A Work Culture that could go “viral” this May Day

All kinds of ‘workers’ have, in the face-off with the corona tsunami, re-imagined Work, adding a Covid 19 chapter to May Day’s long & varied history dating back a millennia. Perhaps! We are issuing Blog 6 on May Day 2020 to honour the contributions of “workers” who have, regardless of their Job Descriptions, redefined what their “work” is; honour the grit of all essential workers who have laboured tirelessly to keep our societies liveable and are in awe of those who took their “Work” and made it a visible example of Love.

Here you go :-.

Aditya Baheti Senior Manager, Finance, Apeejay Tea

“I have never worked from home for this prolonged time though I was used to work from home process with my previous organization, but not regularly. This ‘ New Normal’ is teaching us things we have never faced and actually forcing us to stretch our way of working. There is a flexibility no doubt but WFH needs solid discipline. Thankfully we have a robust IT system and we are living in smartphones and digital era where we can connect to work whenever we want and from wherever we want. Covid 19 actually made us realise nothing is impossible, business can run, it only needs intention and commitment from employees. My personal learning I would like to share is that I have overcome my hesitation to talk with team members over phone. I always believed that speaking face to face is more impactful than on phone. In the last few weeks I have discovered that I can be a good listener (smiles) and my focus is to help my team members to look for solutions only instead focussing on the difference of opinion. I want to admit that the productivity and quality has been higher than in office. As a team we are trying to ensure that we do not lose the connect because no matter what it is important for teams to meet and connect. During this time I have also found my me-time in the midst of such pressure in every front. On Sundays I play cricket with my Son as both of us love cricket and it helps take our my mind off. Let us hope we bounce back soon. ”   

Santosh Tewari, Deputy General Manager Typhoo India

“I have no qualms to admit that Initial few days I was not organized to Work From Home. As it became the ‘New Normal’ as the saying goes “Survival of the fittest” I had to reorient myself, adapt and attempt to excel in the new environment. In the morning we have a team call and set out day’s target, update ourselves with regular business. In Typhoo we ensure to cater all requirements which are coming in during this crisis time, and end of the day we discuss where we are standing on our day’s planning. I personally keep track of my team mates and their family’s well being. Keeping a close watch on the market including new announcements from the government, policies etc is part of my job. The world seems like it will never be the same post COVID 19. It’s a race and it is time for us to change, we can only hope for a better tomorrow. We should be able to adjust and adapt to this new environment of social distancing, washing and keeping yourself hygienic all the time. My team and I are discussing how the business process and marketing will change based on the changing consumer behaviour and how we will adapt. There is a seismic shift in the way we are working and living for the foreseeable future. As much as work has to adjust to a new reality, our homes must also adapt to work and the need to stay productive, to keep businesses running, and workers employed.  Till a vaccine is invented it is our individual responsibility to behave responsibly and take care of each other including the community. Stay Home, stay strong and stay Healthy”

Suman Sur, Director IT & E marketing

As the COVID-19 pandemic pushed India into a lockdown, it was a big task for us to ensure that the hotel IT was running as normal.  Working remotely or as commonly spelled out work-from-home (WFH) was the next alternative but it was a prime responsibility of our entire IT team to ensure the uptime of business applications, network security & collaboration tools to mitigate lockdown impact. A safe & secure office vehicle was provided to us on alternate days, as physical presence was necessary to manage some important jobs like, managing bandwidth, VPN setup, cloud availability, schedule backup process and relocation, date change of billing systems, and continuity assurance of back-office applications. Online distribution and marketing was also a prime focus for us to maintain the brand visibility & digital presence. Cleanliness & hygiene was always a basic practice at our workplace, but amidst this recent crisis, we found a “New Normal” for front of the house & heart of the house areas which gives us a complete comfort to come and work without any fear. A strong screening process for each team member, easy availability of sanitizers / masks & other new hygiene processes, ensures the safety of each team member and guest. In a quarantine like situation, staying motivated on the job is a daunting task but thanks to our HR initiatives, all of us are really engaged and charged up during this trying time. We understand that, moving forward the biggest challenge for our industry will be to instill confidence in our guests with regards to the cleanliness, hygiene and sanitization practices of our properties. As such, we are planning and preparing to implement touch-free check-in & check-out process for front office operations. We are also implementing a QR-code based menu ordering and payment system as it is not possible to sanitize a printed menu after every use. Technology will be the key asset in the future for the hospitality industry and all of us are working on some smart ideas like voice-enabled room automation, AI enabled smart housekeeping, mobile room key, remote check-in / check-out etc to sharpen the business essentials post COVID scenario. And we are sure that the ASPHL will come back together, stronger.

Vijay Kumar Sharma, Senior Executive,  Sales, Oxford Bookstore

“Oxford Bookstore physical store is closed for the lockdown but we are connected to our consumers through the social media channels. All the activities are focused on connecting with bestselling authors through various live sessions, book recommendations and encouraging book readings. During this period of lockdown and my Work From Home routine is focused on way forward. I plan my work before I start the day and keep a task sheet ready in front of me. I prioritise my work and schedule time slots and continue till I finish my to do list. I am in regular touch with all publishers clients and discuss their new launches plan post lockdown. I am now doing my industry research and monitoring developments how publishing industry and competitors and making their way forward. I am not happy working from home as I am not surrounded by books, as I feel incomplete without them. Books is an inseparable part of my life, I always find ways to connect with books.  Presently I am doing research on fast moving self-help books as I have a feeling this category will sell more, as we all are in a ‘depression’ mode. I am personally an avid reader and aim to finish 3-4 books in a week and I am encouraging everyone to read especially during this time because it helps us in our mental health. I am presently reading IKIGAI which talks about how by keeping our diet, thought process and mental health keeps us healthy. This crisis is actually teaching us to stay simple and find happiness with small things.”

