Logging in with facemasks: Offices look different as staff returns to work

Topics India Inc | Coronavirus | Lockdown

Tech major Capgemini has reopened its office in Bengaluru, Pune and Noida on Monday and will resume offices in other places such as Chennai in the coming weeks.
Offices that had shut operations in March following the lockdown stayed that way on Monday in Mumbai as most business houses including the Tatas, the Birlas, Reliance, Mahindra & Mahindra, Vedanta, and Procter & Gamble awaited state guidelines on the fourth phase of the curbs. The only exceptions here were pharmaceutical companies, which continued to operate with skeleton staff.

If Mumbai’s office life was far from normal on the first day of the fourth phase of the lockdown, the picture was different in some other key metros of the country, such as Bengaluru, Kolkata, Delhi, and Chennai.

Office life in these cities resumed on Monday, albeit cautiously and with full knowledge of the need to maintain social distancing. 

In Kolkata, hotels-to-cigarette-maker ITC has reopened and work will gradually increase, officials said. “We continue to review the situation regularly and will gradually enhance work in office. Presence in office has been restricted to only where work cannot be done from home,” said Amitav Mukherji, head of corporate human resources (HR), ITC. Shree Cement will commence office operations on Tuesday with 40-50 per cent of its workforce in attendance.
This is in keeping with social-distancing norms.

“We are adhering strictly to guidelines issued by the Centre and the state government. The employees who will be coming have their own cars and thus transportation will not be a problem,” said H M Bangur, managing director, Shree Cement.

While Bombay House, Tata headquarters in Mumbai, remained shut, its watch-and-jewellery arm Titan reopened its office in Bengaluru. But attendance will increase gradually, company officials said.

“Currently 10-15 per cent of the workers are coming to our Bengaluru campus and we are taking all safety measures,” said Subbu Subramaniam, chief financial officer, Titan Company.

Biotechnology major Biocon has introduced a concept called “zoning” at its campus in Bengaluru to enforce physical distancing. Movements of the employees are restricted to their zones and the campus is divided into multiple regions, with each having a dedicated cafeteria for the people working there. 

The production staff works in shifts and support-function employees are at a 50 per cent capacity, with the rest working from home. 
“Company transport has been provided. We have 120 buses now against 25 earlier,” said a Biocon spokesperson. 

At Wipro Consumer Care & Lighting, also Bengaluru-based, apart from meetings, training too has moved online. 

“We have put in hygiene, sanitization, and social distancing measures in factories and offices. It is also compulsory to wear masks and not have any direct contact with objects or people,” said Rajesh Sahay, senior vice-president and HR head, Wipro Consumer Care. The company has tied up with an online health care startup called VisitApp for essential health care support like doctor consultation, health, and fitness programmes.

Cookie maker Unibic, located in Bengaluru, has reopened its office with 25 per cent of its staff.  “We will gradually scale up as we wait for people to come back to the city. We will reach 100 per cent staff strength next week,” said Sreenivasulu Vudayagiri, chief executive officer, Unibic.

Tech major Capgemini on Monday reopened its office in Bengaluru, Pune, and Noida and will do so in other places such as Chennai in the coming weeks.
“We are ensuring social distancing in the cafeteria and company transport. We have also launched a video communication through an animated video with Ally — our Workplace Services Assistant — to showcase the measures taken by Capgemini to assure our employees and their families about them,” said Venkat Neelakantan, vice-president and head, corporate real estate services, India and Asia-Pacific, Capgemini.

The company has also launched a self-declaration app to ensure that a limited number of people are allowed access to office premises, Neelakantan says.  The company is regularly sanitizing the office area, packed food is made available to employees, and both staff and housekeeping personnel are using masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers.

Aneesh Phadnis, Sohini Das, Aditi Divekar, Viveat Susan Pinto, Samreen Ahmad, Avishek Rakshit and T E Narasimhan contributed to this story

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