Impact of COVID-19 on the Indian Workforce

How Covid-19 Might Change Indian Feminist Narratives For Eternity

Increasing confirmed cases in India of Coronavirus had caused a drastic disruption in the lives of people. The economy is hit, and a slowdown has been expected. The lockdown has put the life in India to a standstill, and every industry is putting recruitment on hold or laying off workers and making decisions regarding pay cuts. The automotive and IT sectors are suffering the most, as there was a significant dependence on exports and imports. The economy is also being affected by the same, i.e., the supply irregularities due to modifications in international trade policies. We can look for a silver lining in this situation as the Indian industries might emerge as the major suppliers in the areas of pharmaceuticals and textiles. The significant impact is on the people running all these industries. The country is not only facing economic losses but also human resource losses. These are both physical and psychological. This is discussed further by dividing the workforce into three types – a) Daily wage workers, b) Normal Employees, c) Managers/Head of Departments/Companies.

The needs of different workers have been explained using Maslow’s Need Hierarchy theory in this article it is assumed that the conditions stated in his theory hold true.

Daily wage workers and urban poor include the people working in the agricultural sector, construction sites, car washers in a typical scenario. But with progress in technologies and companies like Uber, Ola, Zomato, etc. coming up, the delivery boys, cab drivers etc. are also people who might earn a monthly income but are still in a job with little assurance of income. Then there are mechanics, vegetable vendors, etc. with no fixed payment as well. All of the above mentioned and many others have been left with no means to earn a livelihood after the lockdown was imposed to contain COVID-19’s spread in India. The closing hotels and restaurants and little movement on the streets have left many people devoid of income.

For these people, the main aim is to earn a livelihood and secure their income for tomorrow. Their needs can be related to the first and second need defined in the Malow’s need hierarchy, i.e., physiological and safety needs. These people have not moved up and do not crave recognition in the organization as such. Most of them are not even a part of any organization as well. These people will be affected the most since there can be three possible scenarios. First being that they might become too dependent on the government aid being provided to them during the lockdown period. Second, if their locus of control is external, they might end up being depressed and let the suffering take a toll on them. Third, if their locus of control is internal, they might strive to make their situation better after the lockdown period and prepare in advance for any future pandemic.

The people who will breed on government’s aid might become lethargic and lack the motivation to do work again. They will be forced to do work after the conditions normalize, and this will cause them to be dissatisfied because of their mindset of receiving without working. The people who have an external locus of control, which encompasses most of this population because poor people might not always give priority to mindset development, will suffer the most. They will keep blaming the authorities and the external conditions and will let the pandemic disrupt their lives. The people who have an internal locus of control might try to make the best of their current situation while planning for the future.

The normal workers are the ones working in the corporate world and are related to certain organizations and are financially stable. These workers are facing layoff and pay – cut tensions as almost every organization is trying to manage finances with the economy coming

down. Some organizations have decided to not take this path such as DLF limited, which did not take a pay – cut and is not even retrenching the workforce.

Companies outside India like Tesla has decided to do the opposite. It laid off all the non- essential workers till May 4 and even took a pay cut of 10%. Around 3,000 workers were also laid off by Sephora. In India, most of the companies and start-ups are following the same path. Techolution laid off 20 workers in Telangana. Acko, an online insurance firm, laid off 50 employees. Fareportal, a travel firm based in the US, cut off on 500 workers in India.

Bounce, a transportation network company, has decided to take 20-60% pay cuts. All these measures are being taken to ensure that the organizations have finances to run their business when the conditions normalize. Some companies are taking initiatives not to lay off workers and continue working from home, but it is also a challenge only around 5% of their employees have Wi-Fi at their homes.

The people working in these organizations can be classified into three types based on their needs. First are those who still are struggling to fulfil their safety needs in the Maslow need hierarchy. Second, are those who have affiliation and esteem needs that are to be satisfied, and the third category is of those people whose self-actualization needs are too satisfied.

A relation between locus of control and motivation level can be established as people who tend to struggle in fulfilling their safety needs are usually stuck at the external locus of control. Thus, such people will feel unmotivated and distressed during the period of lockdown as their need for security won’t be fulfilled due to the retrenchment process going on in many organizations.

People who require the feeling of belongingness and are out to fulfil their esteem needs might make use of this lockdown period if they have access to the required resources. There can be two categories in these people as well. Some might spend their time leisurely, but the ones with an internal locus of control will try to improve their skillset and use the time productively.

