With everything volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous in the world multiplying, over 20 Apeejay People strive for quality as their business reopens with restrictions, make resolutions for Post Covid 19, settle into a WFH routine, discover joys, appreciate simplicity, and most importantly we are glad to see a few who are having fun which is an important part of who we are at Apeejay. Presenting the fifth edition of our novel Community Blog launched right after the Janata Curfew in March to give a platform to a multitude of people voices at work or working from home for Apeejay.
We received a consent letter from the District Authorities to open the garden from 11th April subject to various protocols. The moment the consent letter came, our first step was to organise a meeting with all Line Chowkidars, workers unions – ACMS, CITU and ACKS – to discuss the 28 point Do’s and Don’ts list was discussed and explained by our DGM Mr Pradeep Kakoty. After that we had to work out how many workers we could actually employ keeping the 50% workforce point in mind. Following this we held discussions with the core team comprising all executives as well as the JBs to chalk out a plan of action once we opened the next day. Our primary objective was how to adhere to the Health Ministry norms. 1500 cloth masks had been pre-ordered and procured because of our DGM’s foresight so we had enough to start and then we went about tackling the logistical nightmare of ensuring social distancing while people come and go back home from work in the fields. This task was entrusted to me. My team and I decided that if Dhulapadung was to be kept open, the operations would have run with military style precision. Water tanks were placed at designated spots where for hand washing and the path was marked out , pre designated spots, by our Welfare Officer and his team. It was only when each person sanitised their hands would they be issued a mask and allowed to enter the tea field for plucking, pruning or any other task they were assigned to for the day. Our mantra to our workers was simple: “Maintain social distancing, wash your hands frequently, always wear a mask and Stay Home Stay Safe”.
During the lockdown period, I “celebrated” my 50th birthday and after reopening of the garden, I “celebrated” my 25th wedding anniversary but without wine and dine. I am just grateful to God that my wife and both my children were with me. Had thought of many things to do but as John Lennon famously once said: “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans”.
I stay just about 1.5 kilometers away from the hotel and it takes me approximately 15 minutes for the commute to the Hotel. There are regular checks by the Police for ID proofs, Government passes and to ensure masks are worn – something I have never experienced during my career while going to office. The hotel being completely shut, but operating for takeaway deliveries, has opened new opportunities and responsibilities for me during this lock down. As a Manager, I am empowered with the responsibility of handling the show while I am on duty, taking decisions on orders in case there is an issue (Eg. non availability of a particular item), making sure safety protocols are followed strictly, updating reports, handling settlements and ensuring they are posted correctly by the end of the day are few of the many tasks that comprise a small slice of my day at work. As much as there are a few challenges, it is a great feeling to hold fort and be at helm of the F&B Department while the Hotel is not completely operational, taking on new roles every day. With limited team, it is in my hands to ensure that each portion is weighed correctly, orders are delivered on time and that every guest who orders from The Park Chennai is happy. Food being a necessity and an essential part of all our lives, I am happy to be able to provide this service to our guests. I strongly believe that it is at times like this, where we all must come together and display our solidarity as employees of the Service Industry and as frontline teams.”
Post lock down, my biggest challenge was to produce marketable quality orthodox tea as Kharjan Tea Estate has been renowned for its orthodox teas. In fact, currently, we are the only tea estate in Apeejay which is manufacturing orthodox teas. To face this challenge, I started by briefing the pluckers at the field how to pluck the desired quality of leaves, monitored that all parameters of manufacturing orthodox teas are followed going down to each detail like how much withering is required to create a decent produce and finally overseeing the conversion of the produce to orthodox teas. After the government directive to work with 50% workforce, we have around 1400 people working currently at Kharjan comprising the entire lot of permanent workers and some casual workers, who are used primarily in the manufacturing process. Currently, we are creating around 2000 kg of orthodox tea per day. While I am at the field, my wife, who works in the government sector, takes care of the household. She has been going to office everyday and has been looking after each and every thing starting from getting groceries and managing the house, to what we will eat, to the studies of my daughter. Since I have been working throughout the lockdown as well as after lockdown, I think all of this would not have been possible without her support.”
