India has consistently been one of the worst affected nations when it comes to Covid-19 month by month. The past few weeks have been no exception, and HR professionals have braced themselves to tackle the latest upswing in new cases while keeping businesses operating.
With India’s large population and the density of said population, there has been a grudging acceptance that the infection will only continue to spread. Instead, companies and HR professionals have put their focus on supporting employees through random testing of asymptomatic workers, coordinating with hospitals for priority care, and, in one case, even stocking up on oxygen.
Earlier in March 2020, the Indian government implemented a nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus. They only began to “unlock” the nation’s economy in June, and now, factories and offices are running at almost full capacity. However, for office-based staff, companies have taken a varied approach. Some are asking a certain percentage of employees to come to the office at least one or more days each week, some are keeping onsite presence optional and others have a fully remote workforce.
Many business leaders in India are not expecting to return to a normal work life until the end of the next financial year, in March 2021. In the meantime, companies are taking all steps possible in managing the issue.
Some companies are only allowing a portion of their employees back into the office; and even then, it is mostly voluntary. Companies such as SRF Ltd required all employees to self-isolate for five days if they had come in contact with an infected person, on top of following standard health procedures.
Medical support beyond insurance
India’s health care system has been overextended in recent weeks, with reports of limited hospital bed availability and shortages of medical oxygen in some locations. Many companies have coordinated with hospitals to secure services for their employees if needed, including video consultations with doctors. Businesses are known to have sent food to isolated employees who have tested positive for Covid-19 at least twice a day. Employees who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 and discharged are encouraged to sign up for home-care packages offered by hospitals, which include remote monitoring by a doctor.
Random testing at the workplace
In some parts of India, the local government is requiring companies to randomly test workers at workplaces. Such tests were organized for the first time in September for factories at the Vikas Group of Industries, which makes auto components. For every 50 to 60 workers tested, on average, 8 percent to 16 percent tested positive for COVID-19.
For workers who have become isolated for months at a time, managers begin to worry about a disconnect and frustration that may be setting in. More than a few companies have reported receiving requests for in-person meetings from employees. There’s a very strong need to ensure that connections in the organisation don’t go down. Companies are facing the problems by allowing a limited number of staff to work from the office while having managers visit field staff to show solidarity.