Century Link EVP of HR: ‘Work environment will never be quite the same again’

Local Coronavirus Coverage

WJHL – A Johnson City, Tenn. call center managed to get 95 percent of its 200 employees working from home within a few short days, an official said Thursday. Meanwhile, IntelliHARTx’s Kingsport, Tenn. call center had transitioned 37 of its 39 employees to home-based work by Wednesday, with the final two expected to be working at home by Friday.

And ACT, with call centers in Johnson City and Boones Creek, had announced it was providing employees an additional 40 hours of paid time off as part of its efforts to build in more flexibility for employees.

Century Link’s office in north Johnson City is down to about 10 people with the other 190 having transitioned to working at home, Executive Vice President of Human Resources Scott Trezise said in a Zoom video interview. Trezise said the company, which has about 75 percent of its nationwide workforce remote at this point, based its actions on two main factors after a March 16 meeting.

“Our priority was putting the interest of our employees first and foremost so we did move very quickly,” Trezise said. “I’m sure there are some expenses there but I don’t think that was our first priority or our second priority.”

He said insuring that it’s meeting customer demand was Century Link’s second priority.

Trezise said the transition’s speed was surprising given the need to make sure Century Link had sufficient bandwidth capabilities and the other technology that had to be scaled up. “It’s gone quite smoothly,” he said.

“It’s amazing when you challenge human beings to think differently how they can be creative and something that might have taken six months to get done we got done in just a few days,” Trezise added. “I think we’re seeing that across the company, on HR, on technology, on finance. It’s sort of remarkable to watch to see our employees step up to the challenges that we’re experiencing.”

Meanwhile, Findlay, Ohio-based ITx Companies said 79 percent of its employees company-wide had transitioned to working at home by Wednesday. ITx deals with patient balances for hospitals, health systems and large physician groups.

“Our goal is to provide a safe and healthy environment while maintaining the needs of our clients and patients we serve,” the company said in a statement.

Century Link has also made a few policy changes in light of other challenges COVID-19 is presenting, such as children being out of school. The company has provided employees with an additional 80 hours of paid time off, and no longer requires a year’s tenure before someone qualifies for short term disability.

As for challenges surrounding confidential information, Trezise said the company has overcome those hurdles with a variety of technologies including virtual private networks and cloud technology.

“We do deal with confidential information, we have high security requirements and we felt like that we figured those things out and we put a process in place that was secure that customer information was secure and allowed us to go to the work from home and we feel very confident in that.”

Century Link had dipped its toe in the work from home model, and Trezise said those employees had proven more productive than those working in call centers.

“It helped this be an easy decision for us to make is that we knew we could be productive in this environment.”

Trezise said he believes working life will change significantly in the wake of the world’s experience with COVID-19.

“That’s a question for our society and our world right now … I think this has proven to even more people that work can be done remotely.”

“We’ll evaluate it once this current crisis is over to say where has it worked well, where hasn’t it worked well and make decisions off that. I don’t know exactly what it will hold, but I do think on a global/national scale it will change the work environment forever.”

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