Superior employee practices can keep Coronavirus at bay

Staying calm through the crisis is helping HR focus on keeping the employees informed, prepared and safe from the coronavirus

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The Health Ministry has confirmed two cases of coronavirus here in India, both of which were self-reported. While one person is from Delhi and had travelled to Italy, the other one is from Telangana, and had been to Dubai recently. In addition, an Italian man who arrived from his country on 29 Feb has tested positive in Jaipur!

Coronavirus, renamed as COVID-19, has spread panic throughout the world and corporates are bringing forth strategies to keep their people safe and curtail the spread of the disease. It is no ordinary task, as all businesses today are global organisations. Employees are constantly travelling from one location to another on account of work, making it onerous for nations to bail themselves out.

Infodemic

With the total number of coronavirus cases amounting to 80,000 worldwide, India Inc. is devising strategies to efficiently handle the situation, without leaving room for anxiety, fear and delusion. It is not just the battle against the virus itself that needs to be fought, but corporates are also waging a war against the related infodemic, which can lead to more destruction.

Namita Patwari

We have received group-level guidelines from the headquarters in Germany, advising employees to pay greater attention to their personal hygiene. Moreover, employees have been asked to avoid travel

HRKatha spoke to senior HR practitioners to ascertain their game plan to keep their employees informed as well as safe. “Health and wellness are a priority at the Mahindra Group and a strong foundation already exists. For instance, a team of doctors, trainers, homeopaths and counsellors are present in most of our offices. Employees receive constant support from them,” shares Prince Augustin, EVP, group human capital & leadership development, Mahindra & Mahindra.

Organisations that have evolved practices in the department of employee health and wellness are more prepared to handle such situations. Moreover, corporates here are increasingly becoming tolerant towards work-from-home, especially in case of employees showing flu-like symptoms.

Work-from-home not always a solution

Equations can be very different for an industry, where remote working and work-from-home is possible only for a small percentage of employees, such as the hotel industry. Furthermore, the hotel staff are more vulnerable to the coronavirus as they host guests from all over the world. “The training for the line managers has scaled up. As a matter of fact, there is a session every day. The hygiene manager is actively involved in keeping the employees aware and developing mechanisms to stay safe, in line with the guidelines from WHO,” reveals Rishi Tiwari, cluster director-HR, Hilton Hotels.

Prince Augustin

Health and wellness are a priority at the Mahindra Group and a strong foundation already exists. For instance, a team of doctors, trainers, homeopaths and counsellors are present in most of our offices. Employees receive constant support from them

At Hilton, sanitisers have been installed next to the biometric readers, so that employees remember to use them when they enter the office. Traditionally, hotels are known for their hospitality, but many a time an exception is made for everyone’s good, for instance, the practice of frisking guests at the entrance that began in 1990. Presently, the staff members have been asked to watch over the guests and take them aside to question them, if they suspect them of exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

Namita Patwari, GM, DHL commerce solutions, Bluedart, shares, “We have received group-level guidelines from the headquarters in Germany, advising employees to pay greater attention to their personal hygiene. Moreover, employees have been asked to avoid travel.”

Restrictions

Coronavirus has spread from its epicentre, in Wuhan, China, to other parts of the world—South Korea, Singapore, Hongkong, Italy, Iran and many more — very quickly. The biggest precautionary measure taken by corporates worldwide is to stop its employees from travelling to these nations and also impose strict advisories pertaining to business travel. In addition, employees are being asked to maintain an arm’s length from each other. The HR is also tweaking sick leave policies to encourage employees who feel ill to stay at home and rest.

Rishi Tiwari

The training for the line managers has scaled up. As a matter of fact, there is a session every day. The hygiene manager is actively involved in keeping the employees aware and developing mechanisms to stay safe, in line with the guidelines from WHO

The Coronavirus is a test of a company’s strength, which comes from its HR practices and policies. Apparently, Indeed kept its workplaces closed for two weeks in Sydney and Singapore, but on account of excellent communication systems and the ability of its employees to work remotely, business remained uninterrupted.

The latest victim of the virus in India is an Italian man who arrived here from his home country. The Government has announced that all passengers coming from Italy and Iran will now be screened at the airports.

Corporate India is keeping its nerves under control and there is no sign of panic amongst the leaders, who are confident of sailing through the crisis with the help of their superior employee practices.