The COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone and all organizations around the globe in 2020. Our first responsibility was to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of our employees and their families and enable them to continue to provide high-level, uninterrupted support to our clients.
As the significant threat of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, we implemented pandemic protocols to protect the health and safety of our employees. Specifically, we:
Suspended all business-related travel, limited in-person meetings with outside parties, and asked employees to postpone non-essential personal travel.
Temporarily closed certain branches without drive-thru facilities and re-deployed employees to support our Client Service Center to assist clients by phone.
Implemented enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures.
Transitioned approximately 85 percent of non-branch personnel to teleworking, providing laptops as needed with secure VPN access.
Developed comprehensive guidance for responding to any COVID-19 diagnoses or exposures in company facilities.
Closed branch lobbies to the public, established a process for clients to schedule appointments for critical needs, and made a wider range of transactions possible in drive-thru facilities.
Provided facemasks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes in all facilities and installed acrylic shields to help protect employees and clients.
In July 2020, we began a phased approach to returning employees to the office while continuing to operate with appointment-only lobby access in all branch offices and capping staffing levels at non-branch facilities at 25 percent of normal occupancy. Our return-to-work roadmap was informed, in part, by feedback from employee surveys. We will continue to monitor COVID-19 prevalence levels and state government mandates that may influence our return-to-work roadmap to help ensure the health and safety of our employees and customers.
To support employees and their personal needs during the pandemic, we took the following steps for all employees.
We established a special enhanced personal leave benefit by providing up to two weeks of additional paid time off to employees who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. We also created a COVID-19 hardship leave benefit, comparable to the benefit created under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides up to 12 additional weeks of expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Through December 31, 2020, we paid a total of $318,000 in COVID-19 leave benefits.
Branch personnel and support staff whose responsibilities did not permit them to work remotely were awarded a bonus of up to $1,200.
All employees had access to resources to support mental health and wellness through our Employee Assistance Program.
Open Lines of Communication
Executive management communicated frequently with employees, providing regular updates regarding safety measures and the resources and benefits available.
Due to the reduction in branch services, nearly two dozen branch associates transitioned to roles within our mortgage and consumer lending teams and our Client Service Center. Employees who could not be redeployed continued to be paid. We did not furlough or lay-off any employees as a result of the pandemic.