The credit union industry faces a tremendous challenge in the era of COVID-19.
Individual institutions must keep their workforce and the clients safe while maintaining normal operations. Retail branches have tried to keep operations strong despite fears of COVID-19 transmission, threats from online options and declining pedestrian traffic.
There have already been COVID-19 outbreaks in the offices of credit unions and financial institutions. JPMorgan Chase had a well-publicized incident in September where it had to send employees in its sales and trading division home due to COVID-19 just days after those workers had returned to their offices. This latest setback came on the heels of the same company’s even more problematic COVID-19 outbreak in March at the outset of the pandemic.
A primary challenge for credit unions is the heterogeneity of operations where the institutions need to protect their staff. There are a few steps they can take to achieve this.
Creating a culture of safety
To minimize COVID-19 in their buildings, credit unions are mandated to create an aura of safety their employees, clients and visitors. To achieve this, they must anticipate the potential of COVID-19 infections in all of their verticals.
They need the most current cleaning regimens and the most up-to-date safety protocols. They need to be strong advocates for wearing masks and social distancing. They need to eliminate areas for congregation, such as kitchens. They must ensure everyone has the current flu vaccine now and the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.
Constant education and reminders should be prominently displayed so all workers demonstrate optimal vigilance toward infection control. Providing a strong culture of safety will bolster personal responsibility and minimize workplace-related transmissions.
Financial institutions need to minimize the likelihood of COVID-19 infiltrating their workplace with all available methods. Federal and state regulations uniformly require symptom monitoring, education and screening protocols.
However, many employers choose to follow only the absolute minimum on these requirements. They use paper or Google Docs for monitoring symptoms. There are other cursory symptom-monitoring solutions available but many of these products only serve as “box-checking” devices. They offer no element of actual conveyance as to the importance of the process.
Symptomatic individuals must understand that bringing their symptoms into the workplace is irresponsible and potentially disastrous to their co-workers. Employers should instill the message that flu symptoms will not be tolerated in the workplace. These issues are relevant even outside of the pandemic, as individuals can never know if they are potentially infecting someone who has a vulnerable family member.
The strongest methodology for these requirements is an integrated software platform with an electronic symptom monitor that formalizes an in-depth understanding of COVID-19 symptoms. This solution necessitates formal employee attestation as to being symptom-free of any flu or COVID-19-like characteristics.
Additionally, a full survey is required to provide an exhaustive encapsulation of symptoms that could represent less typical but still dangerous signs of COVID-19. For any symptom monitor to be effective, adoption in real-time by all employees is mandatory. Companies that settle for less than 100% survey adoption are doomed to be plagued by potential outbreaks.
Containing known or suspected infections
The most important element of success for credit unions in the COVID-19 era is their ability to contain infections in workplace.
Not having a containment plan prior to reopening is inexcusable. Not having a strong plan for these cases up front will cause unnecessary disease propagation, misinformation, employee mistrust, and possibly employee panic or even litigation.
From an economic standpoint, poor planning for COVID-19 will be detrimental to the business, the potentially infected individual and their associations.
Not every business necessarily needs to close with a single suspected infection. Statistically, larger settings are the most likely areas to have one or more COVID-19 infections, and these areas need to be the most prepared.
Employer should understand how COVID-19 cases could potentially spread in their workplace. Likely spread is directly related to the physical proximity and the duration of interpersonal contact between individuals in the workplace.
Understanding strategies of containment is vital. To borrow an analogy from first responder lexicon, principles of both horizontal and vertical transmission must be understood. Horizontal transmission is between normally interacting cohorts, such as workers on the same team or those with clustered seating proximities. Vertical transmission occurs between individuals who interact in completely separately cohorts and all but assures the spread within company. Businesses need to contain COVID-19 transmission horizontally before spread vertically to all other facets of the company and its clients.
New technologies use these principles to contain COVID-19. The same electronic symptom-monitoring platforms can be equipped with the capacity for automating containment within companies. Techniques such as classifying employees by tag, associations or work contacts will simplify the decisions around which individuals to quarantine if someone has suspected or proven COVID-19 infection.
The COVID-19 era is here. Credit unions can no longer compete by having all of their employees at home during the crucial hours of workplace productivity. Workplace prevention can be facilitated by electronic solutions that monitor and manage employees with novel solutions.