During the lockdown, one set of workers, whose services were missed the most, were the plumbers, electricians and beauticians. These self-professionals are part of the Urban Company’s gig workforce, or the ‘service partners’, as the Company likes to address them. While it is now all geared up to resume its services post the lockdown, the biggest challenge for the Company is to ensure safety for these professionals.
To begin with, Urban Company has launched Project Kavach specifically for its service partners – a certification training programme to help them protect themselves and take necessary safety precautions as they go about resuming their daily lives, vocations and routines.
The Kavach certification programme will train over 27,000 partners on personal safety and hygiene standards, PPE usage and service SOPs through a staggered 7-day virtual training programme.
The UC Care App
The Company’s in-house technology team has developed an application, The UC Care App, to will keep a close track of the employees’ health, on the basis of various parameters such as pre-existing medical conditions, whether living in containment zones or not. Only when the App gives an employee a ‘Green Gate Pass’, is he or she permitted to operate from the office.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The home services aggregator is in the process of procuring and shipping a safety kit with mandatory personal protective equipment or PPE, to the service professionals who are associated with the platform.
“Depending upon the services, the service professionals will be equipped with a 3-ply surgical mask, protective sterile gloves, goggles, a hand sanitiser and a sanitising spray. In the post-lockdown world, this is another step that can significantly reduce the risk of contracting infection, for both the customers and the partners, while delivering service,” says Sana Nayyar VP-HR, Urban Company.
Out of its 25 offices, the Company has resumed its operations with 25 per cent workforce in all the locations except in Maharashtra, Pune and Nagpur. It is still planning to maintain a minimum employee strength for the time being.
For the 1600 full-time employees, Nayyar informs that the Company is phasing the restart of the offices, and has kept it optional for them to attend offices. “The office spaces will be utilised as per the Government regulations of course,” assures Nayyar.
Daily sanitisation, compulsory masks, social distancing and W-seating format have been implemented across workstations, wherein nobody sits next to each other, neither in front or behind.
Besides, some other rules that are followed are freshly-packed food at desks and no cutlery. The Company has ensured detailed protocols for resuming office operations. Among other things, this also includes the Government-mandated protocols of hygiene and social distancing.
“Seating capacities of meeting rooms have been reduced to at least 50 per cent or less to avoid crowding. Even breakout areas have been marked to ensure that employees maintain social distance while getting a cup of coffee or water,” Nayyar explains.
our focus has been to enable platforms and remote connectivity to minimise roadblocks to productivity
The economic consequences of the lockdown have been most severe for lower-income and gig-economy workers.
“To provide sustenance and income for any partner who needs to self-quarantine, the Company is providing a weekly income grant of Rs 2,000 to ensure that the partners can get well without having to worry about lost income,” Nayyar adds.
Moreover, the Company has also purchased insurance cover for any partner infected with the disease, covering any hospitalisation expenses and a per-day allowance.
Daily temperature checks
The Company is instituting daily temperature checks for all partners on the platform. Anyone registering a temperature of over 99°F will be asked to stay home and consult a doctor. The partner can return to work only after a minimum of three successive days of running a normal temperature or the recommended duration of rest prescribed by the empanelled doctors.
To ensure that partners have access to the advice of expert doctors, Urban Company has partnered with Pristyn Healthcare to make quality tele-medicine services and advice available to partners free of cost.
Sanitisation of tools and single-use sachets
Sanitising tools and use of single-use sachets and disposables have been mandated whenever beauty services resume. Additionally, for home services such as appliance repair, electricians, plumbers, carpenters and so on, the protocol is to ensure a contactless service experience.
Hygiene checks at office receptions
All employees entering the offices have to undergo a mandatory temperature check, wear a mask and sanitise their hands. Other small yet important steps include shutting down the elevators, and neatly marking reception areas with socially-distanced squares for sitting and standing.
Nayyar claims, “We have also enabled continuous monitoring and feedback procedures to ensure that all protocols and guidelines are being implemented at the ground level in all the 25 offices.”
Further, Nayyar states, “We have set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpdesk to support employees in matters ranging from updated government advisories and guidelines to hospital and lab information. Any ‘high-risk’ cases will be continuously monitored for their health status.”
Earlier, when the lockdown was announced, the Company launched its in-house learning and development programme called Urban Academy, as it was the best opportunity for the employees to upskill themselves and continue learning.
To reassure the teams and lend support, Nayyar shares, “We have a company-wide #CountOnMe programme to provide support to any and all employees. This includes 1:1 reach-outs and mini groups to keep a tab on each other and share community banter, even recipes.”
Additionally, the Company has set up a telemedicine line for employees and their families in case they need medical attention and also decided to go with unlimited sick leaves for the rest of the year.
In the current situation, with businesses impacted around the globe, for Urban Company the challenge has been to keep the employees happy, engaged and free from mental stress.
“As a responsible organisation, our focus has been to enable platforms and remote connectivity to minimise roadblocks to productivity. We have strengthened our communication infrastructure and regulated usage to ensure that people are well connected to each other even during the lockdown.
As the safety and quality of the services are above everything else at Urban Company, it has revamped its entire service delivery such as salon and hair cut, which involve being in close contact.
“We have been through extensive virtual-training sessions and changed the entire service SOP. We have implemented a comprehensive set of eight safety protocols, including the usage of masks and gloves, use of the Aarogya Setu app, daily temperature checks, single-use sachets and disposables, sanitisation of all tools before delivery of service, health and safety training of its service partners, and so on,” reveals Nayyar.
She rightly concludes, “We recognise the need to re-commit to and strengthen all existing health and safety precautions on the platform. Adopting the new realities of social distancing, the hygiene bar has been a challenge and has pushed us to rethink how the service experience plays out, especially since our services are delivered within the safety of customers’ homes.”