Dilip Gurung, FAM, Dhulapadung TE

This is a once in a life experience of mine that how such a minuscule virus could impact our life style as well as impact our economic growth. It was a panic situation for me during the lock down period and at the same time, I was very much concerned about the health of our garden workers. Post Lock down period I am concerned with running the garden as per Government guidelines which mentioned all the precautions and preventive measures with 50 % workforce to run the estate. During lockdown, I used to go to the office every day and wherever I met people, I would make them understand how dangerous this virus was and how important it was that for survival, we must be together to boost up our Tea industry. On payment days, we have maintained social distancing and other protocols.Factory has always been and will be a core area in an tea garden where visitors often come and therefore, I had to be more careful and concerned about the factory and I, as a factory manager, have a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. Post the Lock down I have to see to my factory workers’ health and provide them proper PPE during working hours.  When the garden re-opened,  we commenced manufacturing orthodox teas taking all preventive measures like washing hands before and after main entrance of the factory and also inside the factory gate. During despatch, all transport vehicles are sanitized. Despatch drivers were provided with hand sanitizers and trainings. Most of the factory workers in my factory are temporary and after taking all other initiatives, we each of them with 5 masks to each, continuing with the awareness programs about the disease. Covid19 has brought sadness. One day, while I was distributing payment to workers, I found one of them looking very depressed. He hadn’t eaten anything for the last three days so I gave him Rs 500 for food. I have my wife, daughter, mom and my brother who stay at Tinsukia which is a very crowded place. I call them every day, ask about their health and advise them that should not leave home.

Narender Singh Rawat, DGM, Sales- Typhoo

“My profile is sales so initially WFH experience was confusing. I was not sure how I am going work and release orders or interact with my retailers. Honestly I was desperate to get back to field and hold my meetings in person which was not possible as we were all in lockdown.  In my profile visiting market, speaking to the customers, interacting with the sales person on the floor in person, meeting the clients is key part of work. Soon I set up a new routine to adapt to the changing business process and challenges since Tea bags are partially not essentials. So now after initial few days of hiccups I have set daily calls with my team, we create a to do least and end of the day connect back on how we are performing on a daily basis. When you work from home, it is extremely crucial that your work is justified and focus remain on how productively one is spending time.  On personal front I am at peace that I could spend time with family especially when it seems that our life has become shorter and uncertainties are part of daily routine now. I spend a lot of my time with my daughter and both of us are trying our hand in cooking which is really fun. I always had been interested in astrology so I now whenever I get time I read on the subject.”    

Anirban Simlai – General Manager. The Park, Hyderabad

It has been no less than a war for last one month. The world has come to a stand still fighting with covid 19 pandemic. We have limited operational team working every day at the hotel including me. Everyone else is at home standby or working from home. I have been in constant touch with the team to make sure they are in good health while the HR team is making sure they check on all employees and make sure they have access to food, medicine or any essentials they need. Currently hotel is doing home delivery of all the popular dishes from our menus and there is a huge response to our Love Aaj Kal offerings. We are  engaged in community services directly by supplying medicine and essentials to elderly citizens in the vicinity and also through Govt of Telangana relief agency – Telangana State Innovation Cell. I am in constant touch with my HODs and often we are meeting in the hotel to take necessary rounds of the property.  We have organised E learning and training session for all executive and non executive team members with the help of management and Apeejay Institute of Hospitality. The  entire Top and Middle management of the Apeejay Surendra Park Hotels  have been brain storming through virtual meetings on strategies to REIMAGINE ,RESET and RESTART so that all our hotels achieve super efficiency and continue to stay ahead of the competition. This is an unprecedented crisis and I keep telling my team to get ready for the NEW NORMAL. We have to set new benchmarks on health and hygiene standards, continue with our flexible pricing strategy and constantly monitoring , controlling and reducing expenses to improve the  bottom line.

Rajesh Kumar Verma, Associate Manager, Accounts – Typhoo

“Work from home is really a new experience for me! This is the first time I am working from home in office hours, It requires a lot of self-discipline. Since lockdown, millions of professionals have been experiencing the pros and cons of home office for the first time. At office, people have to clock in and out, but now our day starts with login in whatsapp group created for office work. The Typhoo team already have a robust digital platform system where we can login from anywhere. At the same time we are all are connected through technologies like Zoom, Skype, Whats App groups to discuss work anytime. It is very challenging to handle paper work in finance but when it comes to payments the digital system is the safest option. We are grateful that the Government for the extended GST payments and return filling dates and some relief from tax compliance. It also provide extra time to complete pending works which were left out due to other work priorities. I feel that crisis is very much part of life, it gives us directions to change our roadmap. When facing any uncertainty, we first need to recognize it and understand how we can overcome it. Strategizing under uncertainty requires the mental flexibility to consider a situation through the prism of multiple mental models. This results in reinventing ourselves and looking back to learn from past mistakes. The only thing that is a constant is change so my advice to everyone is to accept the changes and adjust our frame of mind. If we look on another side many of us have craved to spend time with family so this is a blessing in disguise to strengthen our bonding with our families. Like I always regretted not to giving enough time to my kids and now I am always with them and spend great amount of quality time which I sure is adding value to them and to me, now and in the future too.”      