Asking an out and out brick and mortar retailer to work from home is like asking a fish to walk!!! But such are the times…. When the reality hit me that we need to temporarily shut operations due to the pandemic, it was an eerie and hollow feeling. The first thought that crossed my mind was the well being of all team members and their family. Communication became extremely important and messages were exchanged at an unprecedented rate. Then came the challenge of being productive – keeping yourself insulated from all the depressing news floating around. I started to check less messages on phone, in some cases completely ignoring certain groups / senders. News / analysis was a must on certain channels. Within the first week, things started falling in place. Our media team became extremely active and when I was not participating in that, the mind was trying to figure out business scenarios post lockdown. Regular video conferencing helped, and collectively we had a plethora of ideas all waiting to be implemented, come the right time and opportunity. Attending various webinars also had a positive effect where in one can learn and keep abreast of so many things. I got to catch up on a lot of reading and watching old classics! In these times one must salute the Apeejay’s IT team for their support and HR for being so compassionate. After hearing a lot of stories from different organisations, I can proudly say that we are lucky to work in a space that is so kind and considerate. Till we meet again….”
I am managing the housekeeping operations during this difficult period of lock down with 3 team members. With limited manpower and limited supplies, we have been able to achieve levels of hygiene that is required and our guests are happy. All departments are contributing and we are even managing laundry in-house. There are team members staying at the hotel and we are being provided all facilities. The entire team has put up some remarkable efforts against all odds. We are trying to keep ourselves motivated and the team’s morale is high. The Covid 19 virus is a killer to the mankind. It is so dangerous that anyone can meet this fatal accident if any of us don’t take it seriously. We are on red alert and honestly, I am finding that operating in these limiting and tough circumstances is a great experience & learning. Since lock down, I have been staying back at the hotel. My home is nearby but I am more comfortable staying at our hotel instead of travelling to and fro. My family is concerned like all families, but they know that we have ensured that we are safe and following all safety & hygienic norms and we are even helping people in a much worse situation than us. I hope this health crisis ends very soon. “
After the garden reopened, the workers were happy to get back to work but were also worried whether there will be any more lockdowns again or whether the police will restrict them from working as it is a question of their livelihood. The good thing that I noticed is that they have started taking precautions like wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining distance during work. As a labour intensive industry, we are very much alert. we know how an infectious disease like Covid 19 can quickly spread in a tea garden and why we must build a safe and hygienic work environment if the industry was to get back to work again. The guidelines issued by the Government was a great guide that aided us in formulating and implementing the desired design that would ensure that we resume work safely. Keeping a distance of 1 m, making washing points available for washing hands, ensuring that all workers wear masks and regular sanitization was carried out at the residential areas of workers, our factory, gardens and office areas. One Chowkider is deployed during the opening and shift changing to oversee that entry to the factory is after washing hands and feet. Sirdars of the trough, rolling, dryer, sorting and packing are strictly instructed to look after of the social distancing and to avoid physical contact. No entry of any worker or staff is allowed inside the factory premises without wearing a mask. Initially there was a problem in maintaining the discipline regarding the COVID-19 protocols which affected both the quality and quantity of the work but as days progressed things are now much better and under control. Due to 50% workforce rule it has been difficult for both the workers and management. . I had to reassemble the factory in a very short time. Another major hurdle was availability of vital spare parts which also affected the quality of work. Despite all this, I am mentally prepared to face all the challenges and have been encouraging every worker to be strong both mentally and physically to fight against this pandemic. I am sure that we will overcome this tough time. I stay with my wife, daughter and son at the estate bungalow. My daughter studies in Class 9 in Delhi Public School, Digboi, while my son studies in Class 2 of the same school. Their school is closed now but they are having online classes. Ever since, we heard about the onset of Covid19, we started preparing ourselves for the lockdown by stocking up groceries. We have a kitchen garden at the bungalow from where we get vegetables.”
I am working at the reception and during the lock down helping the team members and the guests as much as I can while also handling the reception and reservation. This Covid 19 virus will affect us in such a manner, we never thought. It can kill & spread to anyone if anyone of us does not follow the precautions. We are following all the safety norms while at work, like wearing mask, gloves, using hand sanitizers. We are talking to guests from a distance or over phone. I stay near the hotel but due to the lock down, I decided to stay back as I feel safer here. My parents were worried but I have spoken to them about safety & hygiene SOPs and I talk to them daily to allay their fears of how I am doing. The Security, Housekeeping, Kitchen & Services, etc. are working as a team with us with full dedication. There is a great experience to gain in this scenario on how to work as well as survive. I will definitely remember this situation & experience all my life.”
