Corporate samaritans rise to the occasion to help co-workers

Volunteers from various organisations have come forward to lend support to the helpless and save lives

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Reeling under the effects of the raging second wave of the pandemic, the healthcare system in India has almost collapsed. With shortage of beds at hospitals, and acute scarcity of quarantine centres, oxygen, medicines and even sample collectors, the citizens have been left to fend for themselves. However, amidst this crisis, India Inc. has put its best foot forward to lend support to employees, offering them special care and benefits in the form of health insurances, COVID treatment cover, and vaccination drives. Many organisations have gone much beyond these measures offering support to the survivors of staff who have lost the battle with the dreaded disease.

“At HPE, volunteers who join this group are people who have contacts in government agencies, hospitals or pharmaceutical firms, so that they can leverage their wide network and help people in need.”

Srinath Krishnan, country head – total rewards, HPE India

However, certain organisations have realised, that it is not enough to extend financial support to the families of employees who have lost their lives to COVID. It is more important to help those who are currently suffering, so that precious lives can be saved. Such companies have formed groups of volunteers within the organisation, where employees from different functions or departments come forward willingly to help co-workers or their families battling COVID, by searching for bed availability, arranging oxygen concentrators or cylinders, helping with meals for infected families, and so on.

Amazon India

What began as a noble cause at Amazon India turned into a countrywide movement, with employees stepping up to extend support to their colleagues in need of medical help. These COVID warriors at Amazon, numbering almost 900, are spread across 30 cities. Every team of volunteers operates in a decentralised framework, with a team leader at the helm. They receive required support from the HR, benefits and compliance teams. For instance, a COVID Warrior recently helped a colleague in Noida who was infected with COVID 19. While the patient’s oxygen level kept dropping, his wife tried in vain to look for a hospital that could provide him a bed. Finally, she reached out to a COVID warrior for help. After trying for two hours, one of his friends in the customer-service team convinced one hospital to send an ambulance, just in the nick of time. The life of that patient was saved and he is now recovering well.

These COVID warriors at Amazon, numbering almost 900, are spread across 30 cities. Every team of volunteers operates in a decentralised framework, with a team leader at the helm.

“We have informal chat groups for every vertical. If a person needs anything, say plasma, they can post their requirement in the group and someone will take this to the concerned team of experts who will immediately extend the required help.”

Jayant Kumar, Jt. president-HR, Adani Ports & SEZ

HPE India

At Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) India as well, there is a team of volunteers, which has stepped up to help their colleagues in need. Srinath Krishnan, country head – total rewards, HPE India, shares that this volunteer programme was started in the Company last year itself, with eager participation from staff from across locations. They also receive support from the senior management teams. These volunteers help their colleagues find beds, oxygen supply, injections, medicines or any other medical equipment.

Krishnan shares that the volunteers who join this group are people who have contacts in government agencies, hospitals or pharmaceutical firms, so that they can leverage their wide network and help people in need.”

“Our volunteers have helped many of our team members and their dependants during the second wave with requests for hospitalisation as well as procuring of medicines/injections,” reveals Krishnan. All employees have been made aware of the helpline numbers through which they can reach out to these volunteers.

“Our team of volunteers now have been divided into three groups with specific KRA of vaccine procurement, distress service and managing emergency services for business purpose, such as transportation, due to lack of cabs and public transport on the streets now.”

VS Ashok, executive vice president and CHRO, Bluestar

Bluestar

Bluestar is using an SOS button for its crisis management team to reach out to the employees in distress. VS Ashok, executive vice president and CHRO, Bluestar, says, “The team of volunteers who respond to employees across India was formed last year itself. However, with the challenges increasing this year, we had to redevelop the team. The team comprises people from across different functions, and has twenty members from various parts of the country providing pan India emergency services to our employees and their families.”

The need to restructure the team of volunteers was felt by the board of directors of the Company, after the unexpected surge in the number of cases within the workforce in March, 2021.

Ashok shares, “Our team of volunteers now have been divided into three groups with specific KRA of vaccine procurement, distress service and managing emergency services for business purpose, such as transportation, due to lack of cabs and public transport on the streets now. This rebuilding was necessary because the initial team of six volunteers could not cope up with the increasing number of distress calls. We still invite more employees to join the team, irrespective of the functional area and geographical location.”

Even though the Bluestar team of volunteers is being led by the zonal HR heads, people from across various functions have come forward to be a part of it.

K Raheja Corp, the real-estate firm, has started a 24×7 war room where a team of volunteers from the workforce work round the clock to help those who have a medical emergency.

Explaining how active the volunteers are, Ashok shares an instance when one of the members of the volunteer group itself was infected. The infected lady, who has a baby, had to be isolated but the team made sure that the child was taken care of. Another woman employee took the child under her wings until the mother recovered. “We are always alert about any sort of requirement, such as hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and family well-being. Our team is working almost round the clock on these.”

Adani Group

At Adani Group, a team comprising the HR, administration and an internal medical team, assists employees who need medical attention. “We have informal chat groups for every vertical. If a person needs anything, say plasma, they can post their requirement in the group and someone will take this to the concerned team of experts who will immediately extend the required help,” explains Jayant Kumar, Jt. president-HR, Adani Ports & SEZ. Also, the Company has converted a hotel into a COVID care centre, where beds have been arranged for the employees if required.

K Raheja Corp

K Raheja Corp, the real-estate firm, has started a 24×7 war room where a team of volunteers from the workforce work round the clock to help those who have a medical emergency. These employees are committed to assist any colleague and even non-employee who needs help at any hour.

With the pandemic wreaking havoc across the country, and at a time when the infrastructure has buckled under the unexpected pressure, there are certain committed volunteers from various organisations who are efficiently doing their bit to save precious lives.

(With inputs from Sudeshna Mitra)

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