Aritra Kar, Manager, Projects- Apeejay Global Logistics Park

The world seems to have hit a pause button and pushed us into a twilight zone where the clock and calendar seems to have abandoned us entirely. Amidst this my work has helped me remain sane. Although I miss the energy of a bustling site, I see this as an opportunity to test my limits and explore how we can continue to make a difference even when locked up at home. Our team is a close-knit one normally too so this has helped us remain productive during the lockdown. We have fallen back on technology, and established robust communication channels – including numerous phone calls, constant text messaging, and regular zoom calls – that allows the team to remain constantly in touch. We are working as much, if not more, to ensure that this lockdown inflicts minimum damage to our projects. Challenges are aplenty, but we are determined to being as productive in WFH as we are on the site.  Unwinding from work is difficult when you cannot even go for walks. This has taken me into the kitchen, where I am rediscovering my cooking skills. I would have to admit that the shut sweet shops have led me to focus all my culinary explorations towards desserts. I cook things that indulge my sweet-tooth, and my latest conquest was the quintessential Bengali dessert ‘Chhanar Payesh’.  Hopefully, my cooking portfolio will grow much like Apeejay’s business portfolio!

Rohit Arora. Area GM, The Park New Delhi

I never imagined ‘Working from home’ could be so intense! In these precarious times we are also learning a new art – the art of staying connected all the time while at home – the art of overcoming distractions, formulating a plan that is productive for us and our team members, and most importantantly adding some exercise to our routine. It is a complex structure! This is the time when we have an opportunity to explore how do we add value to our organisation, our teams and suppliers. This is the time when we don’t have to ‘think out of the box’, we need to instead break the box! Break the box and come up with fresh ideas that can help us survive the Post Coronavirus time. These may be the toughest times that our country and the hospitality industry will witness and we need to be ready with a plan to survive the storm. The way we are managing the hotels just now is truly incredible. With hotel staff leaving their families and staying with us, working harder in absence of complete staffing, learning the idea of multi-tasking and taking the risk of being at work during lockdown, our teams truly have shown their dedication towards their jobs and towards the brand. While I and my department heads have taken the ownership to keep our teams motivated, it is truly inspirational to have our Chairperson, Ms. Priya Paul and our Managing Director, Mr. Vijay Dewan personally connecting with the team members, motivating them, checking with them on their wellbeing and offering support in any way. This really shows that True Leaders are humble and  inspire greatness!

Firoz Awadh Senior Manager | Operations Apeejay Shipping Limited 

I really never would have imagined that Work From Home & Work At Home would be a Possibility but today’s COVID 19 situation has proved me wrong. Each one of us is trying to Work From Home to the best of their capacity and the remaining part of the day is Work At Home which may not be to the best of their capacity ! In my WFH I have been getting calls from my colleagues regarding various work related inputs required which I provide.  However all of us are now wanting to resume office as I believe Lockdown seems to be too extended but that may not be possible so soon as we need to ensure safety of ourselves, our families and society as whole. In my opinion, a good use of our time would be to get in touch with our clients, our business associates and most importantly, External Officials  (Government / Sanctioning Authorities, etc)  who will be playing a major role after we resume work. A simple Whatsapp message or a telephone call enquiring about their well being would be a good gesture. In my Work at Home – Mumbai has reported very high cases of Corona Virus Endemic and my residential area, Bandra, is a Red Zone. So with this restricted movement, I am trying my hand at cooking but had to eat my own cooked food for 2 days as my family could not bear to eat it!  Believe me, whatever one cooks taste good to oneself regardless of all the negative feedbacks. This made realise my true potential so I have turned away from cooking nowadays and have switched my attention to cleaning and other daily chores – basically anything unskilled. I think my family prefers that! We are all aware that soon this Work from Home will end and we will look back at these times with fond memories and new experiences. We will all be back to the grind and have no or limited time for our family, friends and loved ones. Let try and make best of this time available at our hands.  Let us search out that one friend who was close to us but we lost touch due to our commitment to work, family and lifestyle. Pick up your phone and call him Now ! For we may not get this opportunity again !!!

