Changing roster duties so that a balance is achieved between staff coming to office and those working from home is just one of the innovations that general insurance major Green Delta Insurance plans to adopt as the company prioritises employee health with the need to restart business on a full-fledged basis after the planned lifting of the lockdown.
"De-densification of the office layout with a minimum one-seat gap between employees to achieve the 1.5-metre social distancing norm is a major call that we have taken once office restarts," according to Green Delta Company Secretary Syed Moinuddin Ahmed. "We will also continue to encourage work from home and urge our teams to use digital tools and technologies to ensure seamless communication and streamlined workflows."
This company sees the pandemic as an occasion to accelerate digital technology adoption, especially to move towards its vision of meeting insurance for all.
As part of its standard protocol, Green Delta Insurance is considering thermal screening and temperature checking for all employees and visitors entering the office building, imposing restrictions on prayers in jamaat (congregation), announcing flexible lunch hours to decongest the canteen, mandating no physical in-house meetings with close proximity and authorising the compulsory use of hand sanitisers at frequent intervals. Further, it would implement frequent cleaning across its offices to disinfect common touch points, such as lift buttons, railings, washrooms and even door handles.
Some companies say adjusting to the 'new normal' will take time and productivity might get hampered initially, but they believe the situation would stabilise in the months ahead.
At The City Bank, an important initiative that is being considered comprises redefinition of staff attendance based on criticality of function. "Several propositions have already been raised by our management committee," said Parul Das, the private sector bank's Head of Finance. These, according to her, include unfixed lunch hours beyond the official lunch hour, and identifying those positions that can be offered as 'home office' positions, while exploring others that warrant a mix of both, which means people attending office on certain days and working from home on the others. "There is a rotation system."
Such a work attendance holds potential for de-clogging major traffic gridlocks seen across the Dhaka city, thus saving both time and productivity of office goers. Dwelling on how technology can facilitate a remote workplace model, Das pointed out, "We're conducting normal and even board meetings online. In fact, even after the lockdown is lifted, we are contemplating conducting our annual general meeting (AGM) via videoconference, if the situation permits."
Though automation accelerated after the 2008 financial crisis to help prune costs, the new norms emerging from the coronavirus crisis places a bigger emphasis on employee well-being. Organisations like The City Bank are already preparing for such a structural shift. The bank has introduced several benefits, like enhancing life and health insurance ceiling for coworkers and employed dedicated services of a doctor from whom employees can access emergency medical services over the phone.
Interestingly, companies are mulling social distancing as a means to improve employee health. Restricting the number of passengers in elevators, they are encouraging employees to use the staircase. They feel that a growing millennial workforce predisposed to a healthy lifestyle will wholeheartedly step in to take up such a measure.
As governments around the world scramble to restart their economies which have fallen into an abyss, they are coming out with detailed workplace guidelines that represent a roadmap for companies seeking to revive their businesses.
Bangladesh is no different, and organisations such as RAK Ceramics (Bangladesh), one of the largest ceramics companies in the country, intends to abide by all labour laws, especially with respect to work timings at its manufacturing establishment.
Adnan Hamid is a senior communications professional.
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