AS EMPLOYEES return to offices in the country’s business capital post lockdown, they may well be adapting to a new work schedule.
In an interview to The Indian Express on Wednesday, Maharashtra’s outgoing Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta, who was appointed Principal Advisor to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, said, “We are coming to a conclusion that staggering of office hours, work days, and working from home, is the only way to manage Mumbai as it reopens.”
In Mumbai and other hotspot cities, the state had opted for a gradual reopening, with 50 per cent shops open on any day and offices working with just 10 per cent staff on site.
Mehta is of the view the Covid growth curve has flattened in the state, but said Maharashtra would go beyond the Indian Council Medical Research’s testing protocol and expand testing in a big way.
Tasked with the responsibility of restarting the state’s economy and administration with full vigour, Mehta said Mumbai would have to completely rethink the way of doing business. In the metro’s business districts, everybody would be allowed to operate daily with a certain staff attendance at a given time. Work may never stop in the city, with people working in multiple shifts, he said.
“Every hour of the day and every day of the week will be occupied by work. Five or six-day work week system will go. Each office will have to come forward to say ‘we will call (say) 10 per cent staff in the morning, 20 per cent post lunch and 30 per cent at night’. Similarly work days can be divided among employees. You will now have to look at some offices starting at say 6 am, and finishing by lunch time. Another subset will begin at lunch and finish by dinner. Then those who will even start post dinner and run through the night,” he explained.
Mehta said everything would depend on how public transport is managed in the city. “Suburban trains that have an average carrying capacity of 2,000 per train carry around 6,000 people or more. Those are super crush loads. If everyone comes out together, public transport is going to be overloaded,” he said.
The government is more or less convinced now that the only solution to reduce the peak load in trains and even state-run and municipal buses is to stagger office and shop hours. “We are in the process of formulation of a strategy to ensure this,” Mehta said. In fact, staggering office hours to control overcrowding has been a long-pending demand of the Railways.
On the infection curve in the state, the Chief Advisor to the CM said, “Unless something dramatic happens during the rains, we won’t go beyond this. Our case doubling rate is now more than 30 days. We’ve almost reached a stage where the number of new patients coming is equal to those being discharged. But we have to be cautious. We still do not know how the virus will mutate during monsoons.”
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