American Home Shield, a nationally known home-warranty brand and an anchor in Carroll’s eastern business corridor, took just eight days in March to move 453 employees in Carroll to a work-from-home schedule, a speedy and massive undertaking to protect them — and others — from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new system has kept business flowing for American Home Shield, an arm of the public-traded company Frontdoor Inc., and offered lessons that will heighten productivity and employee happiness in coming years, when employees can return to the Carroll call center, said Dave Quandt, vice president of field operations for AHS.
“We made a conscious decision to send 453 employees home in eight days in (what normally) would have taken us two years in meetings,” said Quandt, who lives in Carroll.
Instead, in the days after the March 16 decision to send employees home, a flurry of moving activity engulfed Carroll’s AHS.
“It looked like Best Buy was having a fire sale with computers,” Quandt said of the move.
He credited Scott Mikkelsen of Halbur, the Carroll center director, with organizing the COVID-19 plan for AHS.
With Americans and others served by AHS hunkered down at home and looking to protect what they already own, business is strong for the company, which provides warranties for a range of household products and infrastructure from refrigerators to plumbing to home electronics. In the early days of the national coronavirus shuttering, AHS worked with simply essential services, but that has evolved to a fuller business, albeit with all 2,300 AHS employees nationally working from home.
“People are now calling us, and we are very busy,” Quandt said, noting that AHS has an aggressive hygiene and protection plan in place with its contractors who go into customers’ homes.
Amy Platt of Glidden, AHS senior manager of employee relations, said the company continues to hire from the Carroll area with no plans of slowing down. Online hiring and connections are working well, she said.
“It’s been a great opportunity for us,” Platt said. “We are doing business as usual right now.”
Initially, upon word of the work-at-home plan, many employees were worried that the arrangement, the blend of work and home life on top of each other, would be problematic, Platt said.
“But we have heard them come back and say they love working from home,” she said.
Both Quandt and Platt credit Rex Tibbens, president and CEO of Frontdoor, which is based in Memphis, Tennessee, with making a decisive early call to send employees home in just days. Now, Tibbens is being cautious with any return schedule, steady steps that are made easier with the strong performance of the company, and a rebounding stock, under the sheltering system.
“His mindset is if things are working well, why would we want to be the first to come back?” Quandt said.
Going forward, AHS may be make some temporary changes permanent, Platt and Quandt said, but those are being determined as the business works its way through the coronavirus crisis with the rest of the world. More at-home employees could be part of the plan, and the company has discussed bifurcating call center employee schedules in the event of future outbreaks so there are two teams, largely separated, to maintain safety and business functions.
“The world in general, before March 1 to now, it’s going to be much different,” Quandt said. “One of the comments we are hearing from our employees is they are so grateful to be working and not unemployed.”