Ramanpreet Singh Awal, Senior Manager, Finance & Commercial, Apeejay House Private Limited

“Being in finance and commercials, I have been working from home after office hours and during weekends quite often. However, working from home during office hours is a new experience for me. Initially, there were some issues relating to the work environment at home, however, within 2-3 days I was slowly able to create a work environment at home. Also, there were some difficulties relating to the unavailability of files and documents, but thankfully I have scanned copies of most of my relevant documents in system and mails and able to get access to most of the information which is required for my smooth day-to-day working.  Technology is playing a vital role in facilitating our work from home through phone conference calls, emails, video conferencing, WhatsApp, and our robust IT Network. My day during this lockdown period starts with accounts conference call with our CEO and team members to get an update about our receipts and payments, which is followed by operations team conference call to get an update about operations at our various Apeejay Real Estates properties and discuss issues relating to the sites. I am utilizing the rest of my day in negotiations and closing the contracts with the vendors and analysing the financial and accounting data, which I can comfortably do with my phone and laptop. We have a robust accounting system in Real Estate, which we can access from anywhere. It is helping us a lot in our smooth working. We are also interacting with each other through video conferencing daily, which is enhancing our coordination during this difficult time. Though I can do most of my work from home, still there is a hindrance concerning the progress of our projects as most of our projects are on halt due to this lockdown. So, I am eagerly waiting for things to get back on track. If we have the will, then I think we can perform most of our duties and responsibilities by working away from the office. This I learned during this crisis situation.  I am researching my area of interest through reading and attending webinars arranged by the various professional organizations. This is helping me in updating myself and building a strong knowledge base. Surprisingly, I am trying to learn some cooking skills, of which I had no idea earlier and I am now able to cook momos, pasta, pizza! Some physical exercise at home is helping me to keep fit and I am also playing some indoor games during my free time.”

Abhisek Somani Chief Financial Officer Apeejay Shipping Limited

It’s been almost a month into forced “Work from Home”.  Whilst the concept of WFH was widely accepted in new age businesses like Information Technology and Start Ups, its acceptance in the brick and mortar business had always been looked upon with doubt. The primary concern being whether the human resources would be effectively putting in the working hours that is expected of them. My experience largely being of brick and mortar business and flawed by human tendency to always believe the grass is greener on the other side, was that it is incompetency of managers of brick and mortar business that is holding them back from these new age HR concepts. However, as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Having now spent almost 30 days in the current scenario it is a good time to do a fact check on the efficacy of the WFH process. The first thoughts that come to my mind are that days before the pandemic broke out, we would  sitting in meetings with co-workers, laughing with peers over lunch and maybe even gearing up for a big presentation in front of the boss and now most of us are working from home in self isolation. For social animals like us I don’t think that is really a great psychological feeling. Agree, we are being able to spend more time with family but then foragers life was left behind by our ancestors for they were buoyed by the idea of enhancing social span of our species – perhaps the single most important reason for the middle-lower food chain species as ours to become the ruler of this planet. Also have realised that team interactions through Skype, Microsoft meetings, WhatsApp or the much de-famed zoom, drain out my energy faster than it does of my mobile and/or computer! Setting aside the health issues which is altogether a separate debate in itself, putting the mobile phone near my ears for so long itself makes my senses go numb. For most of times, attention is focussed on either ensuring that one is able to capture the whole conversation without drops or keep fidgeting between speaker/no-speaker, mute-unmute, video-no video modes. Ability to think upon an out of box idea and/or attack a problem with fresh insight in the midst of a conversation is largely impaired. At this juncture, would want to give out a loud shout of thanks to Apeejay Shipping Team who have despite the above challenges been working hard to keep the show on. There has been significant challenges on the operational side varying from non-availability of provisions, stores and spares at desired locations, logistical challenges to ensure timely supply and also handling growing impatience of crew staff on account of no visible timeline for release with national lockdown coupled with non-operation of Domestic/International airlines making it impossible for crew change to be effected. Active coordination between all the spokes of the wheel has ensured that we have been able to overcome most of these challenges and keep operating all our available ships without much collateral damage. Have been reading a lot on various platforms that WFH is the new normal. I agree that whilst the process has some inherent advantages of reducing carbon emission, saving transit time specifically in context of overcrowded countries like ours and flexibility of managing time but then there are some very critical and non-negotiable disadvantages as well. To be honest I am still playing Hamlet on this one.  I am not sure if WFH is the new normal specifically given that the present WFH is a forced situation and generally forced situation do not result in becoming a new normal. If it was the new normal than how do I justify my urge to Work from Work that has catapulted to more than 100% because of the current situation. So for all those pundits there who have already classified this as the new normal, would request you to hold on to your horses for a few more days as we would know the real normal only once people are provided with choices. On a lighter note, who would want to be dabbling with making food or cleaning utensils with one hand and working on the laptop with the other.

Karan Gurnani, General Management Trainee, Department- Food & Beverage Service, The Park Kolkata

 “The health and well being of our team members & guests is our top most priority. We maintain the highest standards of hygiene and health while preparing and packing food. Our management has been taking great care of us, and we are fully equipped to fight this battle against COVID 19 together. Our travel, lodging and meals are all taken care by the hotel, so the safety measures are high. My family members feel deeply about our health but the hygiene standards adopted by our hotel reassures them about our well being. We request our patrons to stay safe, stay home & follow the WHO guidelines during this challenging time and trust us in providing world services at your doorstep with the highest standards of hygiene.”

