When COVID-19 closed schools and businesses, Meghan Ercolanese had to balance work with caring for her 9-year-old and 4-year-old sons. And she wasn’t the only employee adjusting to a new way of working and parenting. Nationwide, 52 percent of employed parents with children younger than 12 say it has been difficult to handle child care responsibilities during the pandemic – up from 38 percent in March 2020.
“The pandemic brought working and parenting closer together,” says Ercolanese, a payroll specialist at Raleigh-based Coastal Credit Union (Coastal).
As a response to the pandemic, Coastal quickly implemented policies to help their workforce stay safe and supported. These included:
- Shifting 80% of workers to a new remote work policy
- Continuing payment for on-site only employees who couldn’t be onsite early in the pandemic, to help them reserve their paid time off (PTO)
- Changing the PTO sellback rules to allow employees to sell back more time in 2020 and 2021
- Lowering the PTO usage and rollover requirements to relieve the pressure of using PTO employees may lose
- Adding a $50 per pay period reimbursement to offset work from home expenses
- Adding 8 hours of vaccine PTO for 2021 to help employees get vaccinated, recover from vaccination, or help someone else get vaccinated
- Physically spacing out employees who had to be on site
“Our employees are as important to us as satisfied members, solid financial results, and supporting our community,” says Joe Mecca, vice president of communication. To continue this level of employee support, Coastal will keep the remote work policy and implement a hybrid workplace.
As the future of work changes for the U.S., nine out of 10 organizations report that they will implement hybrid work environments, combining remote and on-site work. “The remote work policy has been the biggest support by far,” says Ercolanese. “I have gained two more hours in my day because I don’t have a commute, and I can be there for my children without affecting my productivity at work. My life and my family’s life are better because I’m able to work from home.”
Pivoting to meet the needs of employees is not new for Coastal. In 2016, the company launched a two-year survey of their members in partnership with the Center for Financial Services Innovation and discovered that the percentage of Coastal’s members who identified themselves as “financially coping” or “struggling” was surprisingly higher than expected.
“Financial well-being for our members starts with our employees,” says Mecca. “It’s who we are and what we do. If we cannot ensure that our employees and their families are doing well – that they have the information, tools, and resources that they need to be successful, then we can’t do that for our members.”
As a result, Coastal took a look at their policies and benefits– both formal and informal – to see where they could provide additional programs and benefits to support their employees’ financial well-being.
One of the most tangible and significant steps was Coastal’s company-wide commitment to a $15/hour minimum wage, rolled out in 2018. The company also offers two bonus programs for employees: a fixed amount if Coastal hits annual goals and an additional discretionary amount based on individual performance.
Coastal’s company culture also includes regular manager check-ins that support a work-life balance. “Our check-ins allow me to talk to my manager about my life and my children,” says Ercolanese. “We are like a big work family. We share our lives with each other, giving everyone social support.”
As the U.S. continues to pave new ways to a post-pandemic world, Coastal understands the importance of prioritizing the needs of their people. “We’re seeing evidence that employees aren’t going to be willing to work in an environment that isn’t safe or supportive,” says Mecca. “Employers that take care of their team are going to keep winning when it comes to attracting and keeping talent.”
Sample Benefits – Coastal Credit Union
- Remote and hybrid work options
- A 401(k) program
- Cash balance and two defined benefit pension plans depending on employee start date
- Dental, vision, health, and life Insurance where Coastal pays 100 percent of the premium for an individual employee’s plan, and the equivalent of an individual’s premium if an employee has a family or dependent plan
- Paid time off that scales up based on years with Coastal and accrues over the course of the year starting January 1 of each year
- Additional time off for school functions, volunteering, and COVID-19 vaccination
- Employee Assistance Plan
- Wellness program including biometrics screening and an on-site gym