Currently, the world is facing a severe crisis with the outbreak of the COVID-19. The COVID-19 has affected around 150 countries across the world with major effects in countries like Italy, Iran, China, Japan, and the USA, UK, India, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Spain and many more.
Around 2,46,107 cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide and the death toll of people affected by the COVID-19 has reached around 10K+ as on 20-Mar-2020. The 2019 novel corona virus has been officially named as COVID-19 by the WHO (World Health Organization) and this disease has also been declared as a global pandemic.
In India, thousands of suspected cases have been tested and 206 confirmed cases have been reported till 20th March, 2020. The first death due to the COVID-19 was reported in Karnataka on the 12th of March. The Indian Government has evoked Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act to deal with the outbreak of this deadly disease.
Major states and union territories in India such as Punjab, Karnataka, Delhi, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, West Bengal, etc. have started adopting coronavirus quarantine measures to control further spreading of the disease. This includes closure of malls, gyms, schools, colleges, swimming pools, movie theaters, etc. Common people have been instructed to avoid mass gatherings and have been suggested to make frequent use of sanitizers/hand wash, etc.
Precautionary measures like the use of disinfectants in public transport mean, spraying disinfectants across roads near malls and residential areas, etc. have also been taken by the Government. Common people have been suggested time and again to stay clean and safe.
Continuity of business amidst COVID-19
Amidst all such chaos and adverse situations, the major challenge that is being faced by the different industrial sectors of the country is the continuity of business during the outbreak of a pandemic. Even if the Indian Government has sealed the borders of the country there is no such stringent lock down at workplaces across the country. People are still coming to their workplaces as usual to work and to continue the business. However, the threat of being affected by the dreadful disease haunts the minds of the employees working in various sectors.
In such a situation, it is the responsibility of the employers to ensure that their employees are safe during such distressful situations.
1. Work from home for employees
With the Government adopting social distancing as a major step to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, many employers have started to reduce their number of employees reporting at workplaces. Various MNCs, BPPOs, corporate offices and even non-IT organizations across the country have urged their employees to avoid commuting to the workplace and to continue working from home. This is an ideal way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In IT hub Gurugram, the administration has issued advisory to the various MNCs, BPOs and other offices for allowing their employees to carry work from home at least till the end of March. It has also forbidden the gathering of more than 200 people at a particular place to prohibit the spread of COVID-19. The employers at IT companies have started implementing the “work-from-home” model quite conveniently especially for the employers of IT firms in Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Around ninety percent of the employers in India believe that it is urgent to provide the employees with an option of remote and flexible work.
Many employers have also asked their respective clients for waivers by which their employees would be able to work from home as some service agreements need to follow a high level of security at the development centers. IT companies and their employers have been preparing for this emergency by upgrading their testing and networking procedures so that more and more employees can avoid coming to the workplace and work from homes. However, some employers feel there might be some clients for whom work would not happen in a protected environment and might lead to loss of revenue.
In addition to the IT industries, employers from many other non-IT firms have also started implementing the work from the home model for protecting their employees from COVID-19. Companies like Volvo, Flipkart, Coca-Cola, Godrej Consumer, Uber, etc. have made it feasible for the employees to work from remote locations. Moreover, many organizations have also suspended all sorts of business travel, domestic and international trips until the conditions are normal again. Any interviews or meetings/conferences can be conducted via telephones rather than a face-to-face meeting.
2. Other precautionary measures for employees
There are many other organizations and firms where it has not been feasible for implementing the “Work from home” model. Companies that form a part of the stock market ecosystems, manufacturing companies, and non-IT firms, other small and medium enterprises have not been able to implement work from remote locations on a wider scale. In these companies, the workforce at the workplace is normal but along with a lot of precautionary measures which are being taken by the employers.
a) Thermal screening of employees
Employers must ensure that the body temperatures of the employees coming to offices are checked before allowing them into the office. Many manufacturing plants and other organizations where the workforce is normal at the office to have made the thermal screening of employees mandatory.
b) Use of disinfectants, sanitizers and hand wash
The use of disinfectants, sanitizers, and hand wash plentifully and regularly is the only way to avoid getting affected with the COVID-19. Employers must ensure that these life savior liquids are available in plenty for the employees and they are aware of the hygienic guidelines. Many companies like Hike, Volvo have made disinfectants and alcohol-based sanitizers available in the bay areas, cafeteria and washrooms so that employees maintain hygiene and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
c) Vegetarian food and supply of juices rich in Vitamin C
Some firms have made vegetarian food mandatory in the office cafeteria. Also, fruits rich in Vitamin C such as oranges, guavas and lemons or juices of these fruits are being served in plenty as snacks in the office cafeteria. This is an effective way by which employees can be kept safe from the dangerous effects of COVID-19.
d) Personal protective equipment and N95 masks
Employers must check that employees coming to offices are provided with personal protective equipment, N95 masks, and hand gloves to prevent being affected by the dreadful virus. Also, advisory about the maintenance of personal hygiene can be issued by the employers to make the employees care about hygiene.
e) Continuous training on respiratory hygiene, washing of hands
HR team of the companies can ensure that proper communication emails and training are provided to the employees on hygiene and other precautionary measures related to COVID-19. There can be small online sessions or even face-to-face group sessions providing awareness about COVID-19 and emphasizing the importance of precautions.
f) Free medical consultations through partners in case of any COVID-19 symptoms
Swiggy which is a leading food-tech firm in India has been a pioneer in the COVID-19 awareness drive among its employees. The food delivery partners at Swiggy have been continuously trained about the best practices related to hygiene as well as associated symptoms. Moreover, the firm commits to providing free medical consultation to any delivery partner being affected by the COVID-19. This can be stated as an ideal example of an employer supporting the employees during this dreadful crisis.
With the absence of any proven medication for the very rapidly spreading COVID-19, precaution seems
to be the best cure available currently. During these difficult times, continuity of business is only
possible when there is complete support from the employees. Hence, the safety of the employees must
be of the utmost priority for employers. Employers must ensure that their employees are aware of the
precautions to be taken against COVID-19 and follow the tagline “Stay clean, stay safe”.