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NEW DELHI : New Delhi: The closure of Paytm’s offices in the Delhi-NCR region after an employee tested positive for corona virus has set off alarm bells among start ups and co-working companies, sharply affecting their business.

While many start-ups have been forced to declare indefinite work from home programs for employees, co-working companies have seen a drop in footfalls.

“With the increasing number of cases now being reported from different parts of the country, we are seeing the impact not just on individuals but also on the business, with lower footfall in our centers, as most people have started working out of their homes," said Akshita Gupta, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of ABL Workspaces.

“As a growing co-working space, we often host site viewing for new client uptake, but in light of the outbreak in Delhi, there has been a lot of cancelation with a majority of the clients now asking for virtual tours," she added.

Start-ups, which usually need to work together, are being forced to redraw their plans.

“Now, COVID-19 has hit Delhi-NCR and considering the seriousness of the epidemic, 80% of our teams are working from homes," said Anshul Sushil, founder and CEO of Wizikey, adding that the few coming to work are being provided masks, sanitizers and regular temperature checks.

Similarly, software company Wingify has announced a mandatory work-from-home for all their 240 plus employees. “I also see this as an experiment, and the learnings will help us become more agile," said Sparsh Gupta, CEO & Co Founder, Wingify.

Travel app Ixigo has also announced a one week mandatory work from home for the employees of the Gurgaon office from March 6 until Friday, 13th March. Based on further reports and news on the situation in Delhi/NCR we will decide on the next steps, said a spokesperson.

Co-working company WeWork that has 6 centres in Gurugaram, is taking precautionary measures across all its operations by increased daytime cleaning, regular sanitation of common touch points and making sure that there is sufficient stock of soap and dispensers remain filled. “The Company also has a mandatory 14-day work from home policy for any employee recently returning from high-risk regions, as well as those who exhibit flu-like symptoms," said a WeWork spokesperson

Working from home, however, is a temporary measure. “There is an obligation that employers have to provide a safe and healthy environment but there is no specific law that allows you to work from home," says Manishi Pathak, partner with Delhi-based law firm Induslaw.

Maintaining hygiene and sanitizing the workplace is a top priority as companies grapple with the deadly virus. While hand sanitizers and masks have started to disappear from shop shelves, Indian companies are providing the coveted items to their employees.

Start up CARS24 has placed hand sanitizers in all common areas including the reception, meeting rooms and the cafeteria. Common surface areas like doorknobs and biometric machines are being regularly sanitized with alcohol wipes. The company has also decided to cancel all planned public meetings and social gatherings for at least two weeks in the interest of minimizing the risk of spreading any infection, said a CARS 24 spokesperson.

Hotel start up Oyo has asked employees to use alternative methods of correspondence, like video conferencing or phone calls wherever possible to avoid travel and face-to-face interactions during this time.

It has restricted non-essential travel to the US, LATAM, Middle East, Southeast Asia, Europe, South Korea, China and Japan, adding that travel for only business-critical situations will need an executive approval.For domestic travel, OYOpreneurs are encouraged to use caution and all travel requests must continue to be approved by the respective business head, a statement said.

Gurugram-based messaging app Hike has gone astep ahead and is providing Vitamin C rich food items like oranges, pineapples and guava to employees to boost their immunity.

Consulting company KPMG has made sure that it is providing technology support to its employees. VPN bandwidth has been enhanced to support remote working and employees have been asked to carry their laptops home every day.The company has also cancelled or rescheduled all planned events and are encouraging colleagues to use digital conferencing facility like Zoom and Skype for business for communication and reduce air travel as much as possible.

Bengaluru-based IT major Infosys has a well-defined disaster recovery and business continuity plans at various levels that include increased precautions at its facilities, travel advisories, remote working, and a dedicated helpdesk, to ensure employee safety and business continuity.

California based VMware which has an office in Bengaluru has made counselling hotlines available globally through their Employee Assistance Program (EAP), to help employees with issues that may arise due to COVID-19.

(With inputs from Abhijit Ahaskar and Meera V.)

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