Sahida Khatoon, Welfare Officer, Pengaree TE

After discussing with the Sr. Medical Officer, “Coronavirus” Awareness in workers residential areas started from 13th March. After Govt. Notification when Schools were closed from 16th March, teachers were asked to join in impart awareness along with Line Chowkidars, ASHA, Anganwadi Workers, Health Assistants. As the lock down began, movement in workers’ colonies were prohibited by making barricades with bamboos which were made by the youths. During this period, Santization was carried out at the Residences, Hospital, Ambulance, Office, Factory and in all establishments in the Estate. In post lock down period,we had to comply with govt. guidelines at workplace and challenges arose here – (1) Arrangement of Masks, (2) Keeping physical distance, (3) Frequent hand washing of the workers. To address these, masks were ordered and procured. Next major challenge for us was to create a mindset change  – making it compulsory to wear masks, maintain physical distance and frequent washing of hands. With coordinated effort of ASHA Karmis, Anganwadi Workers, Line Chowkidars, Sirdars, School Teachers, medical staff, staff and worker unions, ACKS and ACMS, we were able to impart continuous awareness and monitoring in field and factory. In hospitals, we are complying with government guidelines. During this period, I was a little panicky inside as I had to be in direct contact with the workers or working among them as there was fear of spread of the disease. My mother and brother were also worried as well but I soon realized that I had to be strong enough to deal with the situation as I had to take care of around 5000 people living in Pengaree TE and our role was like of a parent to them.

Sanjib Ghosh, Manager, Fleet Personnel – Apeejay Shipping

“Work from Home in my field which is B2B is extremely challenging, though we have a proper system and process in place but the uncertainties is so much around that is becoming a challenge in itself. We are facing issues new in nature and we are always on the edge to fix them. Apeejay Shipping is adhering to all the SOPs issued by DG Shipping and areconstantly working with the authorities related to the Shipping Industry. Beside this, me and my other team members along with the COO are in touch with the seafarers on board and with their families, as it is our priority to keep them upbeat and mentally fit. Crisis happens to teach us something or the other, in my case I learnt how to limits my focus and attention on solutions only and stay calm while doing so. If I have to rate myself to handling tough situations on a scale of 1- 10 , I can rate myself min 8! This might sound like a self-boast but I think it is a self-discovery. Beside I have ensured that all family members work on their consumer behaviour in terms of food, buying clothes, non-essential stuffs. I pray that we come out of this situation soon and bounce back fast. I salute to the seafarers because all of them are on their toes to handle any situation and keeping their patience and hope with us”  

Chef Amit Majhi, The Park Hyderabad

In my entire life I have not seen such crisis situation. I have been working with THE Park Hyderabad for last 10 years. My residence is two kms away from the hotel, and it’s easy to walk (keeps me healthy too). I have taken it up to me to organize the kitchen team and manage the hotel’s requirements with limited resources available. Food safety and hygiene norms are of utmost priority here, as we cook for staff and guests. When our regular guests  write on social media that the quality and the hygiene standard of THE Park Hyderabad is the best I feel top of the world . That’s my most precious certificate ever received. We are also providing food to the underprivileged people through government agencies.  My wife is very supportive and one day after work she told me ‘ Like doctors and police working all day, I feel like my husband is no less a hero” . We shall overcome this challenge soon.

Dibakar Kalita, FAM, Budlapara TE

On 13th April, we had resume our operations in both factory and field. We had to utilise 50% of our workforce as per Govt. directives, which comes to around 900 workers. We had an awareness meet on COVID-19 on the very first day at the factory after lock down. The meet was attended by staff, Sirders, Garden Union, workers and management team. Masks were provided to àll workers at the factory on the very first day of the reopening. Hand washing facilities and sanitizers were also provided to the workers at the factory entrance and inside the factory and all workplaces. Maintaining physical distance was given a high priority. What I noticed most was that the workers had very much become aware and were very alert about the spread of this virus and their cooperation made it so much easier to run the factory safely and hygienically. My primary focus is to make good quality teas which can be sold at good price in the present market by maintaining all the parameters religiously in the manufacturing process. We are currently manufacturing orthodox teas and are able to make 700 kgs daily.  I stay alone at the garden while my family stays at Tezpur, which is around 100 km away from my garden. Although, I cannot meet them now, I stay in touch with them over phone.  

Sumi Sarkar, Front Office Trainee, The Park Kolkata

Ever since the COVID19 gathered steam and as advised by the government & management, the hotel has enacted elevated precautionary operational protocols, including deep-cleaning measures in the restaurant, lockers and in all public areas, and meeting spaces. All areas across the hotel have been well sanitized & the highest standards of hygiene have been implemented. We are blessed to be working with a great team and The Park has been taking utmost effort to keep us hail and hearty. Our families concerns’ are greater, but as we work under a closed and well monitored environment and our fellow members are thoroughly checked and equipped, the risk factors are less & this makes them feel better. We look forward to welcoming back our guests soon, we are ready to fight back, and we wish our patrons good health and brighter days ahead.”

Gayatri Saikia, WO, Hapjan TE

It is a matter of great pride that my job as a Welfare Officer has put me in a position to take care of people during this really difficult time. Before the lock down, things were going on normal as my work schedule required. There were many ups and downs that any person would face in their normal career work which I too have faced. But not giving up and continuously & gradually developing myself was my motive. Creating awareness among people was a challenge and to me it felt as it there was a mix of people  – ones who were cautious as well as ones who don’t bother at all. But it feels nice to be involved among these people by talking and knowing their views about the devastating pandemic, how gradually these people are becoming conscious of their own attitude. After lock down, looking after people is surely a challenge. Firstly, we have stopped workers of the estate from going to work in other nearby private gardens and it feels nice to be supported by them. People are gradually learning to follow the necessary steps of keeping themselves clean & sanitized during their work time as well as also when they have reached home. The lock down was surely a challenge for us where we had to consistently remind everyone of the workers about the requirements since social or physical distancing is not a regular practice among people.

