The pandemic helpline of colleagues
Abhishek Thakkar had just returned from a covid-19 hospital and was recovering at home, when a message popped up on his office WhatsApp group, late April. A colleague’s relative was critically ill and needed a dose of anti-viral medication Remdesivir. Thakkar, 34, the vice-president at financial services firm Avendus, quickly made some calls, even got his family members involved, and managed to find an injection through a cousin. “An office attendant picked it up and delivered to my colleague—all within 2.5 hours,” he recalls.
As India copes with the second covid-19 wave, colleagues are going out of their way to help one another in whatever way they can. Most of these initiatives, either by individuals or groups of colleagues, have mushroomed in the past month to fulfil requests for oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, medicines and food.
Around the same time, Gurugram-based Seeza Manocha helped a colleague, who was in the hospital, by arranging the first dose of Remdesivir for him after a request was shared on the WhatsApp group of managers. “Our (office WhatsApp) group has become an informal covid help group,” says Manocha, the communications manager at research firm Sagacious IP.
As soon as she saw the request, she reached out to a family friend who had said he had an extra injection after his mother succumbed to the infection. Manocha’s home help picked the injection from the family friend and took it to the Sagacious office. From there, an administrative assistant delivered it to the colleague’s family, about 60km away in Ghaziabad. “It was satisfying to see that I could do something real for the colleague,” Manocha says.
Even when it comes to helping with food and mobility, colleagues are stepping in. Throughout the time they were quarantined, Flipkart’s Paromita Paul and her husband, for instance, received food from a teammate, who stayed 5km away, via a delivery service provider. “I remember, one day I made a casual remark that I felt like having something with a strong flavour; she sent raw mango and rasam. At times, she would send chocolates to cheer us up. It was amazing,” says Paul.
Anirudh Mendiratta, head of operations at CARS24, extended logistical support as the firm has a pool of drivers and vehicles spread across 25 cities. “The drivers volunteered to not only deliver medicines and food supplies to colleagues but also take colleagues or their family members to hospitals,” says Mendiratta, who started the initiative at the end of April.
Even employees who've joined an organisation during the pandemic and have only met their colleagues virtually are carving out time from their daily work schedule to help their ailing or stressed colleagues.
Having gone through the experience herself where she and her family recuperated from the infection at the same time last year, Bengaluru-based Arathi Ponangi handholds colleagues on how to manage home quarantine, including what meals to prepare that are nutritious but require less effort and time. “I feel comforting them and telling them that they are not alone in this has helped a lot,” says Ponangi, who works with Indegene, a health tech company.
Not all attempts are successful. Despite their best efforts, the volunteer group at NetApp couldn’t get a hospital bed in time for their colleague’s mother, who died. “We were very sad,” says Satish Krishnamoorthy, senior manager, NetApp, who is leading the 25-employee initiative. “But the next call for help came and we shifted our focus there.”
While volunteers across organizations are lending time in the spirit of giving, it does take a toll on regular day-to-day work and mental health.
With his days stretching to 13-14 hours in the past six months, P.V. Ramakrishnan has ensured he doesn’t neglect his health while helping out. “I do yoga and meditation,” says the executive assistant to the managing director of multinational IQVIA. His contribution has been accelerating the pace of insurance claim settlement and ensuring that the cashless insurance process goes through quickly during hospital admission.
Last month, he recalls helping the family of a 28-year-old colleague, who had passed away after contracting covid-19. “The hospital wouldn’t release the body as the cashless approval was taking time. The next morning, the Chennai team called to ask for help. I called the insurance company, sorted the issue and the claim was settled within 20 minutes,” says Ramakrishnan. “I feel that with my knowledge and the relationship I have built with insurance companies, this is the way I can help others.
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