Small Business

Covid shot: Companies offer allowance to staff to tide over remote working challenges

(This story originally appeared in on Aug 16, 2020)

NEW DLEHI: Now, in its sixth month, work from home (WFH) in India has had its share of hiccups. From erratic internet connectivity to power cuts to uncomfortable chairs, the transition hasn’t been quite smooth for many. But since it’s part of the ‘new normal’, companies are taking steps to make remote working easier for employees.

A couple of months ago, Google had announced it would give every employee $ 1,000 to buy necessary equipment and office furniture. Now, several Indian startups have also introduced benefits to keep up productivity and motivation of their staff.

Edtech startup Great Learning, which has announced WFH till September, started a monthly Covid-19 allowance of Rs 1,000 in June, which covers Wi-Fi, internet and UPS installations, official phone expenses and workstation setup. Recently, they’ve also started collaborating with furniture rental apps to home-deliver ergonomic chairs and desks. Until now, about 204 of their 500-plus employees have availed the benefits.

“By the end of May, we accepted that this would be a fairly long drawn work-from-home situation,” says Karthik G, director, people operations. “It hit us that a lot of our employees are young and working from home for the first time, and would never invest in a good internet connection or comfortable chair.” In addition to the allowance, the company also offered to pay for special requirements such as LAN cabling for employees who required high speed internet.

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For companies, WFH allowances make good business sense apart from the empathy, says Kartik Mandaville, CEO of HR tech firm Springworks. Besides a one-time allowance of up to Rs 25,000 for a home office setup, it offered a one-time reimbursement of Rs 3,000 for headphones and a monthly internet reimbursement of Rs 1,500. Bengaluru-based cloud service provider G7 CR Technologies has even shipped free chairs and desks from its office to the homes of employees who required them, apart from providing home inverters to those who had frequent power cuts. In addition, it gave a one-time WFH package of Rs 18,000 for purchasing UPS and other furniture.

Payments solution company Razorpay is crediting a no-questions-asked allowance to all employees’ salaries. “This can be used to rent comfortable office furniture, upgrade broadband connection, or any other essentials the employee wishes for,” says Anuradha Bharat, head, people operations, Razorpay.

The Indian division of Salesforce, which has given its 2,500 employees the option to work from home for the rest of 2020, is also giving a benefit of $ 250 (Rs 18,500 approximately) for setting up home offices.

Many believe these allowances will become the norm and include more facilities. “These are small amounts of money we are talking about, so the question is what would you rather have: an employee who is in discomfort or motivated?” says Great Learning’s Karthik G.

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