Sayan Dutta, Junior Supervisor, Department – Security, The Park Kolkata

 “Working during these days would always have some uncertainty to it, but from the very beginning, our hotel has taken every measure to safeguard our health and well being. We are given nutritious meals, the hotel is sanitized and disinfected at regular and periodic intervals, and we are briefed periodically to take good care of ourselves and our surroundings. All required health gear and amenities have been provided for us and we are working towards a a brighter and better future. Our families were a little apprehensive with us working in the beginning. However, having gone through the host of measures our organisation has adopted, they are more than happy and satisfied.  We stand together, and like they say, “this too shall pass.”

Ritam Bandopadhyay, Security Supervisor, The Park Kolkata

 “For us, our hotel, is like our home away from home. From meals to pick up and drop, gentle care, and constantly checking on our needs and comforts, we have it all! We are provided with all the necessary protective healthcare equipment’s such as sanitizers, masks & gloves and this makes us feel secure at work. Routine temp checks are executed as well. Our work environment is fun, and full of cheer and this makes us want to come to work everyday, even during these times. Covid 19 has brought fear in many, our families feel severely uncertain but the care The Park Kolkata has shown towards us gives them strength and courage. I request all our fellow Kolkatans to stay at home and fight this together. I am doing my bit, you do yours!

Joy Ramchiary, The Park Hyderabad

This is the worst crisis I have seen and felt in my entire career. I have been working with THE Park Hyderabad since 2016 and have been taking care of security and team. My job roles has become more important as I have to take rounds in the hotel to make sure everything is all right. I and my team was taking care of the food delivery as we wanted to make sure the hygiene measures are up to mark. My place is 3 kms away from the hotel mostly I walk or else I take my vehicle and make sure I come every day to take a look at my team and operational team. We have gone to many refugee camps and government camp area to provide food and essentials for people there. I and my team have been actively on our feet since the lockdown started, we even provide vehicle for pick and drop to staff who need to come to hotel and cannot due to no availability of transport. During his time family support is very important, yes they are worried and always ask me to take proper protection and stay safe. I see the pride in my family’s eyes when I tell them the days stories. This is an unprecedented crisis  and we are all together fighting and very soon will come out victorious. I have personally delivered medicines to many elderly people and the smile on their face is the best recognition I ever received.

Deepak Kumar Singh, Senior Housekeeping Supervisor, The Park Kolkata

 “Tough times don’t last, tough people do. As a team we are going all out in trying to combat this virus threat. We are ensuring the highest levels of hygiene for our teams and all spaces in the hotel. All the necessary protective equipment is used by us and enabling us to be safe and to deliver our jobs safely. Apart from providing us with delicious and nutritious meals to keep us going, we have been provided with facilities to relax and unwind in our free time. Our travel and stay arrangements have been taken care of and we are motivated more than ever. We have been given the most hygienic surroundings to work at, and this helps our families feel at ease .As a team we have various charitable and noble causes to keep working for and taking care of society in association with NRAI and local authorities is something that gives me great satisfaction. Everyone must follow WHO guidelines – Wash your hands, wear a mask, practice social distancing, stay home, stay safe!”

Bikas Chandra Baur, Senior Engineering Supervisor, The Park Kolkata

 “We are fighting this pandemic together, and through out this lockdown, we have been thoroughly supported by our management. The team members sanitize all exposed areas daily for our better health. We want to thank The Park for giving us a home, and for taking care of us in these challenging times. We are provided with masks, gloves and sanitizers at work for our health and hygiene reasons. We have dynamic and enriching training sessions to keep us motivated and in good health, both mental and physical. Our duty to serve people comes first and our families understand this very well. Seeing us well equipped to fight against the Pandemic gives them a sense of relief.  I urge all members of society to help fight this battle by “staying home” and “keeping all of us safe”.

Priyam Phukan, Welfare Officer, Borjuli T E

As the lock down was announced, we, at Borjuli TE, had created an emergency treatment ward in our non-operational factory premises to cope up with any upcoming emergency situation. This was primarily because the National Highway and railway track crosses through the middle of the Borjuli and hence, we had a different type of challenge and role in containing the disease. My responsibilities doubled as a Welfare Officer because I had to make doubly sure that about the health and safety of workers and their families. Coupled with this were the various instructions from the Manager and the District Administration which we were implementing dexterously. There was also the medical staff to whom I, along with my team, tirelessly extended our support.  Our whole team remained outdoors every single day in order to follow up on various aspects such as distribution of the weekly wages and ration to our workers and also to inspect the pest infestation in the garden. We went from door to door in the residential areas to make the wage payment and distributed the ration as well. In order to make our people aware of the situation and to convey them all the do’s and don’ts during the lock down, we arranged PA announcement in a language which was circulated by the Circle Officer, throughout the entire residential lines.  All the workers’ houses along with the daily market (Hatkhola) situated in Borjuli T.E. was sanitized with bleaching powder. As directed by the administration, we issued ration to all the workers for two weeks during the lock down. The estate resumed its irrigation and pesticide spraying operations after having received the permission from the government authorities from 28th March. Screening of the workers, who were willing to work generously during the lock down, was done and finally engaged in spraying activities using PPEs and maintaining social distancing.  As an employee, I was doing my part but at the same time I was also worried about my parents who live alone around 300 km away from my work place. Being the only child, I call them each and every day, asking about their health and to be safe and healthy.  Ever since work resumed on 11th April, there has been lot of Govt. officials such as Circle Officer, Police Officer, Health Officer and Block Development Officer visiting the estate working sites to review whether or not the protocols are followed. As a mandatory part of sanitization, a massive drive to sanitize the entire estate (lines, factory, hospital, office, school, housing colony, market place) was carried out with support from Assam State Fire & Emergency Services where they have used the Fire Brigade to complete the operation successfully. An Estate Task Force was constituted where we received support from student organizations like ATTSA, ASSA and the local youths. As our estate has a huge number of entry and exit points because of the location, we have managed to fix up certain vulnerable points with manned and unmanned gates (temporarily sealed). These gates prohibit any outsider to move inside the lines. As the days progressed with the resumption of work, the workers have become acclimatized with the general protocols that need to be followed at any point of time and have developed a sense of belongingness as a result of which sharing of responsibilities have increased manifold.  

