After the coronavirus spread, forcing businesses like Spike’s Trophies, 2701 Grant Ave., to temporarily halt operations, president Keith Baldwin was forced to do something he had never done before: lay off someone from his staff. In his 36 years at Spike’s, he’d never laid off anyone – now, suddenly, the entire staff was without jobs.
But they weren’t unemployed for long. After only a couple of hours, Baldwin called them back in to announce an opportunity had come along that allowed for them to be rehired – just taking on a different role than before.
Less than an hour after announcing the layoffs, Baldwin received a call from someone he knew at Firstrust Bank. One of its clients, outsourcing call center AnswerNet, had been awarded a contract to make calls for booking COVID-19 testing appointments in New York state.
AnswerNet had 300 jobs to fill. And Baldwin just happened to know 45 employees who would be more than willing to fight back against the virus. So within two hours, he was able to call to offer them their jobs back at the same pay.
“That’s 45 jobs we saved,” Baldwin said. “That’s pretty remarkable.”
Spike’s Trophies manufactures awards and signage and plans special events, so suddenly operating as a call center was an unexpected pivot for its staff. There was new technology to learn and plenty of training to do while coordinating with the state of New York, all being performed remotely.
“You can only imagine what it takes to be able to transition a staff from one job to another with the flip of a switch,” Baldwin said.
But the staff pulled it off, working tirelessly through the weekend, some from 6 in the morning to midnight, to adapt to their new positions. As a call center, they help patients find health facilities with available time slots and book them appointments for COVID-19 testing.
The calls can be inspiring as they offer worried patients a ray of light, but can also be a reminder of the scope of the disease. Baldwin recalled one of his team returning a call for a sick patient and hearing the son pick up and tell them the father had passed away the day before.
It was hard news for the team to hear, but they’ve continued with their hard, lifesaving work.
“I’m so proud,” Baldwin said.
In times of uncertainty, hard work and compassion just may be what we need to help each other.