PR firms hit pause with clients during Covid, staff offered health insurance & 4-day workweek
Last year, in April 2020, Reebok took out a campaign asking people to give themselves permission to pause.
As the second deadly wave of Covid-19 has now spread in India, PR firms are taking extrensive measures to support their people.
Industry body PRCAI stated that, "We recommended our members reach out to their clients and communicate to them that it is time now to re-prioritize life over work.
We have sought their support to ease up pressure on our colleagues for them to focus on their family and their own health and well-being. Majority of clients of our PR firm members understand the gravity of the situation and have proactively conveyed to the internal and external teams to keep health as priority before work during these tough and challenging times."
Atul Sharma, President, PRCAI, said, “In this second wave, there is hardly anybody who hasn’t been affected by this pandemic. But this is the time, to stay on course, stay strong and fight against covid with renewed spirit and that fight starts with you. Our #ItStartsWithYou initiative, encourages every citizen to fight the good fight through vaccination, wearing masks, social distancing, hygiene and observing all covid-appropriate behaviour. I am hoping that the worst is over, and we are already on our recovery path.”
Abhishek Gulyani, CEO, Hill & Knowlton Strategies India shared that, "As part of WPP our people have access to a holistic medical support system, which includes the provision of 24/7 emergency ambulance services across 100 cities, as well as help desks with information about COVID resources."
WPP has also established COVID Relief Fund which will be used to provide direct support for colleagues and their families in India. WPP is also match-funding employee donations to charitable partners in India to provide vital support and supplies to those in need, including oxygen concentrators and cylinders.
Through the John W. Hill Foundation, H+K is making a contribution to the special fund for India established by Americares, which will also accommodate employee matching gifts.
Dilip Cherian, consulting partner, Perfect Relations, says that even ahead of the second wave the firm had looked at the pandemic data and immediately reverted to the WFH model. Perfect Relations also called staff working onsite with clients back to WFH.
Cherian also outlines the insurance support being given, "The Mediclaim policy was revised to include Covid 19 for immediate family members of employees and a dedicated Mediclaim support line for all employees is available."
Ashwani Singla, founding managing partner, Astrum shares the concrete help given. The firm has carried on with its professional counselling service which can be confidentially booked. Astrum bears the cost of the service.
Singla adds that, "Since our inception we have ‘insured’ all our staff with cashless medical cover of INR half a million that includes their immediate family members. More recently the life insurance cover that we had for all has been increased from 2X to 5X times their CTC. I hope it never needed, but it’s there should it be needed."
Additionally grief counselling has also been made available.
Time Off, limited work weeks
MSLGROUP in India has offered a slew of measures for their employees. These include counselling support, lockdown buddies to support Covid affected employees, out of home quarantine options at hotels.
Amit Misra, CEO, South Asia at MSLGROUP shares that the firm has also implemented, "Extended 4 day weekends (covering Friday and Monday) to enable colleagues to regroup and recover as we cope with an acutely challenging phase that is pushing us to the extreme."
Hitting pause with clients
Commenting on what is the client mandate at the moment Misra says, "The media is as impacted personally as any of us in this new COVID surge and clients are already seeing this. Additionally, the focus and attention of the entire nation are on this crisis at the moment with all other news and announcements taking a back seat.
Given this scenario, pausing key announcements, launches and initiatives (other than COVID linked ones) have not been a challenge with a majority of our clients. They have also been supportive of our employee focussed initiatives where we have given time off or teams are operating with reduced capacity - relaxing timelines and pushing sops and non-critical activities to later dates."
PR firm SPRD has pressed pause as well:
In the first week of May, On Purpose founder Girish Balachandran sent a mail out outlining the firm's work plans for the next few weeks.
He said, "In order to cope with the situation and offer our teams some respite - last week, with our clients support, we reduced our work hours by starting the day at 11 am and making Friday a holiday. Given the vaccine shortage and its unavailability for 18 to 45-year-olds (95% of our workforce falls into this category) for the next few weeks, we have decided to extend the reduced working hours from 11 am every day and made Friday a mandatory off for the rest of May.
Balachandran also emphasised that, "On behalf of our team, I can assure that while some timelines may be delayed, it will not impact our overall deliverables for you. Your team leads will be in touch today and tomorrow to share working plans with you."
Kunal Kishore Sinha, Co-Founder Value 360 and ClanConnect has also reached out client, "Every stakeholder of the industry is displaying the highest levels of empathy towards each other. At this time, we have received exceptional support from our clients who have reached out to us to readjust deadlines and commitments in a manner that prioritizes the health and well-being of the team."
Xavier Prabhu, founder and MD, PRHUB however says, "I have a slightly different thinking on this. Couple of days here and there off may mean something but not really of much help to talent who are constrained to their homes due to the restrictions or for their own well-being.We focused on what really matters - we restored all salaries to pre-covid levels as quickly as we could last year, continued to pay salaries on time."
Nikky Gupta co-founder & director Teamwork Communications Group points out that on pressing pause on deliverables, " It’s a mixed response from different clients given the fact that each organization has different financial strength as well as different long term goals. Yes, some smaller clients, mostly startups who are not financially very strong or do not have clear long term goals have put work on pause."