Working together while apart
Wells Fargo employees around the world in various roles describe how the coronavirus has affected their lives, including work and family.
Wells Fargo Branch Manager Eric V., based in the Silicon Valley region of California, leads a team of branch employees who are working on a rotational basis with another team. As COVID-19-related events have unfolded in his community, he has seen numerous changes take place at the Sunnyvale branch.
I have had to bring my change management skills into play, because it seems like everything changed within a day. A lot of companies had to find ways to adjust very quickly.
There are things we’ve done really well in our district. We implemented social distancing early on, placing paper signs on the floor to indicate where customers should be standing. We did this using eye-catching yellow paper and packing tape. On busy days, we conduct controlled entry, only letting 10 people in at a time.
What the company has been doing has also been helpful. We appreciate the enhanced cleaning and the rolling out of changes such as the new sneeze guards. We had been serving some customers at banker desks from either side of the partitions. The portable sneeze guards help with that, and now we also have them for tellers, so our team members feel more comfortable. And it’s also something the customers really like.
We also have temporarily closed a few branches, and teams are working in rotations to staff one building. I talk to my team a lot about how we are very fortunate in a way. We have customers who have lost their jobs. We have customers who are really concerned about how they are going to pay their rent. They are coming to us sometimes to get guidance, and we are giving them the ability to receive guidance. We are all about the community. I think we all see that we are all pitching in to do what we can to help our customers. And as long as we keep talking about the outcomes, team members are staying engaged with what we are handling.
— As told to Amanda Halbersma
Mike P. is a Community Relations senior consultant responsible for leveraging Wells Fargo’s Community Relations resources across 17 counties in the Greater Pennsylvania region. As the demand for helping employees has increased, Mike volunteered to respond to their concerns while others are being trained to cover the volume.
The physical outreach piece of what I am able to do is on pause. However, the high level of contact with the nonprofit community, Wells Fargo lines of business leaders, and external communities of interest continues. Needs remain — and need to be addressed via continued outreach programming
My team received a request for assistance to support the Team Member Care information system due to increased volume from our employees, and I volunteered to help. The opportunity has since expanded to include responding to employees via Live Chat. I wanted to help make a difference. During this COVID-19 pandemic, we all need to be more involved, pitch in where we can, and leverage our abilities. Providing information and helping employees get answers to questions will ease the pressure of working and making personal decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our state is under a shelter-in-place order. My wife Mary and I are both working from home. She is a paraprofessional working with special needs students virtually. She works out of one room, and I’m in another. I normally have the ability to work remotely, and I have done so sporadically in the past. When working from home, I set up either in the dining room (my wife just loves that) or in our computer room.
We have a five-month-old granddaughter, who we now see over FaceTime with my son and daughter-in-law. My family and I have found it difficult being somewhat isolated, although this is an opportunity to complete home maintenance projects that we never have time to address. I try to run every other day just to unwind. I read the news online and do crossword puzzles. I am also handy with carpentry tools, so I find relief in the garage making/fixing frames, tables, chairs, etc.
That said, it is important to continue our collaborative work to ensure funding and resources are available to address the rising needs of our communities. We are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime event. We all have a role to play in order to overcome this pandemic. If we can each find a way to safely address just one of the many issues we face, that will make a difference.
— As told to Jessica Pacek
Kendrick P. is branch manager of the 163rd Street Wells Fargo branch in North Miami Beach, a branch that typically sees a lot of foot traffic. His branch started instituting social distancing measures weeks before the Florida shelter-at-home order was issued on April 2.
Right now, I don’t feel so overwhelmed. I’m thinking, “OK this is just what we have to do.” I definitely understand, in terms of social distancing — it’s important that we are making sure we keep each other safe. For the most part, the team has been very resilient. Everybody is pitching in, everybody is understanding. My team’s engagement seems to be at a higher level than it has ever been, and I think that is because of the support the company has given them, with all the different supplies, the guidance, as well as some of the pay incentives. They do feel Wells Fargo has their back. They feel they can come here, still protect themselves, and still be able to help their customers. If you are sick, you stay at home, of course, but the ones who are here want to come to work.
When all of this started, even before it was considered a pandemic, our branch made sure we were stocked up on things like hand sanitizer and wipes. We did this before it came to a point where you couldn’t get those sort of things. And we started coaching, “Hey, wash your hands … use the hand sanitizer … as much as possible, avoid shaking hands.”