The global outbreak of Covid19 had a huge impact on the working of Budlapara Tea Estate. The normal working of the estate was totally paralyzed due to the nationwide lock down announced by the Prime Minister of India. Our first major challenge was to identify the persons who have come from other states to our estate and quarantine them for a period of 14 days. The second daunting task was to maintain social and physical distance amongst the people while working. Announcements were made in the labour lines using the public announcement system regarding the do’s and don’ts of the virus. Disinfectants were sprayed in each and every corner of the residential and working areas of the estate and the working/ non working population of the estate were provided mask and sanitizers. On 13th April, we resumed operations after the government provided some relaxation. We have around 2200 workers at the estate but since the government said that we could function with 50% of the total strength of workers, we currently have around 1000 workers. We ensured that all preventive measures and protocols were followed at the garden like putting up a washing point at each challan , monitoring that the workers were maintaining minimum 1 meter distance from each other, ensuring that every worker is wearing masks and those who spray pesticides are wearing PPEs. Our payment days are Friday and Saturday and we give rations to the workers on Thursdays. All these are being done following all protocols and preventive measures. I stay with my wife and daughter, who studies in Class 7. We get our groceries from a nearby market and vegetables from a small kitchen garden that we have created at the bungalow.”
“This is the first time it’s work from home for me! Initially I was completely baffled on how I am going to operate. Then after a few days I created my own separate workspace and ensured I woke up early keeping in mind that I will go to office. Then I realized it was a matter of resetting the mental clock. Slowly things fell into place and my office routine is now stringent (try to make it) such, that, I do not get distracted with domestic work. Though, I do need to do the bare minimum to survive! I have created a timing for everything. Thanks to our IT team, I do not face any major issues as a big part of my work are with digital transactions using digital platforms etc. I am determined to up my skill in Technology. In office, we just call the IT team and we are done. Even simple things seem cumbersome but that is also due to our focus mainly on completing office tasks on time as we have deadlines. Yes, we are going through a tough time but this crisis is teaching us a lot, at least I feel the biggest thing I learnt is we should have knowledge of everything but you need not be an expert in everything. Hope we overcome this tough time soon because I would like to get to office. ”
Mine is a client facing role and it had never ever crossed my mind in my distant dream that I will be working from home for such a long time. I have always been an advocate of staying close to your client and in the thick of action as in my opinion that gives you complete control of the situation. While WFH was a forced change and I had my doubts how will we manage work, the actual experience has totally exceeded my expectations. With all the technology in place, WFH has been a great experience and has been as engaging as it is while I work from office. I am able to stay in touch with my team constantly over the phone and Video Conferences and collaboration is as good with my team if not better. I also feel that it has cut down on my stress level and has helped me in work life balance. While the world is at home trying to save themselves, our front lines heroes are in the field manning our facilities and taking charge of any situation that arises. For ABC it is mostly the guards who are at the centres and taking care of not only the security of the centre but also ensuring proper upkeep of entire centre along with server rooms and UPS rooms. It is very easy for them to feel demotivated and reluctant but with sheer zest and zeal they are continuing to deliver exceptional work. I ensure that each of our Centre heads are in constant touch with these guards to understand any issues that they are facing on site and provide immediate and effective solutions. We also are constantly encouraging and appreciating the Guards for the great work they are doing on site and making sure that their effort is not going unnoticed and is being acknowledged. Continuous support, guidance and appreciation is keeping security teams motivated and helping to hold the ground and keep delivering exceptional results.”
On 12th April, we conducted an awareness meeting at the factory which was attended by the factory staff, sirdars, garden union members and the management regarding the steps to be taken for reopening the factory. There are around 830 permanent workers and 2000 casual workers in total at the estate. We are currently with half the strength. I have been attending office on a daily basis to send government returns and mail to district administration during the lockdown period. A nodal core committee was formed as per advice of the district administration for monitoring the SOPs of Covid19 protocols. We started operations with bare minimum workers as per advice of district administration. Masks were provided to all the workers at the factory and garden on the 1st day of resumption of work. Factory entrance area, office and vehicles are being sanitized regularly with Sodium Hypochlorite. The factory road have been marked at 1 meter distance to maintain social distancing. Hand washing facilities have been provided at factory main entrance and inside the factory. Worker are encouraged to wash their hands before entering/leaving Factory and frequently during working hours. Wages and rations have been given to factory workers maintaining social distancing. During lockdown, door to door wages payment have been made maintaining social distancing at workers’ houses. I stay with my wife and son who is studying in Class 10. His school is closed now but they are having online classes. My wife is a housewife and manages the household. There are some nearby shops from where we get groceries and household stuff.”
