How corporate India is preparing a covid-ready army

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When the lockdown was first announced on the evening of 22 March, over 10,000 employees were undergoing training at Infosys’ Mysuru campus. The company had to immediately come up with a plan to ensure the staff reached their home safely and quickly. So within hours, a number of teams were formed to handle the situation.

“We looked at multiple aspects. The core team conducted a briefing for all the educators on the methodology for evacuation and continuation of training. HR helpdesk was set up to provide support round the clock. Teams had to closely work with multiple stakeholders to ensure policies were amended and streamlined according to the requirements,” informs Richard Lobo, executive vice-president, head (HR), Infosys Ltd.

While many companies are still figuring out ways to sail through the covid-19 crisis, some have already started thinking ahead and are preparing internally by training employees to be able to better handle any situation.

At VIP Industries, for instance, select employees are taking an online “Covid Warrior” course by management consultancy BYLD Group that aims to “prevent people from doing things based on WhatsApp University and also to take precautions while traveling, when reaching office and when coming back home, while buying groceries,” says Ronald Soans, senior vice-president, BYLD Group. These selected employees now form the emergency response team for covid-19 and will be the point of all information in the company.

“Sometimes we think we are prepared, but we may have overlooked some small detail. Like, what do you do with the umbrellas and windcheaters that people will bring to office – do we let them take it to their cabin? Or should we keep them all outside in a common area?” says Hitesh Koli, head (environment health and safety), VIP Industries.

Given the current circumstances, organizations are investing in training their staff to create a safe and healthy workspace. Infosys, for instance, has formed a rapid response team for the management of covid-19 cases. Each member of the team has a designated role to play based on the situation and involves representatives from cross-functional teams like HR, security and facilities.

“We constantly keep this team updated about the latest safety protocols. We also share information about our learnings from situations faced at our campuses so that the team is constantly aware of the protocol that needs to be deployed for any eventuality,” says Lobo.

At Bosch India, training is being given to security and facilities personnel and covid-19 volunteers from multiple departments to take preventive care of their colleagues. The volunteers assist the security team in performing tasks such as health screening and checking health declaration for employees coming from containment zones or showing symptoms. The facilities team also looks after waste management (like used masks and gloves) at dining halls during breakfast and lunch, and support in distribution of hand sanitizers to different departments.

“We are actively educating our employees on covid-19 risk factors and preventive behaviours by providing comprehensive training and resources. There are company-wide wellness programs to equip employees with the skills to design and assess their personal wellness plans,” explains Karsten Mueller, senior vice-president (manufacturing and quality), Bosch India.

Some companies are training each of their employees on how to protect themselves from the virus.

Facilities management services provider Quess Corp, for example, has been training its staff since the lockdown started to handle every kind of scenario that can come out of covid-19. From basics like what kind of cleaning material can be used, and how long can one wear a PPE kit to a more tech-driven reading of thermal cameras and electronic surveillance.

“Our front-liners were still working when the lockdown was announced and in many cases they panicked because there were no clear guidelines given. We started training them through our portal with short interactive videos which made it easier for them to understand and retain the knowledge,” says Guruprasad Srinivasan, COO (India region), Quess Corp.

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