Putting Employees First During COVID-19: A Look at India

    Jimit Director of ABM
    November 8, 2021
    Putting Employees First During COVID-19: A Look at India
    By Jyoti Gouri, Director of HR at CommerceIQ

    As the pandemic circled the globe, uncertainty swept across communities and businesses alike. Job insecurity was high, economies faltered, and many businesses were forced to close. COVID-19 took a physical, mental, and professional toll on everyone.

    Last spring, COVID-19 was particularly devastating in India, and we felt its all-encompassing effects in our own lives in Bangalore. During the peak of the second wave, cases surged very suddenly, and there was a shortage of hospital beds and oxygen cylinders that coincided with an unfortunate increase in dead-on-arrival patients. Front-line health workers quickly stood up to the challenge, provided care, and comforted patients to their best ability, but the situation was incredibly difficult. Just as it had ascended rapidly, the second wave also dropped off quickly. More recently, the number of new daily cases in Bangalore has remained steady in between 6 and 7 thousand according to the BBMP. But the damage has already been done. The total number of cases in Bangalore stands at over 1.2 million and the number of deaths at over 16,000.

    At CommerceIQ we recognize that everyone experiences and copes with the pandemic differently. Some have adapted to the new normal and are thriving, while others remain overwhelmed and struggling. We opted not to discriminate as we stood by our employees when they needed support so that we could emerge on the other side of trauma together and stronger. We’ve always prioritized our employee’s welfare. During the height of the second wave, we set out to help employees however we could. We wanted clear channels of communication built on mutual trust and integrity so we increased the rate at which we touched base and communicated with our people. From there, we started with the basic needs of safety, security, and stability, but quickly looked for other ways we could solve employee problems and concerns with innovative solutions.

    Steps to combat the effects of the pandemic 

    1: Bringing in doctors and care

    Our people were having difficulty finding both general physicians and specialized doctors as the health system was overstretched due to high demand. We bridged the gap by using our network to get in touch with Dr. Chandrika K.M, a Diabetologist and Endocrinologist with over 23 years of experience in the field. She graciously agreed to partner with us and extended her services to our people, their families, and even their friends.

    Here’s what some CommerceIQ employees had to say —

    “Reaching out to doctors during April and May was extremely difficult. CIQ made it easy by introducing Dr. Chandrika right on time.”

    “The doctor was influential enough to even arrange for medical help and food facilities to some of the folks in remote locations given her background of working in the Indian Army.”

    “I contacted Dr. Chandrika at around 11.30 pm due to medical urgency. She was extremely kind to attend to my needs. Thank you, CIQ, for such a wonderful arrangement.”

    COVID can also exact a heavy price on mental health. We connected our people with counseling support and provided meal packages for those staying away from home. We made the personal numbers of our HR representatives available to all, which could be used as a helpline in case of emergencies. At CommerceIQ, we believe that employees shouldn’t be punished for protecting their mental health, so we encouraged our teams to take PTO/medical leave as they felt they needed. To this day, we continue to have on-call doctors for our people and their families around the clock.

    2: A vaccination drive that catered to all

    We partnered with Motherhood Hospital to sponsor a vaccination drive on the office premises available to all our team members, their direct dependants, their extended family, and their friends. We circulated a series of FAQs in advance that covered all details of the vaccination so that no one would be unintentionally left out of the process.

    One CommerceIQ team member said, “CIQ allowing friends and family to participate in COVID vaccination drive is commendable. Other companies only allowed employees to get vaccinated”.

    We are proud to have organized and provided this service that catered to all equally and are grateful to Motherhood Hospital for allowing us to fight this virus together.

    3: Providing Oxygen Concentrators

    During the height of COVID, our people faced numerous challenges. They needed help to connect with doctors and receive hospital care, they needed references for insurance companies, and, not least of all, they needed oxygen concentrators. We leveraged our network until we found an oxygen concentrator supplier who was willing to provide us with what we needed.

    Even though supplies were scarce, we successfully procured 15 oxygen concentrators to help our people when they needed us most. Employees agreed that arranging the oxygen concentrator on time was a massive help. We also arranged for home hospitalization, care packages for our people, as well as on-call doctors who extended timely support when questions arose.  

    4: Allowing our team to recharge 

    Working-from-home had been a huge success for our business, but we recognize it has had its share of drawbacks. Social engagement is a human need, and the need for social distancing threatened to deliver several social and relational setbacks for our team. If left unaddressed, low social activity can lead to a lack of motivation, inspiration, and growth. So we stopped at nothing to make our online lives more social. We engaged in continuous team-building exercises and fun virtual activities which included brainstorms, zoom parties, group workouts, and meditation sessions designed to help our people to unwind and recharge. 

    With the flood of internal and external meetings that modern office life brings, we understand that our people don’t always have time to take a break and recharge. So we decided that there should be no meetings held from 1-3 pm on workdays. Our people are free to have time to enjoy a long lunch, a power nap, or a hobby to keep their minds off work for a bit. It has proved to be beneficial for our employees’ well-being and has even boosted their creativity and performance.

    We also understand that people may need time off to address concerns regarding their immediate family or friends. We are happy to extend our support to them until they get back on their feet. These situations are handled with nuance and care, being mindful of the specific situation and what our employees need from us. We believe that recovery doesn’t adhere to a set period. So we’ve implemented a 90-day sick leave policy for all our people or their families who’ve suffered from COVID-19. 

    Final thoughts
    Though the worst may be behind us, COVID-19 is not finished. We are proud to offer continuing support to our workforce. Our work-from-home policy keeps our people safe and healthy. We stay connected by engaging in fun activities, scheduling coffee breaks together, and regrouping in small numbers at the office. We encourage small joys to help alleviate the stress our team faces. We have adapted to the new normal with reliable tools for smooth communication and better workflows. We offer giveaways through our weekly fun activities that aim to uplift our spirits and keep us excited for what’s ahead. We believe we are at our best if we all support each other, allowing CommerceIQ to take the next steps with our best foot forward.

    Jimit Director of ABM


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