To ease the burden of the health-and-economic crisis brought upon by the pandemic on their employees, several companies have come forward with initiatives for their workforce.
A gist: Yeshwinder Patial, Director, Human Resources at MG Motor India, says, "We prudently enforced work from home before the first and second waves. The top management constantly connected with the staff via town halls and other initiatives. As part of our initiative MG SEWA, we arranged hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, concentrators, medicines, and e-consultations for our employees and their family members in need. The team also delivered food to home quarantined members. The mobility of equipment and medicines was taken care of by MG Drivers."
MG has also extended financial support to its employees for any COVID-19-related exigencies. Providing e-consultations and granting a 14-day leave is a part of their leave policy. "We arranged webinars such as 'Mindfulness and Beyond' by The Art of Living and 'Stress Management Workshop'. Awareness sessions with doctors to uncover the myths and facts around vaccination were also conducted," adds Patial.
Wissen Technology offered free vaccines to employees and their family members, and vaccines at discounted rates for their extended family, apart from the free virtual doctor consultation. CEO Raghu Pareddy says, "We signed up with a PAN-India healthcare partner to vaccinate employees living in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. And no employee of ours will go without pay because of absence due to the Covid illness of themselves or their immediate family."
The company has created a COVID SWAT team that provides all Covid-related support in terms of insurance queries, tie-ups for oxygen cylinders, and arranging various tests and medications at discounted price.
Dr Oetker is too covering vaccination costs for anyone associated with the company. Oliver Mirza, MD and CEO, Dr Oetker, says, "An internal Covid Task Force has been created to organise and support employees and their family members. Apart from the Covid protection kits, resources to alleviate the rising mental health strain have been shared with the team for those who may wish to avail of them."
Dr Oetker has a 150-member team in NCR. "To ensure their safety, we have restricted business travel, disallowed visitors entry to our plants and offices and limited the number of employees on site," adds Mirza.
Colorbar Cosmetics has vaccinated 90 per cent of their overall headcount, including front-liners and supply chain partners. MD and Founder Samir Modi says, "We organised a three-day vaccination drive in association with Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, for our employees and their dependents between the age group of 18-44 years, where 613 employees were vaccinated."
Their other initiatives include a COVID-19 help centre called COVID Sahayak, comprising employees recovered from COVID, who further help other employees navigate tough times; a WhatsApp support group, which keeps track of those suffering from COVID, and supports them with medical facilities, and meditation and yoga webinars.
"We also delivered fresh meals daily to employees and their families who had tested positive. Our special leave provision allows employees to take as many days off as required for their recovery," adds Modi.
Antarmanh Consulting that provides personalised wellness solutions to companies is also extending regular therapeutic support to all its counsellors and coaches. "They receive their own confidential spaces to de-stress from caregiving responsibilities, managing their emotions and thoughts in response to difficult cases and receive assistance for any personal difficulties," says Antarmanh MD Seema Rekha, adding that there has been a surge in mental health counselling session requests.
"The months of March and April were challenging, in-office work was suspended and we were assisting our team in returning back to their hometowns. Since our team predominantly comprises young and unmarried counsellors - 99 per cent are females, we wanted them to have the support of their families. Beginning June 2020, we even started paying salaries in advance," adds Rekha.
Most companies are sticking to the hybrid model until the situation normalises. Patial says, "We will continue to do so till we are fully confident of the security of our employees. As the government permitted opening of offices, we have a small team in office to address urgent business needs. Nearly 70 per cent of our employees have been vaccinated. But we are still looking at the issue of spacing on the premises, given the dynamism of the situation. One approach could be allowing only those employees who have been fully vaccinated. We can also explore the staggered working model."
Wissen Technology has kept offices open only to handle critical business functions. "Even though most of our employees will be vaccinated by July, we are not in a hurry to reopen our office until the pandemic subsides. Employees’ well-being is our prime priority," adds Pareddy.
Dr Oetker is looking at an alternative week working model, where only half the employee strength will be allowed in the office. "Hybrid systems have definitely been a boon. However, we as a company believe in the importance of human contact, and a collaborative work environment, and many of our employees are thus eager to return to office."
Meanwhile, Colorbar opened its office last week with capacity. Modi says, "Only after 90 per cent of our employees were vaccinated did we open. We have made strict rosters to ensure we strictly follow the social distancing norms and 50 per cent attendance criteria. All joined employees need to be at least partially vaccinated." But he feels that work from home will become an important part of the new normal. "It helps us keep social distancing norms intact," Modi adds.
Antarmanh has also decided to ensure a hybrid system so that maintaining social distance is not a challenge.
Rekha says, "By the time the lockdown was announced, we had shifted our operations completely to a digital format. In a work from home situation, we can safeguard our team better against health risks. However, when our clients demand onsite operations, a transition back to physical workplace systems is a cause of worry for us. Maintaining a good standard and system of sanitation, spacing and hygiene will require both cost and effort. Since no system is perfect, it is inevitable that cases may rise unexpectedly." While the future may be unpredictable, employers are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.