Being a “great place to work” isn’t just a motto at Chesapeake Bank. It’s a part of our vision, and the questions “What can we do to keep it that way or to make it even better?” are always on our forefront. But never more so than now, amidst COVID-19 and all of the adjustments that it brings.
Fortunately, a good portion of our staff, like Senior Management, I.T., Marketing, and other employees were already working remotely and were accustomed to programs like Zoom and Jabber.
So, in early March, we had those employees make sure to test all of their systems and processes. Then gradually, we started bringing everyone else over too. Once we closed our lobbies, the retail staff split into two shifts, alternating every other week, one week in the office and the other at home to minimize contact between staff. (The branches cleaned thoroughly between shift changes.)
Of course, this change means that we’re experiencing the same things that you’ve likely found on your end; kids using all of the bandwidth of personal WIFI, so we can’t join our calls; dogs barking or snoring, and kids yelling in the background.
“Trying to run group meetings effectively is humorous in and of itself because of so many of the cliché situations (“No, you go ahead.”) really are true.” – Jeff Szyperski, CEO
Communication is key but so is the fun
We’re lucky that our C.E.O., Jeff Szyperski, is such a great communicator. From the beginning, he has been sending the entire organization daily emails that included updates on the Industry, Coronavirus, and details about what we were doing in response. With these updates came a contest for lighthearted subject lines where the winner would receive a $25 gift card. Some of the winning subjects were: “Bank robbery: All toilet paper stolen!” and “When this all over, please continue to stay at least 6 feet away from me!”
Virtual events were also added, like Coffee breaks on Tuesdays for a more in-depth “update” that included Q&A and topic suggestions submitted in advance. And “Happy Hour” on Friday afternoons that’s purely a social (and optional) event but one that’s sure to include family members, pets, and at least one “dad joke” and team ribbing.
Spirit Week was the latest addition. It included common themes like U.S.A. Day, wacky sock, and wacky hair day. But let’s be serious, after a few weeks of working from home, all sorts of things wind up wacky. We even picked up a few new employees. Aren’t they cute?
Down to Business
While our organization is doing all they can to go with the flow and keep things light, we are constantly ‘checking temperatures’ and shifting roles between departments to address the current demands. For example, just before we were instructed to work from home, the mortgage industry hit a boom. Laurie Rowe is one of our Compliance officers, but she has temporarily switched back to our Mortgage Department to help with underwriting loans, her previous role.
Our Business Development Team, Retail Trainers, and anyone else with loan experience has been helping to process the S.B.A. loans that were recently approved as part of the “CARES Act.” And many of our teams are working around the clock to keep things moving.
When the retail team is at home, they are catching up on required training and helping with non-cash tasks. We’ve also tasked them with reaching out to our business customers to learn what they’re changing to remain open so that we can help spread the word.
Our Human Resources team has been assessing symptoms of employees and family, along with skill sets internally, in case other role adjustments can be made for the greater good. “Social distancing” and “home sheltering” restrictions have already started impacting vacations. As a result, the H.R. team adjusted our vacation policy to give employees a few additional options for this year. These changes come with a strong reminder that even if we’re home, “staycations” and “mental health days” are of the utmost importance. “Take them when you need them.” – Pat Lewis, Director of H.R.
There are a lot of moving parts and many things that you can’t actually “prepare” for, but remaining open to change, focusing on what you can do, and taking care of yourself along the way, keeps us moving in the right direction.
In closing, the words of one of our latest new hires sums it up best: “During this time of uncertainty, I am feeling immensely grateful to work for an amazing company that allows me to work from home. It’s all fun and games until the kids decide it’s a good idea to give the cat a bath while I’m on a conference call. Housekeeping rules have never been truer than they are today!” – Melanie Wynkoop, Product Manager, Marketing.