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Building to better: How this federal credit union plans to enter the post-COVID-19 world

Ken Brock, director of operational risk management at McLean, Virginia-based PenFed Credit Union, discusses its localized plan to return to the office safely via a hybrid model of remote and in-person work.

A masked-up PenFed Credit Union location in Encino Park, Texas. (Photo via @PenFed on Twitter)

This guest post is a part of Workplace Culture Month of's editorial calendar.

Correction: Ken Brock is PenFed Credit Union's director of operational risk management, not chief risk officer. (8/26/20, 3:06 p.m.)

COVID-19 has forever changed the way the world does business. After months of social distancing and lockdown, we all now face the unprecedented challenge of building the future of work as we plan our safe return to the office. At PenFed Credit Union, we’re leaning in to this challenge and continuing our trend of embracing change.

PenFed has a long history of adapting to disruptive challenges. From H1N1 and SARS to natural disasters and the 9/11 terrorist attack, we’ve continued to serve our members through some of the worst crises our nation has faced. Our mission focus and service mentality have trained us for resilience.

So, when the COVID-19 crisis first hit, we were prepared. We had personal protective equipment already in stock to protect our employees, and we already had the data technology and telecommuting infrastructure needed to flourish in a remote work environment. But even above and beyond our infrastructure, we had cultivated a culture of teamwork and collaboration that could weather any storm. As a result, we haven’t missed a beat during this pandemic. We quickly and seamlessly transitioned to a 95% remote workforce for our 1,000-plus employees.

We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, but we know that we must now plan for next steps. That’s why our whole executive leadership team has come together and charted a course for the coming months. It’s focused on “building to better,” and it’s more than just a plan to return to normal; more fundamentally, it’s our plan to define the future of our post-COVID-19 workplace.

Our three-phase plan to reopen our offices will involve a lot of decentralized and local decision-making. We’re adopting an approach that is flexible enough to accommodate ongoing feedback from our teams on the ground. That said, every one of our offices will uphold a shared commitment to employee safety, the PenFed mission of helping our members achieve their financial well-being, and our future-forward orientation toward building to better.

Ultimately, building to better means incorporating the lessons we’ve learned from this pandemic into our workplace culture. We’ve learned that we can build remote work and telecommuting into our culture at no cost to productivity and quality of service. And we’ve heard firsthand from our employees about how additional remote work options improve their work-life balance and encourage physical and mental wellness.

Even during this pandemic, PenFed has been growing at a remarkable rate. By building a hybrid workforce for the future, we hope to accelerate that growth. The hybrid model will allow us to scale without adding additional office space at the same rate as before. Going remote will not just help our employees and our productivity; it will also help us expand our community to reach more people.

Series: Workplace Culture Month 2020 / Coronavirus

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