EP Water Support staff adapts amid pandemic

With the Coronavirus pandemic continuing to impact lives and livelyhoods, the majority of El Paso Water employees continue to work to provide essential water, wastewater and stormwater services.

Several employees were featured through the utility’s “Working for You” social media campaign. The posts reminded the community that the work for employees at the plants and in the field didn’t stop, and the posts encouraged the community to stay home.

However, many of the utility’s employees perform services that are mostly unseen by the public, and all have had to adapt and innovate to continue to support field and plant operations and keep the utility functioning.

“To keep our employees safe while continuing to provide service, coordination, communication and technology were key,” said Lidia Carranco, Fiscal Operations Manager.

“We needed constant communication between accounts payable, accounts receivable, grants, capital improvement projects, and benefits. It was hard, but we made it happen. Vendors and employees got paid and funds were available for projects.”

EP Water officials share that the IT team worked overtime early to equip more than 100 employees to work from home and to make sure many employees had speaker and camera features on computers to have virtual meetings.

Human Resources had to shift job candidate interviews from in-person to online platforms. Meter Repair and Testing adopted new protocols for customer interactions, requiring masks and social distancing. Accounting had to set up protocols to pick up paperwork from the office for scanning at home to enable digital processing.

According to Diana Ortega, Utility Purchasing and Contract Manager, one standard process requiring a complete change was the way EPWater hosts bid openings.

When various companies competed to perform work needed by the utility, the utility had an in-person bid opening process.

“We are now broadcasting them live with a link posted on our website,” Ortega said. “The outcome has been successful. These changes may be implemented permanently moving forward. With uncertainty of how long this crisis will last, it is good to know these changes can help us continue business while reducing exposure.”

In Customer Service, the new way of interacting with customers has also resulted in a more paperless utility and a reduction call wait times.

When the Customer Service Center closed to the public, an uptick in calls was expected. Yet, according to Juan Cervantes, Business and Customer Service Assistant Manager, the call volume remained the same, but the call duration and wait times decreased significantly.

“It could be a combination of staff availability due to lower turnover and fewer leave requests combined with simpler call complexity since we don’t have cutoffs at the moment,” Cervantes said.

“But the whole team has done a great job adjusting with everything going on. I’m really proud of the job they’ve done and how positive everyone has remained as a whole, regardless of the challenges.”