People over Business

Prevention is better than Cure

By | Ramesh Ranjan | Editor

Ever since the first reported case of Coronavirus in November 2019, the deadly virus has now spread over 133 countries and here is the latest status as of 16 March 2020

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It has been declared Pandemic by the WHO and is in a crucial stage of growth at this point of time. The rate of growth of the spread of virus is reaching alarming proportion. The NY Times just reported that between 160 million and 214 million people are likely to be infected (CDC confidential study) and as many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die.

Look at this video using a mathematical model explaining to us the exponential growth of epidemics. The coronavirus if unchecked can double every few days and can exponentially grow to affect hundreds of  millions of people.

Progression in Itay
Progression in the US

Take the example of United States of America. It started as a trickle in January and two months later in March has turned into a steady stream.  According to Washington post, if this trend is not arrested, experts warn that there will be exponential increase and can potentially spread to hundreds of millions of people.

Health experts say that there is light at the end of the tunnel and the silver lining is that spread and growth can be slowed down if the society practices “social distancing” ie. Avoid gathering of people in masses, limiting their movements, keeping a safe distance between people and generally staying indoors at home over the next few days or even weeks.

The virus has not spared any country and has spread to every other country. Its starts as a trickle and then followed by a flood.

India may look to be comfortable at this stage but  with 1.3 billion population is sitting on a volcano ready to erupt. Noted epidemiologists as well as world leaders like Angela Merkel have said that 20-60% of us will be hit by coronavirus.

Dr Devi Shetty

World renowned Cardiologist Dr. Devi Shetty has said that there is a small window of opportunity for India. It has  to adopt Social Distancing and limit the spread of the virus. He has suggested some  common-sense measures that we should take:

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  • Avoid all travel, international or domestic, air, bus or train. Long-distance travel is the biggest contributor to the spread of disease.
  • Avoid all places that concentrate large numbers of people in a small area. This means schools, gyms, malls, open-air markets, pubs, theatres, temples, other places of worship, swimming pools, etc.
  • Work from home. Whether you work in an office or a factory, you are at risk of infecting or getting infected by your colleagues.
  • If you must show up for work, keep 6 feet distance from your colleagues, avoid the canteen and postpone all meetings with outsiders. Don’t meet in groups of more than ten.
  • Avoid all conferences, sports events, melas, rallies, cricket matches as that risks the highest chance of an outbreak occurring.

The Government has done its bit commendably. It has ordered closure of schools, universities, malls, restaurants, public gatherings, etc.  They have even advised Corporate Organisations to adopt a work from home policy.

But this remains only an advisory and barring a few organisations most of them are braving it out and putting their employees to risk because for them Business comes first and People later.

Some organisations have said non-customer facing roles, Tech / IT organisations can adopt a work from home but other functions like Manufacturing, BPO, R&D etc. its Business as Usual with some artificial measures.

But why? Are these functions children of lesser GOD. What mistake have they done to be denied the option of working from home. Where is social distancing for them. Look at this study on Here’s how COVID-19 is affecting 11 major sectors, in four dimensions, as shown:

Corona Virus Impact by Industry

Every one, every function is potentially at risk. We cannot be discriminatory in our approach, protecting one set of people and risking another set of people. It is a potential law suit for discrimination.

Every life is important and is equal in the society.

Josh Bersin

The big message I think we’re learning is that whatever happens, the right response is People First, Business Second.

Organisations cannot absolve themselves of their responsibilities by merely providing some masks, keeping sanitizers, disinfectants at workplace, screening visitors & employees with thermal scanners for fever, taking self declaration for travel etc.

The Coronavirus presents an opportunity to the Business & HR Leaders to demonstrate that its People over Business. They can demonstrate this by enabling employees to practice social distancing by working from home, paid time off, heath insurance and assistance for medical check up for employees and their family & counselling. They should create and demonstrate a culture where employees are heard, feel safe, valued & protected and not treated like commodity in their quest for Business fortunes.

Trust that good sense will prevail, organisations, its leaders and the HR will rise to the occasion and adopt a People over Business strategy…….


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