Staying connected and working together in the lockdown: Work from home experiences of our employees.
The Covid-19 Pandemic had led to a country wide lockdown in India with only essential services allowed to continue their operations. A week before the lockdown, we had already started work from home for all non-production/ non-logistics roles and came up with the idea of producing 3-ply surgical masks from our sanitary pad making machines. But due to the suddenness of the lockdown and the uniqueness of the disease, we struggled between two opposing values –
1. We have the capability to produce essential products, both 3-ply masks and sanitary pads and in a part of the country where the need is the highest, Mumbai MMR region which had the highest number of cases in India. We must do everything in our capacity to fulfill this unmet need of the masses
2. We are in a geography with the highest number of COVID-19 cases and containment zones. How do we take care of our team who is working to produce and distribute essential products?
We had never come across this situation before, so we thought to involve everyone in the process of decision making. After a 1-hour long video-call with the production and logistics team, we came up with a plan. In order to avoid spreading of infections, we decided to that employees will stay in the office itself. A set of 6-8 employees stay in office for 15 days and then replaced by another set of employees for the next 15 days. This is similar to how hospitals are managing their doctors’ shifts to minimize spread and ensure isolation and recovery if needed.
It is so exciting to see most of our staff volunteered for this option for their own and their colleagues’ safety while ensuring business continuity even during a Pandemic. It displays valor and commitment of the entire Saral team. Here is one such inspiring story of courage –
Mr. Suraj Patinge, the head of the R&D department of Saral Designs, shared his experience of working from home on the development and designing of the mask making machine. From technical to climatic problems he faced to the satisfaction of developing a new machine- a journey he found testing but enriching in many ways!
1.What is your role in the company?
I joined the company as a design engineer when Saral was just starting off. Back then, we were a small team, and everyone had their responsibilities. Just a few months back I was promoted as the head of the research and development department. Now my role is to manage the designing and development of the machines according to the requirement. We get a brief about the concept and it’s my team’s task to do the required research and design the machine. I, along with my team, check if the design is safe and economic, then assemble the parts and test them before handing it over to the production team. Hence, it can be said that the initial process of making any machine goes through us.
2. What was your reaction to the first lockdown?
We were working on an ongoing project when the news of the havoc in other countries due to Coronavirus began flashing every day. Our HR called a meeting to discuss the situation and many opted to work from home as traveling by public transport was not safe anymore. They took their PC/laptop at home, but I was still coming to the office because I lived near the office. After a point, it was clear that lockdown would be imposed anytime so then we all were finally working from home. We had to use tools like Google Meet and similar apps to stay connected and follow up.
3. Did you think the lockdown will affect your job?
The nature of my job was more office work, unlike a site job that could not be done from home. I did not feel like the lockdown would affect my job because I was working all through the lockdown period. We had to face many problems because we needed a set-up to do the designing work which was ready in the office but had to be moved to our houses. Also, in the office, we had recently started working on a LAN which we had gotten used to. It was time for us to figure a way to work things out remotely. Eventually, we did manage to overcome these problems. Our work took a different course with the decision to manufacture mask making machines. If it were not for that bold decision to change the fundamentals of our tasks, we would have been out of work.
4. Were you aware that Saral is manufacturing a mask-making machine?
At Saral, we believe in transparency and the free flow of ideas. This is exactly how the idea of making a machine that would be manufacturing both sanitary pads and masks came up. The basic technology we used in this machine was something we had tried before and so were familiar with the ins and outs of the technology. And the change in the nature of work was exciting for me.
5. When was this discussion held?
This discussion was held before lockdown in the office. We also discussed a lot of approaches like buying a machine and then selling it, making an entirely new machine or modifying the existing ones, etc. We finalized on the idea that the machine should be a modification of the sanitary pad making machine. All this was still doable but with the nationwide lockdown, the real problem was the assembly of the machine which needed on-site work. When Mahindra entered the picture, we were highly motivated with strong prospects of successful development of our design.
6. How was the experience of working from home?
I was going to the office until I could before the lockdown because working from home meant less concentration and an easy distraction for me. But when it was not safe to step out, we began working from home. It took more time to complete a task than it would have been in the office, but eventually, we got habitual to the system and came up with hacks to quicken the work. When in office, you complete the work and leave the space, so the zone is changed but at home even after logging out it’s still the same place and so we also discussed ways to get habitual to this routine.
I came to my native place before lockdown, which is in Kokan. Here in Dapoli, the cyclone also did a lot of damage and I was out of reach for 5 days. That also added up to the crisis.
7. What motivated you, kept you going during this period?
I was earlier of the opinion that I can never work from home. But now the situation has left us with no choice. The acceptance of the situation everyone is going through is motivating me. There is no other way to work but still, the show must go on. I feel rather fortunate that I can work from home, unlike those who have to risk their lives by stepping outside every day, and the fact that I actually have a job, unlike so many people who have lost their jobs.
Also, the project we are working on is challenging for us on so many levels and taking all these challenges and aiming to make a perfect machine is what motivates me to work harder every day.
8. Was there an incident when you received support from a senior or junior co-worker?
As told before it was difficult to work from home due to the cyclone. I could not connect to any of the co-workers for 5 days. There was no electricity and a signal to the mobile phone. But my seniors did not put any pressure on me. They understood my situation. This has been a part of the culture at Saral. I am really fortunate to have been working with such a company that goes out of the way for an employee.
9. Describe in one line your experience at Saral Designs.
The satisfaction of working in an environment that helps you grow.