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Navy Federal Adapts To Life In A Pandemic

Courtesy photo

One of the panhandle’s largest employers is adapting to life with COVID-19. 

“I think going into 2020 all of us have seen our plans upended. To a certain extent we are all adjusting to a new normal.” said Bill Pearson, the Manager of Public Affairs at Navy Federal Credit Union.

Pearson says that once the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic became obvious, 85% of Navy Federal's workforce transitioned to working remotely.

“And all of that was done in about a two week period back in March. It really was an understanding of the seriousness of the situation and an understanding of doing the right thing for our employees and taking the steps to make sure that they would continue to be able to work. We really changed the culture of the organization, quite frankly. Before we were very proud of having wonderful work spaces and campuses that were the center point of where we came together as teams, and (the pandemic) certainly has changed how we do things. But that hasn’t changed the heart of our mission.”

Pearson also thinks that once the world reopens that some of their people may continue working from home, but for the most part the campus will fill up again. As far as the banking business goes, he knows that many of Navy Federal’s clients are going through tough financial times during the economic shutdown.

“We have taken every step possible to try to be there and support our members through these tough financial times. So we’ve had a variety of relief efforts and programs in place to help them. A lot of financial institutions have done that with deferments and forbearances that have been available so our goal is to work with our members to make sure they are able to take care of their finances in a good way to where they are not under water. And so we are very proud that we’ve been able to continue to serve them through this.”

Earlier this year, just before the pandemic hit, Navy Federal completed at construction project and opened Building 8 on their campus. Pearson says that the issue now is the best use of the space they have.

“For us the challenge is not so much building new buildings, it’s figuring out how to configure work spaces that allow us to have the number of employees on campus that we need, but doing so in a safe and healthy manner.”

And speaking of number of employees, Navy Federal is the largest employer in the area with over 8,200 employees. They were well on their way toward reaching their goal of 10,000 by 2022, but since the pandemic hiring has slowed. “There has been a bit of a slowdown in terms of bringing new people on board. I think, conversely, you also see people a little less willing to go (and) move on to another career opportunity with all the uncertainty in the world. And so I think we’ve also seen a downturn in terms of people who have moved on and searched for other opportunities.”

As for current Navy Federal employees, Bill Pearson says there have been no lay-offs or furloughs due to the coronavirus pandemic, although some people who had jobs specific to being on the campus have been transferred to other positions in the company. Navy Federal Credit Union still hopes to hit that goal of 10,000 employees over the next few years. 

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.