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HR Is at the Front Line of India’s Lockdown

Source | | Shefali Anand

How does a company bring essential employees to the workplace when a country is locked down? That’s been the biggest challenge for CHROs of employers in India that provide essential services, such as hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.

These companies have been striving to receive permits to move staff, organize transport, ensure the safety of workers and reassure their families while keeping the work-from-home staff engaged.

Companies started preparing for these efforts before India announced a 21-day lockdown starting March 25 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but plans have had to be improvised daily since.

“There was nothing that we did today that would be appropriate tomorrow,” said Saurov Ghosh, group head of HR at the National Stock Exchange (NSE) of India in Mumbai. “Every day, we have a war-room scenario where we find out what the day was like yesterday, what were the operating hassles, and address those then and there.”

Here is a roundup of how CHROs working at essential-services firms are navigating the lockdown.


Since mid-March, hospitals had started preparing for a possible influx of coronavirus-infected patients. Post lockdown, the closing of public transport posed problems in getting nurses, paramedics and other staff to their jobs.

At the CK Birla Group of Hospitals, which has two hospitals in Kolkata and one in Jaipur, buses were arranged and offers of carpools by staff were taken up, said Indrani Chakraborty, Kolkata-based CHRO.

At Fortis Healthcare, a chain of pan-India hospitals, in addition to transport, arrangements were made for some workers to stay at the hospital, said Sanjay Sinha, Gurgaon-based group CHRO.

To keep staff updated, information about how employees are being protected was quickly disseminated via e-mails, WhatsApp groups and posters in the hospitals. Protective gear for all staff was procured, and training programs and mock drills were conducted on the protocol for receiving and treating patients.

After the lockdown, most nonclinical staff were asked to work from home.

“We make sure that people who are on the ground do not feel that they are left alone,” Sinha said. Senior leaders have been sending messages frequently to all staff, especially those on the front line, and there have been regular video meetings, he said.

At CK Birla, managers were nudged to recognize the little things that employees are doing while performing their duties. “You amplify the appreciation quotient,” Chakraborty said.

Fortis now has 262 isolation beds across the country, Sinha said. “The good news is we have cured and sent back lot of patients,” he said.

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