Decoding Workplace Implications for Enterprises From the Guidelines for Lockdown 4.0

In the wake of the lockdown 4.0, business enterprises are planning to invest efforts and time now to map their requirements of PPE kits afresh as they aim to restart and ramp-up commercial activity.  In the wake of the evolving contours of the efforts to combat the COVID19 pandemic in India through an extension of the lockdown up to 31st May 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has issued revised guidelines for gradually reopening chosen industry verticals and sectors in the economy while ensuring adherence to:

  • Basic preventive measures
  • Preventive measures for offices
  • Measures to be taken on the occurrence of cases
  • Disinfection procedures to be implemented in case of occurrence of suspect/confirmed cases

While business enterprises located in such buffer zones and containment zones are not yet allowed to resume commercial operations, the MHA guidelines for the resumption of economic activity during lockdown 4.0 apply to all enterprises located in green, orange and red zones and assume significance from the standpoint of people, operations, and supply chain. 

What Do the  Basic Preventive Measures Imply for Enterprises? Procure PPE Items In Bulk?

The basic preventive measures mandate physical distancing of at least one meter at all times, use of masks, regular washing of hands for at least 20 seconds with hand sanitizers, and adherence to respiratory etiquette. The basic preventive measures apply to all people and are agnostic of commercial activity. However, this assumes importance from the standpoint of enterprises that operate in densely populated physical environments and have high exposure to a traffic of people such as retail, public transport, MSME, food, and beverages, pharma retail, repair, and maintenance services, MRO, healthcare, etc. Enterprises in these verticals should ideally invest in the bulk procurement of PPE items like alcohol-based hand sanitizers, N95 masks, coveralls for their employees. For enterprises operating in the downstream of the supply chain, it is important that they train their staff adequately in practicing zero-contact delivery to ensure the safety of themselves, their customers, and the community at large. 

What are the Implications of the Preventive Measures for Offices? Is Digital Workflow the New Normal?

The new set of preventive measures for offices during Lockdown 4.0 requires enterprises operating from offices to restrict the entry of visitors apart from the organizational staff, avoid physical meetings and restrict the use of hard copy documents and files for official correspondence as much as possible. Given the need for social distancing, it is also important that enterprises make the point of common use in their infrastructure low-touch. For instance, no-touch equipment like doors, cloud installed human resource information systems for attendance in lieu of biometric machines, and automated office equipment are recommended. Beyond these, the standard measures for social distancing like regular screening of body temperature of all people entering the premises of the office using IR thermometers, soap dispensers, and sanitizer dispensers for regular sanitization are advised.

For enterprises, this translates into the requirements of designating the workplace infrastructure management team to map seating arrangements at the workplace for adherence to social distancing, creating daily rosters for the staff to attend to work and thus accordingly map the supplies of PPE items. In fact, it is advisable that data be maintained to proactively map PPE  line items, volumes of each line item for a financial quarter, local PPE suppliers with credible records, procure the items in advance and further, create a separate PPE store with due diligence for safe storage, replenishment of inventories and disposal of used items as per instructions recommended by the MoHFW. Further, it is also advised that enterprises gradually move up the levels of digital workplace maturity by resorting to the use of online platforms for collaboration, sharing data on a “need to know basis” and digital workflows to make business processes low-touch. This applies especially to processes with external dependencies for the enterprise such as purchases, invoicing and payments, inventory management, track and trace of cargo and procurement, direct contract management, and supplier collaboration.

What Do the Measures to be Taken on the Occurrences of Cases Imply? Can Contact Tracing Reduce Risks?

While the guidelines of the MHA recommend measures for self-isolation and quarantine for both suspect and confirmed cases of COVID19, it calls for enterprises to be more agile in ensuring compliance with preventive measures. It makes good sense to suggest the reorganization of the workplace from the ground up and deployment of screening measures to control the sporadic transmission of the pandemic at the workplace. The use of the Arogya Setu app that facilitates contact tracing as recommended by the government can be a prima facie precursor to detecting and mitigating health risks and its spillover to business. This can especially be the case in business processes that entail mobility such as logistics, warehousing, inventory management, and supply chain.

What are the Implications of the Disinfection Procedures for Enterprises?

In the event of detection of COVID19 positive cases, the new guidelines for lockdown 4.0 mandate measures for thorough disinfection of the entire building premises before resuming work and close monitoring of the health of office staff with a low-risk exposure for the next 14 days. This implies that before resuming commercial activity, enterprises need to be ready with adequate stocks of surface cleaning agents, surface cleaning sprays, floor disinfectants, Lysol disinfectants, and disinfectant sprays to cope with any eventuality. The guidelines handbook mandates that disinfectants be used for regularly sanitizing: entrance gate of building and office, cafeteria and canteens, meeting room, conference halls, open areas, verandah, the entrance gate of sites, bunkers, portacabins, buildings, equipment and lifts, washrooms, toilets, sinks, water points, walls, and other surfaces. Further, it deems the sanitization of all vehicles, machinery entering the premises, and thermal screening for everyone entering and exiting the workplace as mandatory. 

PPE Kits, Automation Software, and Digital Workflow: The Future of Workplaces in India

On a concluding note, the latest guidelines for lockdown 4.0 require enterprises to adapt to a new normal for the long term by securing the lives of its people and communities that are dependent on them. This can be enabled through agile collaboration between PPE suppliers and manufacturers on one hand and business enterprises that need them on the other for seamless procurement and distribution of PPE medical kits. Further, the requirement for social distancing calls for a new work culture in India that is driven by higher automation of programmable functions and greater penetration of technology into business processes especially in the ones that require teamwork, collaboration, and exposure to external environments beyond the control of enterprises. Paperless workplaces and workflows are here to stay.