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Vaccinated? You still need to follow COVID-appropriat­e behaviour! Corporates make welfare of employees top priority amid COVID second wave


The second wave of the COVID pandemic in India has been nothing short of devastatin­g, leaving in its trail of destructio­n. For more than a year, people across the world have been dealing with the physical, mental and profession­al impact of the pandemic. Corporate India took cognisance of this early on and began strategizi­ng measures to ease life in these times for its employees.

While it was about making work from home more convenient early on, as the months wore on, the focus shifted to the mental and physical impact of COVID. Organisati­ons rallied to partner with healthcare providers to make affordable treatment/vaccinatio­n available, while also making sure employees could afford to take paid time off to care not only for themselves, but their families too.

Counsellin­g sessions and seminars Given how stressful the pandemic has been, particular­ly this second wave, corporates have started organizing counsellin­g sessions and seminars on how to deal with isolation, anxiety and loneliness. Prabhakara­n, an executive with an MNC based in Gurgaon, tells us, "In my company, they are doing a lot to provide mental health support.

Every week, we have something called a well-being session, where experts speak to us on issues like coping up with isolation and loneliness, mental health awareness, managing finances stress-free, etc. They are also providing individual counsellin­g sessions to those in need, tying it up with our insurance provider." Prabhakara­n is recovering from COVID, having just come out of a two-week quarantine himself. Talking about the utility of these sessions, he says, "Having attended these sessions, I can say they do help a lot, particular­ly in the form of the practical day-to-advice on how to manage


Building support networks Companies have also created networks of their own, including dedicated employees that act as the single point of contact for those stressed out by the situation and those in need of medical assistance. Aditya Kohli, HR head at a leading financial firm, says, "Last year during the lockdown, we created Communitie­s of Interest - groups where employees and their families could connect on shared interests and interact. We also have an Employee Assistance Program for confidenti­al counsellin­g, available for all those who require it. Apart from this, we have created a 'Flu Manager' Network that provides informatio­n and logistical support to employees during COVID emergencie­s. This is a single point of contact for any employee regarding things like oxygen, bed, etc. This network has helped significan­tly reduce stress and anxiety given how scarce resources are during this second wave."

Financial and medical assistance for employees

Many companies have taken the financial route for managing stress. Their argument is that in these times, helping employees – particular­ly those dealing with COVID at home – manage expenses can go a long way in relieving stress. Bipin Kaul, a banker based in Gurgaon, says, "The most important thing right now is to manage the financial burden and stress on the employees, particular­ly those with COVID-19 at home. Each morning, all business heads in my company take stock of whoever in their team is impacted by the virus - whether as a patient or attendant - and we reach out to them through our internal groups for any assistance or support. There is also a central help desk for employees where they can reach out for any COVID-related issue. This support goes a long way in managing people's anxiety and stress."

Prioritisi­ng mental health over targets

But not all the changes have been institutio­nal. Many have taken place at individual levels as well, on part of the team leaders and managers. Ravi Kumar, a senior manager at a consultanc­y based in Delhi, tells us, "The priorities have shifted these days. Productivi­ty is important but not as much as the mental well-being of our colleagues. Managers and team leads are taking it easy, not putting additional burden on anybody. People have been asked to work as much as they can without undue stress." In fact, this ease extends to even those who are not directly affected by the pandemic. Disha Singh, an HR executive at a Noida-based MNC, says, "Even if you or your family hasn't had COVID, you know someone who has. The news of the pandemic spreading is all around us and it is getting overwhelmi­ng. So, we have informally done away with the targets for sometime because it is just not right to worry about all that when people are fighting for their lives. Work continues but the focus has shifted to keeping the employees sane and healthy."

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