The coronavirus broke out in China in late 2019. Early 2020, the Netherlands was facing an alarming situation. In what way did the SNPS board deal with the negative consequences of the corona crisis? And what impact did this crisis have on the method of operation of our pension administrator (Achmea Pensioen Services)? Suzanne Pama, manager of the client team of the Shell Pension Funds including SNPS, recounts.
“If you had told me early 2020 that we would currently be dealing with a crisis situation, I would not have believed you. But looking back, fortunately the process went smoothly. On behalf of Shell, we pay the monthly pension benefits to pensioners and surviving relatives and this has to continue of course. We also have a crisis team within Achmea. This team ensures that business operations can continue in the event of an emergency. There were plans in place describing what to do in the event of an emergency, such as a national power outage. After the coronavirus outbreak, this team initially met on a daily basis to discuss the impact on the organisation and the business critical chain.”
“Our office is located in Tilburg and because of the large outbreak in the province of Brabant, we were working from home quite soon. A big advantage was that working from home was not entirely new to us, so the transition to full-time working from home on a large scale went almost without a hitch. The capacity of the network and the accessibility of our systems were closely monitored so that everything could continue as normal in times of crisis. A number of ‘fallback scenarios’ were worked out as well, such as employees being absent through illness and the possible inadequate performance of external partners (such as banks). Achmea provided us with good guidance. Both in terms of facilities and information.”
“We like to communicate with our participants digitally, which is fast and efficient and also better for the environment. However, there are still a few people who prefer receiving information by post. At the office, it was simple. Just walk to the printer and put the requested document in an envelope. But because we now work from home on a large scale, and not everyone has a printer at their disposal, that was not possible. That is why we now deliver such documents digitally to a printing firm who then sends them off on our behalf.”
“A big advantage was that working from home was not new to us”
“Despite the fact that we talk to each other digitally every day, I miss real personal contact with the team. Looking someone in the eye to see how they are really doing or having a chat at the coffee machine with a colleague from another team. That’s why we now have a daily digital coffee break for those who want to catch up and not talk about work for once.”
“Absolutely. We work digitally to an even greater extent. It saves paper and is more environmentally friendly. And I am super proud of my team! I already was, but now even more so. In an uncertain period, you are suddenly forced to work entirely from home. Sometimes with children or other housemates.
Of course scheduling employees for telephone duty was a bit of a puzzle, because of employees with young children, but fortunately we were able to solve that among ourselves. We didn’t fall behind in our work, and our participants quite likely never noticed anything.”
“In general, I like it very much. Fortunately, I have a separate study, which allows me to actually close my laptop in the evening and leave work behind me. I often go for a walk at the end of the day, to clear my head. Travel time used to be good for doing that, but now I take a daily walk. It’s good for my health too!”
“I miss my team very much. I would like to work in a room with others again or have a drink together. But I remain positive! Just keep going for a little while longer and once everyone has been vaccinated, I hope we can go back to the old ‘normal’. Working from home will probably be here to stay, I expect with the possibility to come together at the office every now and then. I think it’s great to see that regular business operations can also be continued very well in a home-office situation. The best of both worlds, right?”
Suzanne Pama works as Manager Operations Pension Fund Shell at Achmea. Achmea is the cooperative parent company of Centraal Beheer, Interpolis and Zilveren Kruis, among others. Suzanne Pama lives in Brabant.