Siddharth Malani, MD of Shree Malani Foams works at the company’s headquarters in Hyderabad.

He told ET Panache, “The office is a short 15-minute commute by car. As we progress through the ‘unlock’ phase, the hustle and bustle are evident on the roads with people trying to get back into their working routines. I have been working through the lockdown, along with a select group of staff, to ensure that we service the requirement of hospital beds without any delay. The refreshing part on the first day of unlocking has been the energy and vigour of the rest of the staff who have been who have been aching to get back into action.”

As they return to work, the company is using all kinds of new technology to help employees be safe – and track their every move.

“Daily screening, social distancing, and sanitation have become a norm for all of us. Apart from these, we are following staggered timings for lunch to restrict the number of staff member presence at any point of time at the cafeteria and avoid social gatherings. Employees are encouraged to adopt video-conferencing technologies to conduct meetings and discussions – even within the same office; to avoid gatherings of a larger number of individuals in the same room,” he said.

Getting back to office has been much easier than staying away, for Malani.

“While the lockdown had made it difficult to physically attend office; as a business owner, there has not been one minute of mental relaxation with the uncertainty looming,” he said.

Shree Malani Group has about 400 employees across multiple plants and offices. “Our corporate office houses around 50 people. Routine working hours are 9.30 am to 6 pm; but we have provided more flexible work hours to the staff post-lockdown. Being back in office won’t be the same experience as before,” said Malani.

Many companies will put in place new technologies to detect sick people, implement social distancing, and reduce the need to touch surfaces, feels the mattress company boss.

“One needs to plan for all contingencies – what is the protocol in case any employee displays flu-like symptoms – what will be the SOP to deal with this scenario? What happens if there is another lockdown – do we have enough WFH protocols in place? What if the vaccine takes years to become available? How will business be run, how will people commute, will corporate travel be abandoned altogether?” he said.

Sharing how he felt when he was back in office for the first time, Malani said, “The one thing that I would like to use here is ‘Back with a bang’ to encourage employees. The coronavirus pandemic has led to lockdowns and quarantine orders affecting everyone, including employees who are now forced to work remotely. Our objective should be to find ways to motivate employees during this period. We shouldn’t waste the lockdown or quarantine period but rather lookout for new avenues and opportunities amidst this crisis.”

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