Four in a lift, facing the wall: Office etiquette in Covid-19 times

Some companies admit that productivity could take a hit in the initial weeks but they see the situation stabilising in the months ahead.
A buzzer to go off on a device the moment the person wearing it comes too close to a fellow worker is just one of the novelties that automotive major Daimler India plans to adopt as its employees trickle back to work after almost two months away.

Apps, thermal screeners, staggered lunch hours, home-cooked food and social-distancing markers are some of the changes that have greeted employees resuming work at companies across sectors and cities this week.

Some companies admit that productivity could take a hit in the initial weeks but they see the situation stabilising in the months ahead.

At consumer goods company Dabur, only 25-30 per cent of staff are coming to its corporate office in Ghaziabad. All in-house meetings within conference and board rooms have been barred and crowding at elevators, canteens and reception areas is not permitted.

“Attendance is based on the criticality of the function,” said Dabur CEO Mohit Malhotra. “Not all members of a team come to work every day. There is a rotation system.  Second, the ones who make it to work are expected to sit in their respective cabins. All meetings are held on calls in the office. Social distancing is maintained. Also, the canteen is now open through the day to allow people to have food at any time rather than having a fixed lunch hour.”

The flip side of this is that Malhotra has no idea who’s coming or leaving. As time goes by, he said Dabur is likely to fine-tune its new workspace model.

At Flipkart's sprawling campus in Bengaluru, a few hundred employees out of the 10,000-strong workforce have turned up to find that each of them has been assigned a chair with their workstation number on it to prevent the accidental exchange of chairs.

Staff are encouraged to keep all their belongings in the desk cabinet so that sanitisation of workstations can be done easily. At the campus, employees are encouraged to maintain social distancing in washrooms by using alternate stalls and washbasins with tick-marks on them. Feet-shaped stickers have been laid out on the floors of elevators which only four persons can use; each of them needs to face the walls to maintain social distancing.

Apart from this, thermal screening at Flipkart happens at all entry points. Corridors and walkways have been converted into one-way streets and pantries will continue to be stocked with snacks and beverages through the day to avoid crowding.

“We've placed high importance on the well-being of our employees, both physical and mental,” said Krishna Raghavan, chief people officer at Flipkart. “We are treating this move as a high-priority one and are taking a calibrated approach to resume work.”

While rival Amazon has a work-from-home policy till October 2, those choosing to come to work have to adhere to strict physical distancing, temperature checks and sanitisation, said Deepti Varma, director, HR, Amazon.

Sivaramakrishnan Ganapathi, MD, Gokaldas Exports, said his company has done away with its biometric attendance registry, replacing it with a manual attendance register.

“We are working on installing a QR code on the ID cards of employees so that registering attendance becomes contactless. Workstations are also being cleaned every few hours and half the chairs in the office area have been removed,” said Ganapathi.

At IndiGo, social distancing will be implemented both in staff shuttles and offices including encouraging staff to avoid the lifts and use the staircase instead.

Vistara has reorganised seating arrangements in the office. “Meeting rooms can be used up to 50 per cent occupancy. However, we are strongly encouraging use of digital conferencing facilities to minimise contact,” said Deepa Chadha, senior vice-president, HR & Corporate Affairs, Vistara.

Both Vistara and Indigo have made it mandatory for employees to install the Aarogya Setu app. Only those with a ‘safe’ or ‘low-risk’ status will be allowed entry to the office.

"Forty per cent of our workforce will have to work from home each day,” said Raj Raghavan, senior vice president, HR, IndiGo.
“The operations team who cannot work from home will work in shifts ensuring one-hour gaps between shifts. Staggered working hours will be introduced for essential non-operational teams.”

At Indigo’s offices, company mail and packages at the reception desks will be disinfected before distribution. Personal couriers will have to be received only by employees outside office premises.

Pharmaceutical companies who were operating with skeleton staff in the first three phases of the lockdown are now gearing up to welcome more people. Lupin, for instance, has doubled the medical and life insurance covers of its employees according to Yashwant Mahadik, chief human resources officer.

The drug major has also developed an internal healthcare declaration app which is tied to its attendance system to inform line managers and HR about the health of their teams.

Based on the details declared and internal feedback, the attendance system permits entry into the office. Lupin is also encouraging people to take personal transport as well as doubling the number of employee buses. Staff have been asked to bring their own food, for now.


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