Like so many others, Assistant Manager at Bantry Credit Union Siobhán Geoghegan, found herself working from home in Rosscarbery during lockdown. The Dunmanway native’s role covers responsibility for Risk Management, Compliance, AML, Data Protection and Operations. “My function is assurance and operational governance,” she says. “Sounds more boring than it is!”
As Siobhán’s work is done mostly behind the scenes and Bantry Credit Union was ahead of the lockdown in the set up for working from home, the transition from the office to working remotely was seamless.
“Our computer capabilities and telesystems were in place two weeks before the lockdown so the transition was quite smooth, all things considered,” she says. “I did feel quite conscious that I could work from home when others couldn’t,” she admits. “But staff members are above and beyond co-operative and adaptable in the credit union. We split into three teams for succession; should anyone be exposed to the virus the other team could step in – we had (1) the sub office counter staff in Castletownbere, (2) the main office counter staff in Bantry and (3) all back-office functions (with the exception of the Manager Finbarr) working remotely from March 13.”
With staff working remotely in Glengarriff, Clonakilty, Rosscarbery and of course Bantry, the range of functions that were being done remotely for three to four months included: Accounts; Risk management; Marketing; Credit control; Data protection; AML; and Online services.
“Staying ahead and preempting the evolving situation was, and is, a constant concern,” Siobhán explains.
The other main concerns were technical, communications and managing workloads. However, aside from a few teething problems at the beginning with IT and phones, overall the set-up is working so well that nearly everything but the counter and lending can now be done remotely.
“As we went into lockdown we had to reorganise our online registrations and phone reception, as the volume increased significantly, so we switched those to remote workers to handle the volume and overflow. Communication was our priority.”
Check-ins were done with staff, who were given questionnaires to make sure they had everything they needed, like equipment, chairs and so on, and that they were taking proper breaks and lunches. “We split the workloads to what could be done remotely and changed our opening hours and services to reduce pressure on frontline staff and ensure everyone’s safety,” explains Siobhán. Everyone signed in daily on Microsoft Teams so there was constant communication between staff, along with video calls and staff meetings. There was at least one back-up person for each task to take over or assist.
Security risks were assessed prior to going remotely so there was a policy in place for staff to follow. “As the credit union’s system is locked down, no data can be printed or saved from the remote system,” says Siobhán. “No files or documents are allowed leave the office, so all printing by remote workers prints to the office.”
For the first couple of weeks, Siobhán worked at her kitchen table. “That was much too close to the fridge,” she laughs, “so as the days went on, I set up a proper office in a spare room.” She found that this made structuring work at lot easier, as she could close the door in the evening and be done instead of facing the temptation to check emails or finish a task.
“It was quite an adjustment at first, as I’m never at home; I’m always out or working, but my dog was delighted…and I found that I was more focused as there are less distractions at home!” Aside from getting the separation between work and home right and missing the structure and camaraderie of the office, Siobhán found not being able to visit family and friends or go to gigs the biggest challenge.
And although she didn’t miss the daily commute, she really missed Bantry. “I live in the countryside, so I missed being able to pop out of the office to grab a coffee, or lunch, or having a look around the shops in the town.”
Now back working in the Bantry office, Siobhán says it’s “a new normal”. “We have PPE and extra precautions in place but it’s now become part of the routine to sanitise frequently and check temperatures every morning. There are aspects from the lockdown that improved our practices that we will continue with.”
In terms of risk assessment, Siobhán’s advice to businesses that have staff members working from home is to assess the IT risks, data protection risks and health and safety, as well insurance for staff working from home.
When she’s not ensuring that the credit union is maintaining compliance with legislation and best practices and minimising risk exposures, Siobhán can be found on the beach with her dog or out with friends – restrictions permitting!