U.S. continues to battle the spread of the novel coronavirus? Here are some of the things working well for our credit union partners across the country:
Limiting or Rotating Employees On-Site: There are many operational tasks credit union employees must complete in a given day that fly in the face of social distancing. As you consider necessary changes to these tasks, be mindful of regulatory and bylaw restrictions. However, don’t be afraid to make prudent adjustments in the name of protecting your employees and staff. If you must make exceptions to the rules be diligent about documenting the reasoning behind the exception. Include details around who was a part of making that decision, the action that was taken and the outcomes if any. All that documentation will come in handy when your credit union inevitably does its business continuity planning debrief.
Following CDC Guidelines: The Centers for Disease Control has provided several best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Ensure employees are well-trained and supported in the practice of these procedures, which include washing their hands often, especially when handling money and other items members may bring into the cooperative; not touching their eyes, nose and mouth; washing their hands often; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; and, of course, staying home if they are sick.
There are ways to make these behaviors more adoptable. Have a little fun by sending out a hand-washing gif every 60 minutes, or for newly remote employees, organize an “exercise-from-home hour,” encouraging people to take a walk or move their bodies throughout the day.
Supplying PPE: At the outset of April, the CDC advised every person in the U.S. to wear a cloth mask or face covering in public settings to combat the spread of COVID-19. Even prior to this announcement, many credit unions were already navigating personal protective equipment (PPE) supply shortages. Continue to evaluate the number of member-facing staff needed in the branch at any one time.
Sanitizing Surfaces: Best practices around keeping surfaces clean include disinfecting doorknobs, tables, desks and handrails at regular and frequent intervals. Increasing ventilation by opening windows or turning on or up air conditioning fans is another tip experts have suggested for cutting down on the potential for contagions to hang around branch or office spaces.
Over Communicate: Take extra steps to ensure every employee knows what is available to him or her in terms of protective gear and practices, updated sick or leave policies and revised operational procedures to stay healthy while also navigating the new normal of social distancing at the branch. Be smart about enabling two-way communication, as well. Employees should feel comfortable bringing their worries to the attention of their supervisor or another accessible point of contact.
And, to alleviate member concern for staff, include employee protection-related content in your regular COVID-19 updates to members. Even if nothing has changed since your last communication, drop a piece of information about remote working or a photo of an employee decked out in PPE. Remind them that you have heard and appreciate their concerns and are going above and beyond to make sure you’re taking care of the people who are taking care of them.
If there are special steps your credit union is taking to provide extra attention and protection for staff, please share them with us. We love to hear stories of how the movement is relying on human ingenuity and the people helping people spirit to get through this most unique period of time.