The COVID19 pandemic is perhaps the biggest ever health crisis to have confronted humanity, plunging countries and its citizens into a prolonged period of misery and uncertainty. In the absence of any vaccine, social distancing is the only shield we have, forcing us to stay indoors and disrupting our normal routines. This has also affected businesses worldwide with offices shutting down and Work from Home emerging as the new normal. This has introduced some unique challenges – for both employees and employers. Employees need to ensure there is no drop in concentration, speed or intensity, as they work away from their usual environment. It is equally important for organizations to keep employee morale high during these stressful times, so they do not panic and remain engaged.
There is an abundance of unpleasant news all around us – be it the virus’ rapid spread or companies forced into drastic steps with regard to jobs and compensations. As such, it is easy for employees to slip into a negative mode if not careful. This is when organizations must show their human face and regularly inquire about their employees’ health – both mental and physical. It is critical to stay in touch, offer necessary support and let employees feel that they are not alone. Organizations must urge employees not to lose sleep over what they cannot control, rather stay calm, follow the Do’s and Don’ts and utilize this time meaningfully.
Prioritizing Employee Safety Pre Lockdown
- At ReNew we were quick to act and had our mitigation plans in place even before the pandemic really hit India. Early on, it was important to disseminate authentic information, so we gathered COVID facts and precautionary guidelines from credible sources and updated our employees. We also discouraged non urgent travel and banned entry of visitors
- Employees were subjected to temperature checks at the entrance and sanitisers placed throughout the office, including inside elevators. Sanitization of office premises was carried out
- Our HR team devised an online alternative to the biometric attendance system so employees no longer needed to touch the scanner.
- We also distributed masks for employees besides pushing them to wear masks in public, maintain social distancing and follow other hygiene best practices through emailers, posters & video messages.
- Expecting women employees were asked to work from home and a 24 x 7 helpline was set up to advise and assist staff if required.
Ensuring Smooth Work From Home
- As the situation rapidly changed, we shut down our corporate and regional offices and asked employees to switch to a full Work From Home mode in the interest of their safety.
- An efficient IT team swung into action, ensuring employees had all the enablers to smoothly operate from their homes with real time support to fix bugs or familiarize them with new digital tools.
- Managers were sensitized to focus more on “quality of output “rather than “no. of hours spent” under this new normal.
Keeping Our Sites Up and Running
- As an essential services provider, ReNew had to keep its power plants operational to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity.
- We divided site employees into two teams, reporting for duty alternate week by rotation and arranged for additional accommodation so that social distancing could be enforced.
- Well sanitized cabs are being used to ferry employees to and from sites, adequate supply of masks and gloves is ensured and regular sanitization of site premises is carried out, with strict monitoring to enforce adherence to all safety and hygiene norms.
- Regular updates shared on hospitals treating COVID patients, labs for testing and employees asked to promptly report any positive cases, including self, immediate family and neighbourhood
Timely and Transparent Communication
- The CMD held regular meetings with the leadership team to take stock of the situation and issue necessary instructions.
- This chain of communication cascaded right down, with Vertical Heads talking to their Team Leads and the Leads in turn updating their team members on key decisions, what it meant for them and inquiring about their general well-being, on almost a daily basis.
- Our CMD also conducted “Skype townhalls” where he assured employees that our company was reasonably cushioned against any shocks due to the pandemic, in terms of finances, supply chain and business continuity. He advised employees to stay calm and productive, while focusing on safeguarding their and their family members’ health. He stressed on the importance of rallying behind each other and connecting at an emotional level, even if we were physically apart, at this tough time.
- He also gave candid answers to employees’ questions on various topics. Most importantly, he urged all employees to acknowledge and salute our dedicated site employees and office staff who were in the thick of action, away from the safety of their homes to enable us to conduct our business without any jolts.
Employee Engagement Programmes
At ReNew, we have always believed that our people are our most valuable asset. We have a vibrant round the year calendar of employee engagement activities, managed by an in-house arm – REEJOYS. When the lockdown hit us, we knew we could trust REEJOYS to keep our employees gainfully occupied, stress free and connected, thanks to their diverse initiatives.
- Introduced a section called “Quarantine Diaries” on our intranet inviting employees to share their “lockdown experiences” – be it posting a movie/book/ song review, writing about some old hobby revisited or new skills developed like cooking or painting or simply expressing their experiences of working from home. They can also upload self-composed stories, poems, songs, articles – anything that lets them explore their creative selves.
- Arranged virtual Yoga and Zumba classes for a fit body and fresh mind
- Online debates, quizzes and week end Talent shows through Skype where ReNewers and their family members performed songs, dances and stand-up comic acts ensure there is no dearth of fun and laughter.
- ReNewers were encouraged to upgrade their skills and become improved professionals. Details regarding various online courses available freely were shared with besides urging them to complete the regular in house training modules on diverse topics.
- Conducted fortnightly online meetings with female employees which saw them discussing common problems, sharing individual success stories and experiences to motivate others and simply bonding together.
- Ensured smooth welcoming of our new recruits and summer interns, with the entire induction process carried out virtually and seamlessly including assigning of mentors and projects.
Fulfilling Our Social Responsibility
ReNew felt obliged to support the Government at this hour of crisis and hence pitched in with a humble contribution of INR. 20 Crores (200 million) to bolster relief and rehabilitation measures across the country.
- Of this Rs. 10 Cr. was donated to the Prime Minister Cares Fund and Rs. 50 lakhs to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund in each of seven states where we have business presence. We also spent more than Rs. 6 Cr. in distributing dry ration amongst underprivileged masses in more than 150 villages surrounding our sites in these states.
- In Gurugram, where ReNew is headquartered, we are leading a consortium of corporates that has helped set up an a COVID only hospital and are also funding provision of PPEs and drug trials. We are running a community kitchen providing daily meals for the needy and distributing food packets among villagers in Nuh district, Haryana, a COVID hotspot. ReNew will also be adopting a village in Nuh post lockdown.
- Recognizing the plight of underprivileged students affected by COVID, we have launched a drive to collect spare phones/laptops to distribute among them, so they can continue learning through online classes.
A well-structured engagement programme has helped our employees stay positive, informed and enabled them to contribute their best under tough circumstances. It has fostered a strong support system where every employee feels he is not battling it out alone. I am hoping and praying for a speedy return to normalcy, and seeing our offices again buzzing with activity and the infectious energy of ReNewers.