When I am not at work, I am practicing the quarantine. I don’t find myself going to social gatherings. At most I take a run in the park in front of my house, get some exercise. While at home with my two sons and their mother, I am educating and coaching my kids. It’s hard for my six-year-old to understand. To him, he feels like he is on a summer break or something. The 17 year-old, he is of course more knowledgeable, and he is telling me the different facts and things he is learning from the news.
I feel like my days go a lot quicker now. We are open shorter hours, of course. But I guess it also feels like compared to normal days, when we would have more than 20 people at the branch at a time, we are not so overwhelmed. And maybe that is also why team members seem more engaged. With the measures in place, we are able to catch our breath, compared to other times when it feels like we are running 100 miles per hour.
— As told to Amanda Halbersma
Wells Fargo Regional Private Banking Manager Dora L. continued to work in the Financial District’s Boston office as part of an approved rotation to support social distancing. Throughout the week, the streets were getting quieter and quieter as she helped her team adjust to working from home.
My office location is near Downtown Crossing in Boston, one of the most traversed areas in the city, close to two very heavily traveled train lines, shopping centers, universities, theaters, and a major hospital. On a normal day, there are hundreds of people on that street. On my last day going into the office, it was very different. It was desolate — very sad. Not a great feeling. I hope that we will all be back at work in the office sometime soon and everything will be buzzing again.
Private Bankers are out there talking to existing clients, working with their partners across the enterprise — their investment specialists, financial planners, mortgage bankers, and other members of the team to help discover client needs. They also focus on centers of influence and prospective clients.
Now that the team has fully gone to working from home, clear communication and consistency has become really important. So, we touch base at least once a day to discuss what is on everyone’s mind and what the clients are concerned about. Our clients are diverse. We have clients in the hotel and commercial real estate business who are really very impacted and will see their revenues disappear and employees lose their jobs. It’s a myriad of different issues. As a team, we want to hear about that. And the leadership team also wants the team to feel as though they’re part of the larger organization. Establishing those routines, I think, is vital at the moment.
Everyone has concerns, but really, the most pressing concern is health and safety. We want all the folks to be safe and feel safe and have their families be safe. We are all concerned about clients and the safety of their clients. Our clients are worried about the same things — their safety, not only for their health, but also their finances, their dreams, their goals. This is the time to overcommunicate to allay some of the very valid fears, which all clients have. And if a client is going to be adversely impacted by what’s going on around them, bankers know that they can elevate those concerns to the appropriate individuals within the bank to help address.
Nobody knows what’s going to happen in the future. We do, however, have a framework in place where we are all as a company working to help clients — whether it’s from home offices or from the front lines, employees are doing the hard work of providing as much information real time to address their needs. I think the best we can do is, every day, continue to do our jobs with conviction; to take care of our clients and ourselves and our families.
— As told to Jennifer Donaldson
With India on full lockdown, Prasad B. of the End User Collaboration Services (EUCS) team is helping to provide laptops to a large number of employees, allowing them to continue to work from home. Prasad himself is at home with his wife and 9-year-old son, who keeps himself engaged by making short videos for his YouTube channel.
Wells Fargo employees in India do a lot of digital work.
For two or three weeks now we have been busy — end to end, back to back. My wife was looking forward to everyone being home together. But as work late nights and over the weekends. I am hardly able to find time with my family.
Due to shortages everywhere, laptop supplies are limited, and we have had to rent some. Our various EUCS teams — IT Asset Management, Field Tech Support, and Platform Engineering — then work to make sure they are ready for distribution. They take delivery, configure, and secure the laptops. But all of this can only be done with the proper approvals and permissions. Police are requiring that you have permission to commute on the roads.
I remain motivated because I am seeing everyone working so hard around me. It’s not just me — it’s the leaders as well as my team. Everyone is committed. There is satisfaction in that. Like everyone, I am trying to contribute. Everyone I talk to tells me how important it is to them to continue to do their jobs. We talk a lot about our customers’ needs being our high priority. I see this as the best situation to showcase how we are all working toward that goal. Whether you are processing transactions, which is important to do for customers, or in operations, it is critical to keep the lights on.
I also am seeing how critical it is to have support. Lots of people are saying to me, “I know you have loads on your plate, but how can I help you?” This is a time when you can show what you can do to support the business and each other — not just with words, but also with actions.