Since I live 12 kms away from the hotel, I am in the hotel since the lockdown except for a few short breaks. I will be going back home next week Tuesday because my family is missing me even though we video call and connect often. At this time, our only intention is to provide healthy and nutritious home style food for our guests. We have also been cooking extra meals for the lesser privileged and taking care of them on a daily basis. Feeding people is our passion and it gives us immense satisfaction serving people at this hour. I urge everyone to take care of your family and let us do the cooking for you. These unprecedented times shall pass, and we request our patrons, friends & communities to take precautions and look forward to a better living. The Park Kolkata awaits your visit with open hearts, till then stay home stay safe.”
Work from home in my profile is a complex process as it involves immediate approval, fixing quick calls, make appointments, fix tele appointments etc. Initially I thought it will be a tough juggle with my kid staying at home. For him if I am at home I am on holiday. But with time he understood that I am Working from Home. It took good amount time to make him understand and I had put myself in a complete disciplined work structure at home.
During work hours I have my separate space, so there is no distraction as such and at the same time, I ensure my son sits for his studies. I want to thank our solid IT team who are always a call away to solve any issue. I have made a routine to login at office time and then close my laptop when I am done for the day. Honestly, I do not get to understand when it is 8 pm nowadays. To distress myself I cook, this is one thing I have missed while working at office. Now I am always on my toes, but the fun part is that I enjoy it completely as I get to explore so many new recipes which I used to eat at restaurants. Once we are back to normal, I doubt whether my family would like to go to any restaurant. One thing this COVID19 taught us is to learn to find happiness in simplicity. “
At Ghoirallie Tea Estate, we resumed operations on 14th April following the directives of the government. Currently, we are engaging about 1000 workers. We have provided Mask and Gloves to all the members of the workforce. Social distancing norms are being maintained during plucking of leaves, weighments, disbursement of wages/ration etc. and at all workplaces. A Covid-19 task force team has been created in the garden, which goes from door to door in each line and makes the people aware about corona virus and preventive measures to stay safe and healthy. Spraying of disinfectant is being done at various places like residential areas of workers and staffs, office and hospitals. Proper PPE are provide to Spraying team, Paniwallas & Jugalis. Body temperature of workers are being monitored daily. Hand washing facilities have been provided at work place. Estate boundaries are sealed to restrict the entry of outsiders in the garden. On the family front, things have been under control and we have not faced any major challenge. My wife has ensured that we follow all precautions. There is a ration shop nearby from which we get our daily of groceries.”
Working in front office department as a supervisor during the lockdown and the usual handling of the shift in front office is a totally different feeling! I stay alone in Bangalore, so I decided to stay in hotel itself to ensure the smooth functioning of my department which should not be hampered due to my transport back and to work. I see every guest is in lockdown and they can’t move around the city as they usually do. So I ensure that I talk to them and make them feel comfortable. COVID 19 is something that can’t be imagined but we are sure that we can come out of it strongly.
The pre and post lockdown period has been a challenge for me as a Welfare Officer and also a great opportunity for me to do justice to my graduation degree in Social Work. I started awareness on Coronavirus as early as 9th March and continued them till lockdown started. Spraying of disinfectants began from 27th March at the residential quarters of the workers, office, hospital and areas where ration was issued. This entire exercise was successful with the help of our Garden Assistant Managers and their dedicated spraying squad. With the announcement of garden functioning from 11th April, our responsibilities multiplied as it was a big challenge to maintain social distancing in the sprawling fields. But the team effort and encouragement from our Manager, executives, staffs, and others helped us a lot in maintaining all protocols and ensuring that work was done properly. We arranged cotton cloth masks for all the permanent workers and also distributed the govt. provided 3 tier mask to them. The fire safety team sanitized the factory, hospital and whole of office area. I stay alone in the garden while my family stays in Chabua, which is 8 km away from the garden. Earlier, they would come to visit me but because of the lockdown, they cant. So, I have been in touch with them over phone throughout this period. This crisis has made all of us more practical and developed our thoughts and team work.”
I joined just a few months ago in February as Senior supervisor in housekeeping. I want to take this lockdown as an opportunity to prove myself so I was keen to handle the HK department during the Lockdown. I stay in the hotel and ensure that every area of the hotel is well maintained and all the guest request are catered on time without any compromise. Hygiene is the only way to keep yourself safe in normal circumstance and especially during this health crisis, so I have been taking it upon myself to ensure all my Guests are safe. I am very aware that it is my responsibility to ensure rooms, the things they use are properly cleaned and disinfected. COVID 19 is unfortunate but it can’t stop you if you’re determined to continue to contribute. I, My team and my family feel proud to contribute towards the company and the community during this pandemic. I want to thank the Management for extending their support and motivating us to do our best.”
