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Essential Services

Laurel Sykes's picture

While many businesses and workers are subject to the California order to Shelter in Place, there are still many others who are deemed “essential”.  This includes law enforcement and public safety professionals, as well as those in food production and certainly our heroes on the front line of this pandemic, our emergency responders and health care providers.  In fact, the President issued a statement on Monday stating, “If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as health care services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”

But essential services don’t stop there. In total, there are 14 employment categories in total that the Department of Homeland Security identifies as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers”, including bank employees in the financial services industry! And that’s why you might see our employees traveling to and from work to continue to serve our clients’ needs. I have to say I’m proud to work alongside some of the most dedicated bankers I’ve ever known, and I continue to be amazed at the lengths they go to every day to serve customers while keeping that positive ARB spirit alive.

San Luis Obispo County has put together a great resource for understanding essential services, which we’ve also included on our COVID-19 resource page.  It includes a process for getting clarification on your business. If you are unsure if your SLO business is essential or if you need further clarification on your operations, you can contact them via their online request form.  

If you are an essential business, the CDC has provided guidance to businesses that are remaining open to serve the community.  Below is a summary of the changes to their guidance as of March 21, 2020

  • Updated cleaning and disinfection guidance
  • Updated best practices for conducting social distancing
  • Updated strategies and recommendations that can be implemented now to respond to COVID-19

At ARB, we have employed various strategies to conduct social distancing, which we discuss here.  You may have noticed that we are also enabling loan signings and account openings by collecting signatures online, or accepting documents at the front door.  Customers are leveraging mobile banking and night deposit services to minimize the need to enter the branches, coming inside only to visit safe deposit boxes or perform other in-person services after stopping by our in-branch sanitizing stations before visiting the teller (at a safe 6-feet distance, of course).  We also continue to maintain a strict regime of cleaning.

Employee safety kitsWe continue to support our employees struggling with school and daycare closures through remote work strategies, and we provide regular tips for staying safe while at home, such as these from the CDC.  We’ve also supplied all locations with sanitizing wipes and gloves for handling cash deposits, and last week every employee received their very own supply of travel-sized hand sanitizer!

In addition to these strategies, the CDC also recommends establishing policies and practices for “social distancing”, which we all know now to mean avoiding large gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible (e.g., breakrooms and cafeterias). Strategies to consider include:

  • Implementing flexible worksites (e.g., telework)
  • Implementing flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts)
  • Increasing physical space between employees at the worksite
  • Increasing physical space between employees and customers (e.g., drive through, partitions)
  • Implementing flexible meeting and travel options (e.g., postpone non-essential meetings or events)
  • Downsizing operations
  • Delivering services remotely (e.g. phone, video, or web)
  • Delivering products through curbside pick-up or delivery

This week at ARB, we implemented a rotating schedule that leverages remote access as well as “A” and “B” teams (plus “R” teams that are solely remote).  Funny how as bankers even our pandemic plans lend themselves to acronyms, and we can credit our Chief Technology Officer for the “ARB” team names! 

Drive-up window with tellerThis rotating strategy means less people in the office each day, which helps to ensure we can effectively implement social distancing within the workplace as recommended by the guidance. We’ve also implemented telework strategies and means of holding all meetings via Zoom or telephone to minimize in-person contact. All that said, please feel free to stop by the drive through at our Goleta and Paso Robles branches if you’re in the neighborhood.  We bankers are a social bunch, and we miss seeing our customers! Thank you for continuing trust in us to serve your every banking need, especially during these trying times. We look forward to the day we can reopen our lobbies to our customers (and their furry friends!)