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Return to office guidelines: How ad agencies are limping back to normalcy

Cheil India has resumed office operations with minimal staff but Dentsu Network agencies and FCB plan to start in coming weeks. finds out how agencies are planning to ensure offices and employees remain Covid-free as they start work

After more than 40 days of shutting office operations, ad agencies in Delhi-NCR are trying to get back on track. The agencies are opening their offices by ensuring enough safeguards for employee safety and implementing flexible HR policies.

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As a part of the strategy to resume operations, the senior leadership of several leading agencies is planning to work from office to instil confidence in juniors.

The mandatory standard operating procedures issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and district authorities include not more than 33% attendance, social distancing norms and use of masks and sanitisers. The SOPs include thermal screening of employees and a separate area in case any employee shows symptoms of Covid at work.

Saswati Sinha

Cheil India resumed operations with 25% attendance. "Our senior leadership and employees with critical roles from each business department living in and around Gurugram have resumed work from office," said Saswati Sinha, Head, HR, Cheil India.

Abiding by government announcements and advisories, agencies are sanitising offices and forming safety manuals for employees.

Rohit Ohri

"IPG and FCB are creating a manual for employee safety to resume operations. Our manual is called the 'return to the office' guideline. We launched a survey to gather employee sentiments to help us in our return to office," said Rohit Ohri, Group Chairman, CEO, FCB India.

The agency will encourage those employees who have older parents, smaller kids or have health issues to work from home. There will be significant changes in office infrastructure and proper sanitisation.


Dentsu Aegis Network will resume office operations in the coming weeks with 20% employees.

Sunil Seth

"As the first step, we are working on the ‘Be Premise Ready’, a manual detailed all aspects of office opening and operations until we reach a stage of normalcy in the coming weeks/months. This will include preparing our offices for sanitisation, deep surface cleaning, etc. There are change in layouts and seating arrangements to maintain social distancing within offices," said Sunil Seth, Head HR Business Partner, South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network.

The agency created a manual for offices across different states as well. Seth said those who come to the office will go through thermal scanning and other checks such as self-declaration, etc.

Signage messaging will be used to remind people to restrict the use of specific spaces such as cafeterias, visitor areas, etc. "We aim to be completely ready with our preparations by May 11," he said.

Others are taking a cautious approach and in no hurry to open offices.

BBDO, Wavemaker and Famous Innovations Delhi will work from home till May 17 and Publicis will continue WFH till May 31.

Amit Shankar

“We heard about many agencies opening up but we're in no hurry,” said Amit Shankar, Creative Head, Famous Innovations Delhi.

"Our work has been going well from home, people are working harder than ever, and we don't see the need to take any risk at the moment. Our office is in Gurgaon, and many employees travel from Delhi, so that is a restriction in itself. But even for those who can come, right now is not immediately the right time," he said.

The agency will keep WFH as an option for anyone who wants to take it for a few weeks even after the office opens.

Sandeep Sreekumar

"We certainly do love our office, and we're all missing working together. But at present, our only focus is to ensure the safety of our employees and to support them both emotionally and financially. Once we open, we will abide by safety guidelines laid down by the government. We will continue to practice social distancing and ensure regular sanitisation of our office premises," said Sandeep Sreekumar, Managing Director, Media Moments.

Commandments for resumption of office operations

*Employees to download Aarogya Setu app.

*Attendance to be less than 30% at all times.

*Temperature check while entering and leaving office.

*Sanitisation checks at every point.

*Social distancing markers are in place and meetings with more than five people are on virtual platforms.

*Mandatory provision of masks and gloves.

*People with health issues, older parents not to be called.

*Women employees with small children can stay at home.

*Mandatory medical insurance.

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