Feeding hungry is a sacred thing that one can do and I am so lucky that this is also my profession. I never want to lay back and relax during this lockdown because I see how people suffer to have food, for lack of food. Most of the Hotels, Restaurant, Malls, Fast food centres are shut but I want to continue to do what I do. I stay 3 kms from the Hotel and manage to travel daily to work and I support my team to do their best. This is a difficult time but I know that this will never last forever so I decided to join the team of people working in the hotel and be a support to them. I not only support in making food for the in-house guests but we make food for the underprivileged people near the hotel and distribute it. I thank my family for supporting and encouraging me during this tough times. I ensure safe, healthy and hygienic food for everyone during this lockdown and this is giving me great job satisfaction.”
I am a hotelier by profession. Serving with a smile is all I know and wanted to continue to do the same during this lockdown also. I want to ensure my guests are happy and safe and the smile in the faces of my Guest and Team never diminishes during this lock down. I stay around 3 kms from the hotel and I manage to travel on my own to support my team to serve the guests better. During this lock down I feel as if I possess new energy towards my goals as a hotelier which coaxes me and enables me to continue to perform my duties to mankind within my immediate sphere. My family is proud of what I’m doing for society and they see me as a community warrier. I connect to my family regularly through phone calls to understand that they are safe.”
I stay about 7 kms away and come to work in my bike. It is very tough as the public movement is restricted. Still I choose to come because, I wanted to be part of various community services that we are doing from the hotel. I am a part of Neighbourhood services and free food hour and also I drive for guests when required and able. I never see my job during this time as a duty but as a service to the community. Every time the neighbors say good about what we do I feel great, When Guests thank me for driving I feel good. I am happy to be associated with the team that motivates you to do all that you can.”
I am a first timer when it comes to work from home in this organised manner also at the same time in a challenging way. It did take me a couple of days to manage my domestic and office work but after a routine took its place just exactly as if I was going to office. Infact I start my work hours early because there’s no commute time and because no one is going out in the evenings so we are always focusing on work. To me work actually works as a distraction from the news floating around on COVID 19. It is very easy to get distracted in these circumstances but I am determined not to let anything take away my focus. It really takes a lot of effort to stay motivated and the irony is that it is in my profile as part of my KRA! I always try to stay connected with as many employees as I can, especially new team members in our own department and people working in the frontline in our Parks and Head Office. I feel that we all have been able to take up and complete a lot more work as we have nowhere to go and have no plans.. On the productivity side, I feel it has increased as when you are virtual you are less distracted—nobody’s is or can disappear for coffee or going and disappearing to socialize, hence a lot time is saved. Besides work I have developed a routine to do my research and study related to my field, which I always missed in normal office routine and which I am sure will hold me in good stead.”
“To be honest I am finding no difference in Working from office and Working from home as I am extremely disciplined. In any case Work from Home is not a new concept as it was always there, difference is we all were not used to the process till Covid 19 hit us all. I always carry necessary papers and documents with me including data in my hard drive. So now while I am working from home, the discipline has helped. My family wakes up at the usual time and the way we get ready for office and school we follow the same routine nowadays too. Sharp at 9:30 AM I am logged in and keep my to do list ready so I can close works and meet my deadlines. We as a family take lunch break as per office rules 1:30 pm to 2 pm and then back to work till we finish our respective work. Work from home needs a lot of dedicated effort and self-control else you mixing domestic and office work is normal. One biggest learning during this lock down is that I have realised I have to take time out to learn more about technical problems of my computer. We do have a robust IT team but if I gather a basic knowledge it will help our IT team to smile. I have promised myself that when the dust settles down I am going to work on my IT skills. Updating oneself in technology will always helps one to stay ahead. ”
We are glad to see people are living Apeejay brand values – Youthful, Inspired, Solid, Committed & Entrepreneurial. We will keep in touch with them and keep encouraging them to hold on so that we can all come back stronger as a People and as a Business!
Apeejay Community Blog will be Continued
COME BACK ON MAY 2nd FOR THE 6th EDITION
OF THE 6th WEEK OF THE INDIAN LOCK DOWN