This is also a great opportunity for people who want to satisfy their need for self-actualization as now they can serve the community and do something helpful for society. Some professionals are doing it be it situational or be it out of their sense of duty, for example, the doctors, policeman, etc.

The people who are at managing positions in the organizations have different problems altogether. That set of the workforce is influenced by their type of commitment towards their organization. The people who have an affective commitment towards the firm they work with will be the people who will help these firms to recover after the lockdown. They will be forced to think creatively so that they can sustain their finances and help the company grow. A few examples of such people are Deep Kalra and Rajesh Magow the founders of MakeMyTrip have decided to take 100% pay cut and not affect the salaries of their employees.

Then some people have a normative or continuance commitment towards the organization and might not be willing to put in efforts to contribute to the organization. They would probably plan for their secure future and their savings.

Thus, COVID-19 won’t only be impacting the population physically, but it also has left so many people psychological affected. The organizations like Sephora, are also trying to help their workers by assuring that once the conditions normalize, they might consider taking the laid-off workers back. Bridged is also taking initiatives to help employees during this time of self-isolation by making a service available so that people can talk to someone and share their problems.

There is a strong need to balance out the focus on running the organizations and taking care of the employees. Similar initiatives are required to focus and develop the workforce in India because of it one of the things the country will rely on reviving the economy after the pandemic ends.

Some measures that the organizations can take are that they can host free webinars for their employees and even for the laid-off workers to give an insight into the skills that would be required in the coming times.

There can also be awareness spread about how to take care of their mental health along with physical health. Also, there is a need to let the population staying at home right now know how essential it is to develop their skills. The silver lining in this tough situation is that we might end up with a more skilled workforce. This is because people might choose not to get into jobs for some time and pursue higher education.

The main crux of the situation is that it is necessary to address their needs keeping in mind the feasibility aspect as well because that is the essence of organizational behaviour. Human resource cannot be ignored totally to sustain organizations because even if the companies manage to use finances wisely, there would still be a need for employees to ensure future success.

What are the alternatives to Employees layoff?

Due to the sudden economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are seeking out ways to cut costs. Out of which, employee layoff has also become one option. But before doing this, companies should consider how it will affect them in the long run. Instead, companies should find creative alternatives to layoffs to keep the business afloat.

Here are some alternatives that businesses can consider:

  • Ask employees for ideas: Ask for suggestions from staff about how to cut costs and improve the productivity of the organization. Getting employees involved can ease insecurity and promote solidarity, even if what you save doesn’t meet your shortfall expectations. By this, employees will also feel valued as their suggestions will be heard.


  • Hiring freeze: Some companies deploy mass lay-offs but are still placing job postings at the same time. This way, they are getting rid of valuable human capital to save money while bringing new employees at low salaries. It should be avoided, as retaining employees cost less than to replace them. Consider a hiring freeze as an alternative to layoffs.


  • Slight salary cuts: Explain everyone across the board that salary cut is the need of the hour. The reduction should be such, that it won’t completely shatter employees’ finances, but also give the business a bit of a financial break.


  • Work from home programs: Keeping employees at the workspace costs money. People consume water, electricity, office supplies, and other facilities. Sending workers home can cut costs to a large extent without dumping them.


  • Cut part-time staff and contractors: If crises are bigger, it’s legally easier and cheaper to end the employment of contractors and part-time workers. One can always rehire if necessary. Instead of using costly temps, consider rehiring retired employees that already know your business, to fill gaps.


  • Reduce employee benefits: Cut employee benefit plans and policies like medical or dental, 401(k) plans, insurance plans, leaves, and other fringe benefit policies.


  • Offer extra days of unpaid leave: On this most of the employees will agree, as it would be like a vacation time although unpaid.


  • Institute shorter workweeks: Reduce the number of working hours of the employees and proportionally decrease pay. This can be considered as a seasonal arrangement for slow periods. Shorter workweeks can cut costs by a significant margin.


  • Focus on EfficiencyFind out ways on how things can be done faster, less expensively, and more productively? Where can cash be saved? How to encourage staff to become more efficient in their jobs?

Are layoffs necessary sometimes? Yes, but they should be a last resort instead of a front-line option. It’s better to lay off some of the employees than to lose the business. But one should make sure, it is not the go-to solution when the business starts to slip into the red.