The COVID-19 pandemic has rattled the whole nation. Majority of the workforce have moved home to function, and companies have embarked on a range of ways to make the process convenient for them. However, there’s a section of employees that couldn’t work from home as such a provision doesn’t exist in their sector. They are the frontline employees.
The frontline workers have been at the forefront ever since the lockdown began, distributing essentials and providing essential services. It was business as usual for them, which also exposed them to the infection. Amazon reported recently that over 19,000 of its US frontline employees had contracted COVID-19. The firm was earlier criticised for not taking adequate measures to keep its employees safe.
“People are more concerned about health and hygiene now, as awareness has gone up. Also, despite working with half the staff strength, we have witnessed improved productivity.”
According to an India Today report, 15,200 frontline workers and healthcare professionals contracted the illness by July this year. Many companies have put together COVID-19 policies for their workers, who are out there doing their jobs. These include bank employees, food-delivery personnel, staff at retail outlets and many more. HR leaders are very sure that if the organisations manage to keep this section of their workforce happy, it will go a long way in guaranteeing loyalty. However, the question is, ‘How to ensure that frontline workers are taken care of?’
Ajay Tiwari, VP-HR, Lupin, lists out the many measures that they have taken to ensure their frontline employees are looked after. “Being in the pharma industry, we have been running our operations 24/7. We have provided all the facilities, such as insurance, health and hygiene factors. We have paid their salaries and even taken care of their hospitalisation.” He also asserts that the measures have made the employees quite happy, and all have been coming to work.
Apart from providing the necessary safety gears to their employees, who are out there exposed to the virus, many companies have also come up with insurance policies, relief funds and consultation services. The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India had instructed health-insurance companies to include COVID-19 in their cover in the policies. In many cases, the cover includes the family members as well.
Add to this some social-distancing monitoring, which the organisations are diligently performing and also updating as per the government guidelines. Lalit Kar, Sr VP-HR, Reliance Retail, informs that apart from assisting staff with safety kits, they have also ensured that stores follow social-distancing norms. “We monitor through CCTV cameras whether or not social distancing is being adhered to at the stores. Our security centre can monitor all the stores, and if we notice any violation, they are immediately informed and action is taken.” That is not all. The Company has also introduced 14-day rotational shifts. “After working for 14 days, the employees go under quarantine for 14 days, so that if anyone is infected, they can be taken care of. Everywhere there is a system checker. Each employee has to inform whether she/he and her/his family members are okay. We have a health-management system and that information goes to the concerned HR and the doctor,” he adds.
“Being in the pharma industry, we have been running our operations 24/7. We have provided all the facilities, such as insurance, health and hygiene factors. We have paid their salaries and even taken care of their hospitalisation.”
A lot will change in the future, in terms of how frontline employees are treated by the organisation. Many studies show that nearly 80 per cent of the global workforce belongs to this category. With COVID-19, they have become the heroes — doing their jobs despite a pandemic threatening to wipe out entire races. The steps the organisations are taking will also ensure certain things in future.
As Kar explains, “People will be more concerned about health and hygiene now, as awareness about health has gone up. Also, despite working with half the staff strength, we have witnessed improved productivity. The performance is far better than what it was working with full capacity of the workforce last year. When they find that the company is committed to their well-being and safety, the employees also feel like contributing more. The Company is taking care of their safety, and giving them full pay.”Conclusively, frontline employees will become even more important now than they ever were. Companies may indulge in a lot more welfare packages than they have already put in place during the pandemic.