From Ergonomic Chairs to Virtual Parties: New Normal for Companies

Several companies are working on a mandate to work from home till Sept or year-end as COVID-19 rages on.

Published24 Jun 2020, 02:52 PM IST
India
4 min read

With a large number of companies opting for work-from-home (WFH) despite several aspects of the economy being open under Unlock 1.0, it looks like the WFH model is here to stay.

The uncertainty over the pandemic not abating has led to several firms operating under “a clear mandate to work from home till September”. In companies with smaller staff strengths, the timelines vary from November-December 2020, depending on the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has on the country.

To make working from home a more pleasant and productive experience, companies are investing in their employees’ welfare in innovative ways, from comfortable chairs for working at home to organising company-wide celebrations on Zoom to simplifying processes overall.

‘Reimbursing Purchases of Chairs, Desks for Home’

Ravindra Nayak, senior director of administration, facilities and operations at Software AG, an enterprise software company that has over 1,000 employees in Chennai, Bengaluru and Mumbai, said that the entire staff would be working from home tentatively till the end of September.

“We decided to transition to remote working in March before things started getting too bad. By April, we saw that we had to do something to make working from home a better experience for our employees. We gave them the option of buying or renting furniture for working from home. The average age of our employees is 29 years, and they don’t always have a workspace at home. We considered that,” he said.

“More than 60% of our employees have opted to invest in the home office furniture, including chairs, desks and UPS’, because many of them did not have comfortable furniture at home. Several people also moved back to their home towns to work from there. It’s a much better experience and people are able to be more productive.”
Ravindra Nayak, Software AG

Catering to Corporate Needs in the WFH Era

Lav J Chellaram, director of Featherlite, an office furniture manufacturing firm, said that there has been a lot of traction for the company’s WFH line since its launch in March.

Satish Kumar Sharma, president of sales and marketing at Featherlite, said that more people had started paying attention to their health.

“From the past two months, we have leveraged technology to go for online stores in Bangalore and Mumbai. We have added a specific range of ergonomic chairs and small-sized tables to support the WFH segment during COVID days."

With offices becoming an essential part of homes, the onus is on health. Even in the range of tables a lot of demand is there for the ”sit-to-stand” option.

Products are priced from Rs 6,000 to Rs 65,000 at Featherlite. Chellaram said, ”Nobody has a crystal ball to see when offices and IT sector will come back. Since WFH is here to stay, we are catering to our corporates’ needs.”

From Zoom Parties to Repurposing Strategy

Some companies made an effort to conduct team-building exercises due to the isolating nature of the WFH model.

“We still try to have as much face-to-face contact as possible through meetings. We conduct a lot of events on Fridays. We had a tombola competition and also organised a company-wide Children’s Day with the kids of our staff, all on Zoom. A lot of the kids joined in and this is some of the ways we keep them involved,” said Nayak.

Winston A de Rosario, head of people and culture at Clover, an agro-tech startup, said that the diverse nature of the types of employees at Clover, from farmers to salespersons, made the transition unique .

“We decided to focus on things that mattered. We did not send our sales staff out on the field because there were no buyers. We asked sales staff to stay at home and network with residents of apartment complexes because that was where the demand was shifting.”
Winston A de Rosario

He added that the company was not insisting on employees coming to work, but had left the decision up to the employee and their manager.

For many companies, the decision to extend WFH was based on the handling of the pandemic.

Ribu Sarah Mathews, head of communications and brand at Amadeus Labs in Bengaluru, said that of the over 2,400 employees of the company, employees were coming to work in phases. “We plan to continue the model for at least another month. The rest depends on how Bengaluru shapes up. That would be the only deterrent,” she said.

'We have a Business Contingency Plan'

A company that had to put in place a WFH set up for its employees in 5 days in March, Mystifly, a global airfare marketplace with 145 employees in Bengaluru, is better prepared this time around.

“From June, about 10-12 employees who faced infrastructure trouble at home started coming to work in the office. We will not be resuming operations from office till December, but in case a total lockdown is announced on short notice once again, we have 12 laptops in office, for the use of those few employees. They will immediately be able to shift home without any delay,” said Kishore Kumar, senior HR manager.

We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated.

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