Coronavirus: What India Inc. Is Doing To Keep Workplaces Safe

As India restricts overseas travel to affected countries to counter the spread of coronavirus, here’s what companies are doing.

An office worker wearing a protective mask is screened with an infrared thermometer as he enters a building in New Delhi, India.(Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)  
An office worker wearing a protective mask is screened with an infrared thermometer as he enters a building in New Delhi, India.(Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)  

India has suspended overseas visas to counter the spread of coronavirus as the number of local cases mount. The outbreak has seen a spike in Italy, South Korea, Japan and the U.S. even as the number of fresh cases have fallen in China.

Now declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the outbreak has caused panic, forcing companies to announce measures from better hygiene to travel restrictions.

In India, Google and Paytm have already confirmed a positive case each. From creating isolation rooms to allowing work from home, here’s what Indian companies are doing keep workplaces safe:

Overseas Travel Curbs

Godrej Industries Ltd., Wipro Ltd., Infosys Ltd., Flipkart, Hindustan Unilever Ltd., Knight Frank India, Hiranandani Group, Aditya Birla Group, Nestle S.A., Anarock Property Consultants, and Kellogg India have suspended international travel.

These companies also placed restrictions on domestic travel. For instance, employees of Wipro who have travelled to virus-affected areas in the past few days have been asked to work from home for 14 days before returning to the office.

That comes as India has frozen all existing visas—except diplomatic, official, United Nations or international organisations, employment and project visas—till April 15.

Work From Home

Godrej Industries, Wipro, Flipkart, Aditya Birla Group, Infosys, Hiranandani Group, ITC Ltd. and Coca-Cola India are among the companies that have given their employees the option to work from home.

Flipkart said in a statement that it’s promoting the use of video conferences for meetings, job interviews, and is temporarily avoiding events and training programmes that require large gatherings as a precautionary measure. “In light of primary schools in Bengaluru declaring holidays on the directive of the government, we’re encouraging parents with young children to work remotely.”

Godrej Industries has asked employees who have travelled to China, Korea, Iran, Japan, and Italy in the last couple of weeks to notify their manager and human resource partner, and work from home for two weeks after returning to India.

Employees at ITC who are suffering from cold, cough or fever have to consult the company doctor and report to work only after a complete recovery.

Meanwhile, Google India confirmed that an employee from its Bengaluru office has been diagnosed with Covid-19. The person was in one of the company’s offices for a few hours before developing any symptoms, a spokesperson said in a statement. “The employee has been on quarantine since then, and we have asked colleagues who were in close contact with the employee to quarantine themselves and monitor their health.”

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are asking employees in that Bengaluru office to work from home tomorrow,” the company said. “We have taken and will continue to take all necessary precautionary measures, following the advice of public health officials, as we prioritise everyone’s health and safety.”

Earlier, a Paytm employee in Gurugram had tested positive. The financial services company has advised all its employees to work from home for the next couple of days while the Gurugram unit is sanitised, the company said in a statement .

“Globally, every company is embracing work from home at the moment keeping in mind the enormity of the crisis and its ripple effects,” a company spokesperson said. “We’re sure that in the current situation, working from within the safe confines of their homes, efficiency, and productivity of our colleagues would increase.”

Increased Hygiene

Indian companies are also implementing measures to maintain high levels of hygiene at the workplace.

“Our offices are being thoroughly sanitised and we have also distributed masks as well as infra-red thermometers as a necessary precaution,” the Paytm spokesperson said. “Anyone, including colleagues, visitors, and vendors entering the premises, is getting their temperature checked. We’re closely working with the health authorities to take all necessary preventive measures and stay abreast of the latest safety guidelines.”

JLL India has introduced temperature checks at office lobbies for employees and visitors and also made masks available.

“Entry of visitors at Kellogg India’s manufacturing facilities is restricted,” the company said in an emailed statement, adding that even entry of visitors critical to business must be approved in advance. “We understand that ‘social distancing’ aids in containing the spread of the virus.”

A spokesperson for the Hiranandani Group said their employees were encouraged to mark their attendance online instead of using biometric systems. “In case an employee chooses to use bio-metric (system), he or she will have to mandatorily use sanitiser before and after punching (marking attendance).”

Avoiding Large Gatherings

Godrej Industries, Hindustan Unilever and Flipkart have asked their employees to avoid large gatherings. The Aditya Birla Group said it has informed its employees to avoid such events and no gathering of more than 15 employees is allowed.

Social distancing, ramping-up cleaning efforts, masks for healthcare workers, sales personnel, security, and front-office staff are among the measures that Hindustan Unilever is taking, according to a spokesperson.

Embassy Business Parks said it has also created isolation rooms in its 11 business parks.

Yes, You Should Work From Home to Help Fight Coronavirus Spread