By W.B. King
The pandemic redefined how employees across most industries maximize their work schedules. This reality spurred Oregon Community Credit Union to brainstorm ways in which it could successfully augment the traditional workweek.
“With the four-day workweek gaining momentum in other industries and countries – especially in the wake of COVID-19 – we wanted to see if it could be a fit for us,” Oregon Community Credit Union (OCCU) Chief Operations Officer Tracey Keffer told Finopotamus.
“We strive to be an employer of choice and create a positive and engaging workplace culture, so we wanted to see if stepping outside the traditional workweek schedule with an innovative solution would result in positive employee feedback, which in turn would result in a positive member experience,” she added.
The $3.2 billion Eugene, Ore.-based credit union, which supports more than 260,000 members and 13 branches, launched a pilot program on March 13, 2023, which allows its 64 call center employees to work a four-day work week.
“It is important to note that many financial institutions and credit unions have implemented four-day workweeks; however, those typically are four 10-hour days, while we’re piloting four eight-hour days,” she explained, adding that call center team members have one weekday off per week for the pilot, which could be any day Monday through Friday.
“The team members don’t pick the day off; the contact center managers work with the team workforce analyst to develop a schedule that would support this pilot,” she said. “All without changing service hours or adding employees.”
On an annual average basis, Oregon Community Credit Union’s call center fields more than 250,000 incoming calls from members.
“Interactions span all phases of member service from balance inquiries to information on rates to fraud inquiries and credit card, loan and mortgage payments,” Keffer told Finopotamus.
Recent technological advancements in phone systems, she added, also made the pilot a possibility.
“The sophisticated channels of communication, coupled that with the variability of what the member might be calling about, requires our team members to be adept at not only using the technology, but also to have in-depth knowledge of our products and services and have an always-on approach to every call,” she continued. “Our own call matrix includes 52 possible call flows. It is a challenging though rewarding role that carries a high level of stress.”
While still in the early stages of rollout, Keffer said employees have already expressed “enthusiasm” because the extra day allows for more family time, to run errands or schedule doctor appointments.
“This new model has the potential to boost employee health and engagement, decrease turnover, increase productivity and, as a result, provide the best experience possible for our members,” she said. “Our hope is that stepping outside the traditional workweek schedule will result in a positive impact to our team members’ well-being and create a positive and engaging workplace culture.”
Ensuring Excellent Member Service
When Finopotamus asked the intended goals of the pilot, Keffer responded: “We want to see high levels of employee well-being and engagement, which would mean low turnover and absenteeism, and, at the same time, high levels of member satisfaction.”
She continued, “Lower turnover results in longer-tenured and experienced employees who can better assist our members when they call. The team will work to ensure that overall productivity remains high and that absenteeism, unplanned time off and turnover [rates] are within acceptable ranges.”
Throughout the pilot, she said that OCCU “will not change service hours or bring on additional employees to support the new scheduling.”
If the pilot is deemed successful, Keffer said the credit union, which has a total of 604 employees, “will consider implementing the model in other business units” as well as keep the new hourly structure at the call center.
Four-Day Workweek Tips
Before a credit union considers implementing a pilot like OCCU, Keffer suggested a first step: Determine the main business problem that needs to be solved.
“From there, determining how to measure success through data and verifiable metrics is important. Transparency with the team that is participating in the pilot is also key,” she said.
“They must fully understand the impact they have on the overall successful or unsuccessful outcome of the pilot,” Keffer continued. “The team needs to understand the metrics and what the organization is trying to achieve with making this shift.”
Senior executives an employees alike, she said, shouldn’t view this initiative as “getting an extra day off,” but rather increasing productivity and member service by providing employees with more time to “decompress from the stress” of the role.
“This means that instead of calling in sick to take a mental health day, they need to remember they already have one built into their schedule each week and they need to show up ready to work when they are scheduled,” she noted. “The rest of the team depends on them!”
In the event the pilot doesn’t meet or exceed expectations, Keffer said straightforward communication is essential.
“Should the pilot be unsuccessful, team members who are participating must understand that they would return to working five eight-hour days per week.”