Nabajyoti Goswami, FAM, Hokonguri TE

Post lockdown, our main challenge was to ensure that social distancing was maintained in workplace and also maintain the health and hygiene of employees both in workplace and their living areas and also restrict entry of outsiders to the estate. Since we follow all the norms of Rainforest Alliance and Trustea certifications, we did not face much problem in maintaining health and hygiene at work place but we have become more vigilant in all the areas. Our next main challenge was proper planning and execution of jobs with 50% workforce. The next major challenge was procurement and collection of essential parts required because of breakdown of machineries.

In the post lock down period, from 15th April to 4th May, we produced 0.45 lakh kg of CTC tea. We have planned to produce orthodox tea after 5th May. Our total workforce is around 450 but at present we have been able to engage 150 workers per day. Emphasis is being given on making quality teas and restriction of purchases which we strongly feel will be helpful. Since crop is the main denominating factor and less crop will lead to high cost / kg of tea. The only option to recover the crop loss is price realization. Involvement of Executive/Staff /Supervisors/workers in maintaining all quality parameters in all the steps of Tea production in both Field & Factory is crucial. Motivating pluckers to pluck quality leaf at the garden, asking transport drivers and leaf carrying persons to handle the leaf with utmost care and encouraged factory workers to keep the leaf undamaged followed by maintaining all quality parameters at factory will help us in achieving our goal. However, cost control will also play a vital role. Daily monitoring and minimizing purchases will be important.

In the post Covid19 situation, the key roles of a factory manager will be proper planning and execution of daily work programme, ensuring that all quality parameters are maintained at all steps of manufacturing, maintaining a healthy relation between staff and workers, maintaining hygiene, maintaining social distancing in workplace and also awareness among the workers to maintain social distancing and hygiene in their living places and daily monitoring of purchases to ensure cost control.

On the family side, we started a new way of life during the lock down period. For the initial 14 days, we did not allow servants to enter the bungalow and asked them to stay in their houses. My wife is a very good cook and I became her helper in the kitchen. My kids also understood the gravity of the situation and they also adjusted themselves accordingly.

Chandan Borgohain, FAM, Pengaree TE

When we reopened after the lock down, our biggest challenge was to maintain proper hygiene and distance among the workers and to produce quality CTC & Orthodox teas to compete in the market. After the lockdown, it was also a challenge to re-motivate the workers to resume at their normal speed of work. The most crucial aspect was to ensure that the workers get accustomed to permanent usage of the mask and sanitize themselves at regular intervals, for which we have provide training on a regular basis.

Here, I would like to mention that we have fabricated a semi-automated (battery operated) hygiene station through at the entrance of Pengaree factory, near the sorting/processing room, for full body hygiene of every factory worker entering the factory. Every worker has to pass through the chamber after cleaning their hands and feet with soap and water and enter the chamber which has been constructed using an iron frame. The room contains a wooden pedestal on which the worker has to stand and press the pedestal. As a result of this, a motor starts operating which is connected to a nozzle spray from which sanitizer (constituting mainly dettol, alum & water) is sprayed on the body of the factory worker from the top of the chamber. The worker has to turn around standing on the pedestal so that the full body gets sanitized and then he proceeds for work.

In fact, we were also aware that due to 21 days of lockdown, the plucking round in the field would be out of hand. I, with the help of our Estate Manager & Field Executive, had briefed the pluckers how to pluck the desired quality of leaf. My part was to monitor all the quality parameters such as how much to wither the leaf for CTC / Orthodox manufacture as well as monitor other quality parameters. Immediately after lockdown, we started with manufacturing CTC teas with 50% of the work force. On the production front, we were able to produce in an average 1500 kgs per day of black tea.

I have 2 daughters, elder one is of 7 year-old while younger one is year old. During the lockdown, my wife, who is a home maker, supported me in every way she could.   