— As told to Amanda Halbersma
Dan M., 43, has seen a lot of history packed into his 15 years as a home mortgage consultant with Wells Fargo Home Lending. Except for the financial crisis 12 years ago, nothing compares to the COVID-19 crisis, he said. As a telephone loan officer, he helps customers nationwide with home buying, refinancing, and home equity loans. He also works with Wells Fargo’s Team Member Mortgage program. Dan and his wife live in Gilbert, Arizona, with their three daughters, ages 9, 12, and 17.
This virus thing just came out of left field initially. I mean, mortgage rates were already good. A lot of customers were calling, and we were busy helping them lower their rate, doing a lot of what we are still doing now. For a while, it was business as usual. Then things started happening with the coronavirus.
At first, since it seemed far away, customers were just concerned about what would happen next. That was before people started getting the virus in the U.S. Then states and cities started shutting down, people started social distancing and staying at home to try to handle it. That’s when our conversations with customers turned more real and serious about their situations. Some were already being affected by job loss. Others were worried about their job and concerned about going forward (with a home purchase or refinance) because of the uncertainty. We’re having those kinds of conversations more often now. The goals have changed. The playing field has changed.
I get many customers who ask what we think is going to happen with the virus, the economy, and the housing market. Obviously, we don’t have a crystal ball, but we do our best for our customers to explain what their options are and what makes sense for them.
What is going on now in some ways reminds me of the recession in 2008 and 2009, when so many people lost their jobs and a lot of businesses tied to real estate closed. In the middle of all that, mortgage rates fell and there were great opportunities for some people to refinance, even though it was a double-edged sword because of the uncertainty about the future. That’s the only thing in my career that I can compare to what’s happening today, although this virus is obviously an entirely different animal.
It’s changed the way we work. Social distancing has changed my schedule. I work at home full-time now. The good part is I do see much more of my wife and family. My daughters are all out of school, dance, and cheer practice now, so I get to spend more time with them. It’s probably toughest on my oldest, who’s adjusting to online classes, preparing for college, studying for the ACT and SAT, and worrying about her final semester’s grades. She’s doing really well, despite all the changes.
My wife works from home. She owns her own screen printing business and makes T-shirts for a lot of the school teams in the community. Since the schools are on lockdown now, she’s had a nice break from work. She’s had enough of it now, though. She wants to get back to work.
— As told to Richard Burnett
Edel M. is the executive assistant to Fiona Gallagher, CEO of Wells Fargo Bank International, or WFBI, and Andrew Kyle, EMEA chief financial officer. She is working from home in Dublin, where she lives with her husband John, a first-responder, their 9-year-old son Sean, and puppy Neo. Edel has been with Wells Fargo for three years.
My husband, John, is a first responder in the Dublin Fire Brigade and trained as both a firefighter and a paramedic. He has been in the fire service in the greater Dublin area for 20 years. This area accounts for more than 25% of the entire population of Ireland. John is part of a team that handles over 300 ambulance calls per day as well as fire calls for Dublin and the 13 other counties of Ireland, where they prioritize and dispatch accordingly. The first responders have needed to adapt very quickly to an ever-changing situation, and have adopted new protocols almost daily to ensure they keep their patients and paramedics safe.
As first responders, these firefighters and paramedics are more susceptible to exposure to the virus. They already have a number of confirmed cases and others are in self-isolation. This adds even more pressure to the teams as they have fewer operatives and must work overtime to cover for those who are absent. It also adds pressure and worry to their families and loved ones.
I feel lucky that John is a seasoned professional and does not bring the job home with him, but I am conscious of the additional pressure he is under, and I realize he needs my support. He is currently working a 16-hour night shift, so he is both physically and mentally drained when he arrives home.
Every morning, I take Sean and our puppy Neo for a long walk before John gets home. This ensures that we can remain calm and quiet during the day while John is sleeping. We’ve adapted one of the rooms in our house into a little home office and schoolroom where Sean and I can work with the puppy, who is usually asleep at my feet.
Trying to balance a hectic work schedule with helping to occupy Sean and do his homework can be stressful. Sean has popped up on some of my work calls and is now on first name terms with all of the WFBI board directors! We are also looking out for my parents, who are over 70 and being asked not to leave their homes.
It seems to me that Wells Fargo executives and leaders know what it’s like — they have kids, too. We are all working together to figure out this new way of working. This current situation has brought us all closer together, both in Wells Fargo and as a nation in Ireland.
Everyone is affected by the current crisis. But it’s not forever, and it will pass. If we all do what we can, then we will beat this virus. So keep the positive side out and keep going!
— As told to Deirdre O’Meara
Stories have been edited for length and clarity
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