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Opinion 11 May 2020

Our way back, our way forward

BBVA CEO Onur Genç writes in the internal blog’ The Pulse ‘about BBVA’s return plan. “We must not let our guard down and always remember our priorities in this crisis, which are to protect the health and safety of those around us and continue to serve our customers,” he says.

I woke up Saturday excited about the prospect of heading outside to enjoy the day with my wife and kids. Weeks ago, I wouldn’t have thought to get excited about such a simple thing. Now, life looks different and the joy associated with taking a walk with our families underscores how much we take things for granted. If there is a lesson I will take with me out of these times, it’s that we should take nothing for granted and instead cherish every opportunity we have with our loved ones.

Surely, as things begin to open up, the question on everyone’s mind is when we will return to the office. As you would expect, returning to normal is not an easy feat, particularly when each of our geographies is in a different stage of the pandemic. In some countries like Spain and Turkey, we passed the peak of new cases a few weeks ago and authorities are relaxing lockdown measures. In the US, we are seeing the virus plateau and in other countries, like Peru and Mexico, new cases are unfortunately still picking up. We must not let our guard down and always remember our priorities in this crisis, which are to protect the health and safety of those around us and continue to serve our customers.

In the coming weeks we will be looking to execute the plans for returning to the office guided by these priorities and coupled with local realities. Five principles will guide our process.

  1. We will be prudent putting employees’ health first.This continues to be our main priority. Every employee returning from remote working must be safe. Employees who will gradually return to the office are those who are not positive, are not symptomatic, not in quarantine and not part of a vulnerable group. Serological and PCR test strategy will be applied based on medical principles.
  2. We will return gradually. Returning employees to their offices, whether central services or branches, will be progressive and dynamic, taking into account the most current data available. In Spain, in the coming days, around 200 employees and external providers of central services in critical functions are returning to their offices and 250 additional branches are also opening. Yes, it’s a small step for a global organization, but it is the first one of many to be taken in the coming weeks, always based on data.
  3. We will establish shifts and flexible schedules. Where appropriate, we will establish shifts for work to ensure employee safety and business continuity in case a resurgence occurs. We will also offer greater flexibility for schedules. Doing so will reduce congestion in entrances and public transportation, which minimizes the risk of contagion.
  4. We will have strict health and safety measures. Protocols have been defined to ensure that everyone at branches and head offices are safe and minimize the risk of contagion. These protocols include controlled access to workplaces, setting minimum distance between workstations, limited seating in meeting rooms, and mandatory use of hand sanitizer, tissues, and masks. Protocols will guide our behaviors, but it is the responsibility of all of us to comply with them. We are all responsible for winning the fight against the pandemic.
  5. We will establish early identification mechanisms. To curtail the spread of the virus among employees, we must trace contacts of those who test positive. Mobile technology can facilitate this through apps. We have developed an app that will track close contacts while onsite, which will be piloted next week in Spain. We will then work to offer the app to all employees returning to high density premises all around the world.

Returning employees to their offices, whether central services or branches, will be progressive and dynamic, taking into account the most current data available.

To be clear, returning to our usual workplace is a process. We are moving forward, but in a very cautious manner, and it starts with you. Let’s all be mindful to be prudent in our actions so that we can prevent any future issues. If we continue to be diligent in this process, in no time we’ll be back to enjoying our morning coffee with teammates.

I would like to close by expressing my best wishes to 570 of our colleagues who have recovered from COVID-19. Please continue to take care of yourselves as you recover, and know that our thoughts were with you full force all along the way. To our teammates who lost a loved one as a result of the pandemic, words fail us at this time, but please know that our prayers are with you and we look forward to the day when we can express our sympathies and show our support in person. To the entire BBVA family, brighter days are ahead and we’ll soon come together onsite and in person as one team. I am anxiously awaiting that day.

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