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Keeping The Virus...
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As the H1N1 pandemic threatens to spread, corporate India is doing what it can to keep the virus from impacting business. Companies have hired doctors to check up suspected cases, and some have set up a 24-hour toll free helpline and doctor-on-call to reassure employees. There have also been stay-home advisories on workers returning from flu-hit areas or exhibiting flu-like symptoms, and restrictions on travel. Hand sanitisers are being installed on several campuses and companies have put up road maps to designated government hospitals on their intranet, and administrative staff is being trained to understand formalities at these hospitals.
As Pune reported the first swine flu death in India and with more cases coming up, companies are concentrating on taking action in their offices in that city first. Infosys Technologies, Wipro, Symantec, Mahindra & Mahindra, Mahindra Satyam, HP, IBM, Microsoft and Google have centres in Pune.
Nasscom has decided to postpone its Global Engineering Leadership Summit, scheduled for18-19 August at Pune. According to Nasscom, the decision to reschedule the event has been taken based on the government’s decision to avoid large gatherings. Perot Systems has provided employees with masks to wear at work.
Pune-based Symantec Corporation has given its staff the option of working from home, and has limited large meetings to a minimum. Employees have also been allowed to bring lunch-boxes from home and use conference rooms instead of the cafeteria to have lunch. Anti-bacterial dispensers have been placed in rest rooms, and common areas are being cleaned twice as often since the advent of the A(H1N1) virus. Other measures include sanitising door handles frequently, and making it compulsory for cafeteria vendors to use gloves and masks.
Infosys is allowing only essential business travel to its Pune development centre, which has over 20,000 employees. “We are continuing efforts to educate our employees, monitoring health bulletins and taking necessary precautions,” says a spokesperson. “We are in constant touch with public authorities to ensure safety of our employees and continuity of operations.”
In addition to its existing pandemic response plan in line with expert medical advice, Wipro says it is constantly monitoring the situation. “We continue to provide required travel advisories, and personal hygiene and precautionary measures, along with information on emergency assistance,” says Laxman Badiga, CIO of Wipro. “We are communicating with our employees to exercise extreme caution and to avoid unnecessary travel. Our employees at the affected countries are reported to be safe and our business operations continue to function as normal.”
TCS’s advisory follows standard flu precautions and its internal portal has information on swine flu to build awareness amongst employees. According to the company’s spokesperson, TCS is also counselling staff to avoid panicking in the face of the epidemic.
Non-technology companies are also gearing up for any flu-related breakdown in business, including the possibility of shutting down plants in Pune. Already, companies are asking employees who have returned from flu-affected areas to work out of home for up to six days before coming to office, and not minding the resulting absenteeism.
So far, fortunately, no company has seen any adverse business impact of the H1N1 virus. But across the spectrum, companies are also working on their disaster recovery and business continuity plans, just in case things get out of hand.
(Businessworld Issue Dated 18-24 Aug 2009)