Anupam Borah, FAM, Sessa TE

Irrespective of the phase of lockdown, challenges have been similar in tea production whole throughout this pandemic situation. In the initial days, there was no manufacturing and plucking of tea leaves due to the strict lockdown measures enforced by the government. During Lockdown 2.0, when few relaxations were granted by the local administration, maintenance work was carried out in the factory premises adhering to all the social distancing guidelines and SOPs. Utilizing only 50% of the workforce during the day to day operations was a challenge for us, but this was mitigated through judicious utilization of the workforce. Workstreams are quite different from the pre-lockdown era as a lot of safety measures and guidelines have been put in place to prevent ourselves from this global pandemic situation. Other than factory operations, the health and well-being of the workers are of utmost importance to us. The challenges that we faced while resuming operations was with the shortfall of plucked leaves as the leaves were not in the best shape for production. During the lockdown phase, the leaves grew in size and had to be cut and left alone for few days for plucking.

Since there has been a shortfall of plucked tea leaves, we thought that it would be a better idea to utilize our nearby Apeejay tea estates facility to process those plucked tea leaves and make orthodox tea.  At the same time, we utilized all our permitted workforce to bring the crops to the best condition possible, so that we get back to a good number and start our factory. At present, we are employing only the electrical and a few other skilled men in the factory for maintenance. If the restrictions continue, then there will be issues with the number of workers we employ at a particular time and it will therefore affect our plucking process. There would certainly be a loss of crops and at the same time the work pressure on half of the utilized workforce would pile up. These restrictions could be addressed by implementing the guidelines in the best way possible and utilizing all the allowed human resource in the most optimum way. Some losses made during this phase can be mitigated in the post-lockdown phase by extending employee work hours on a rotational basis, employing daily wage workers on holidays, increasing the intake of bought leaves. This will help us to reach near the production target that we had set for FY21.

Post Covid19, the most important aspect for any factory manager should be the implementation of all the safety measures in the factory premises. One should train and conduct an awareness program for all the factory workers about the health & safety measures and how they should abide by them. Next target would be to get back to the optimal processing condition as soon as possible and then employ the best practices to fasten the production rate.

For me, there hasn’t been much change with respect to the time spent with my family during the day time, as I was involved in other maintenance activities. But yes, thanks to the pandemic situation, I was able to spend some quality time with them during the evenings and noticed a lot of things at home, which I never got time to notice. The lockdown has affected the routine of my child and he had to stay home bound with classes running online and no outdoor activities. But it has also given me time to look after his studies and go through his primary school books

Pranjal Pratim Gogoi, FAM, Muttrapore TE

Before the lock down was announced, we had initiated various awareness programmes at the factory to make the workers aware about COVID19. There were some areas where we faced challenges as people were not habituated with using masks and maintaining minimum gap of 1 meter from each other. In factory, the withering & trough areas are the places where maintaining 1 metre gap is quite difficult but these issues were sorted out and manufacturing was continued maintaining all the preventive measures.

After the lock down, most of the people are aware about usage of masks and washing hand and legs before entering the factory. Awareness meetings and programmes on COVID 19 are being continued in the factory frequently. Currently, we are manufacturing CTC Teas in the factory but right now due to less quantity, green leaves are being sent to our sister concern garden Jaboka T.E for manufacturing orthodox teas. Right now, we have the capacity of manufacturing 4000 kg of tea daily. In factory, two workers are kept to send the green leafs to Jaboka and maintain factory boundary cleaning and hygiene. If restrictions continue, there will be difficulty for night manufacturing as the curfew starts here from 6 pm. So, people have to attend factory before 6 pm where as the manufacturing will be started at 11 pm. To recover the loss from the lock down, we have to reduce the expenditure cost and prepare a plan to reduce it in such a way that it cannot effect in quality manufacturing.

As a factory manager the following has to maintain in the factory, all factory workers have to follow all preventive measures against the COVID 19, use masks, wash hands frequently before entering the factory and maintain a social distance of at least 1 meter from each other. If any person is found suffering from cough for a long time, he should not be allowed to come to the factory and should be sent to the hospital for treatment. Since the curfew is from 6 pm to 6 am, so has to prepare a plan to accumulate the workers before 6 pm when the night manufacturing will be started, if lock down is continued. Visitors or outsiders should not be allowed to enter the factory except authorized govt officers.

My parents stay in my native town in Dibrugarh district, around 68 km away from Muttrapore. I keep in touch with them over phone. My elder brother and his wife, who are medical officers, are actively involved in the war against COVID 19. 

Clifford Thomas, Support Staff, Apeejay Real Estate

“I stay 10 mins away from office so I am coming to office everyday. The distance or the fear was not a problem for me. I choose to provide any kind of support to the team during this difficult time and ever since the lockdown started. I used to come around 9 everyday and stay till 2pm. My daily work includes providing support to the finance team like raise invoice, take stock of the receipts, provide data as required by team, checking on the tenants of Apeejay House and assist ing the people staying at the office like our Security team. I have been helping in arranging essentials products so the team at work knows they are always on our mind and that nobody is alone and we are all in this together. My visits also made them feel good and boosted their morale. It is now 15 years I am working in Apeejay and I have an emotional attachment towards the organization. I felt happy and satisfied that in my own way I could contribute to the organization in this difficult time. We all are living in fearful time no doubt but I dismissed my fear and I shifted my attention to work. ”   

The lockdown will be lifted on May 3rd and many of us will be back at work

Unless things change for the worse, we are looking at this Blog 6 as the last in our series of

Lock down Community Blogs

One thought on “A Work Culture that could go “viral” this May Day

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