How Brands are supporting Employees during COVID-19’s deadly Second Wave

New Delhi, Dr Samir Kapur: The pandemic has driven home the proverb that “a friend in need is a friend indeed”. As COVID-19’s sinister second wave leaves a trail of ailing employees and distraught family members, companies across the spectrum are scrambling to support their staff. 

According to a survey by consulting firm ANSR, almost 60% of companies are providing digital wellness benefits and 40% are offering telemedicine support to employees. Moreover, 50% of the surveyed organizations are providing advanced preventive care for COVID-19. The survey elicited responses from 150,000-plus employees across diverse domains in the country. 

Broad Support Measures

Altruistic reasons apart, such initiatives help companies in driving business continuity plans during the ongoing crisis. Besides, 50% of the respondents revealed the launch of a separate COVID medical policy. This covers corporate relief measures and vaccination drives, along with wellness and mental well-being initiatives. 

For instance, lending company TVS Credit has created an emergency financial assistance fund for employees to avail of an instant loan. The company has also empanelled doctors from diverse locations for its employees and their family members who may need emergency consultations.

Pan-India, some organizations have partnered with healthcare providers for affordable treatment. For employees placed under home isolation after testing positive, companies are arranging medical care and counselling from specialists. Consulting firm Accenture is ensuring daily remote nursing support for monitoring vitals, apart from consultations with physicians, psychologists and dieticians. Affected employees are also given home isolation kits containing all essential items prescribed by doctors for home medical care. 

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Companies are also arranging wholesome meals since such employees remain in no position to cook. Paid medical leave of varying durations is offered by some entities to help affected staff recover without undue work-related worries. 

Another major mantra is the focus of employers in facilitating faster vaccinations for employees. As dangerous variants in the UK, India, Brazil and South Africa have triggered renewed surges, India Inc. and the world at large have realized that vaccines are the best long-term solution to manage coronavirus risks. More so as there are global concerns about the possibility of a third wave. 

In the case of vaccinations, companies are keen on inoculating those with comorbidities at the earliest since these cohorts are most vulnerable. Accordingly, vaccination camps are being organized with the support of local authorities and hospitals. 

Meanwhile, many corporates have established a COVID task force by roping in proactive employees and volunteers. Such a task force helps in a series of activities. This includes assisting affected staff in getting prompt medical attention, organizing help from doctors plus other relevant support measures. A global data science company, Molecular Connections, has set up a dedicated hot desk for providing COVID-related information. The desk assists in sourcing medical resources and hospital beds, as well as helping with insurance claims. 

Promoting Holistic Well-being 

To ensure employees’ well-being and safety amidst the pandemic, TVS Credit has extended additional financial assistance under its ‘Parivaar’ program. An employee family assistance program, it provides financial support in case of untimely demise or terminal illness of employees. Under this, bereaved families receive three years’ salary as monetary compensation for the departed employee. Additionally, job opportunities are open for the spouse, as per qualifications, while the educational expenses of the employees’ children will be borne by the company till they complete graduation. 

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Furthermore, a dedicated financial adviser is appointed to guide the family in efficiently managing the funds received as compensation. Since the launch of this program, the lender has assisted several families who had lost their breadwinners. 

Institutions such as Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation have gone the extra mile by creating COVID care centres. The Corporation made news recently with a 100-bed facility for its construction workers. Likewise, smaller entities have created zones where employees advised isolation are accommodated. For example, isolation spaces have been set up in schools whereby, if an employee tests positive, s/he can be put up there. Through such steps, the risks of employees carrying the virus to their homes is prevented. In isolation centres, the requisite medical care is ascertained via supervision by doctors. 

Finally, companies have realized that physical and mental well-being are equally important during the pandemic. Accordingly, select companies in different verticals have announced a four-day workweek this May, with the likelihood of an extension till June, if required. The extra day off will help employees devote more time to themselves and their families. 

To lower stress levels, many companies have been organizing daily exercise sessions via virtual means. These include Zumba, Yoga, aerobics and allied activity classes. Along with periodic counselling sessions via certified practitioners, meditation is being encouraged to calm employees. Here again, TVS Credit has come up with an employee-centric initiative by joining hands with YourDost – an online counselling and emotional wellness platform to help staff in coping with these challenging times. Mental wellness sessions apart, the platform holds regular programs on personality development and confidence-building in addition to supporting new joiners and inculcating mindfulness.

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Undoubtedly, both employees and employers realize that holistic measures promoting physical and psychosomatic well-being are required to win this war of attrition against an invisible but wily virus. 

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A visiting faculty at various leading management institutes, the author teaches consumer behaviour and marketing management

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