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AP Photo/Manish Swarup
Parched.
IN OR OUT

Indian startups are helping their staff stay cool as temperatures hit record highs

By Ananya Bhattacharya

The arrival of monsoon aside, most of India’s still scorched and parched. Today (June 17), a heat wave is expected to sweep the northern states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh; the south is battling an acute water crisis.

Businesses across India are hit. Several IT firms and restaurants in southern India’s Chennai have cut down operations. In Kerala, labourers are now allowed a siesta between noon and 3pm.

Many startups are trying to give their employees some respite, too, by making their commute easier, offering various amenities at work, or even letting them work out of home.

Taking care

Sanchit Vir Gogia, founder of advisory firm Greyhound Research, recently set up a new office in Gurugram. However, due to the heat, his employees have been frequently falling ill. “There are cough and cold and viral diseases going around, and sometimes they eat bad food,” he told Quartz. To beat the heat and stay healthy, Greyhound is now offering work-from-home and flexible hours.

Hotel group OYO, too, is offering flexible schedules.

“With weather conditions expected to get worse in the coming few weeks, employees are entitled to work and leave office depending on the weather conditions with their teams/leads being informed in prior as a practice,” an OYO spokesperson told Quartz. “As a company, we do not believe in promoting a 9-5 work culture with grumpy machines keeping an eye on their walk-in and walk-out timings.”

The heatwave has already claimed 36 lives across the country. The risk of heat-related illness and heat strokes are high. In case employees fall sick, OYO has an in-house infirmary, complete with a physician and pharmacy.

Both Greyhound and OYO make efforts to keep their staff hydrated. At the former’s co-working space WeWork, employees are provided water that is cooled and infused with fruits in the summer. If they have to step out of the workplace for meetings, they are supplied with packaged water and reimbursements for food and drink. OYO has also stocked up on iced tea and cold coffee.

Some companies that don’t offer the remote-working option have come up with innovative ways for staffers to beat the heat.

Jaipur-based automobile portal, CarDekho, for instance, gives its employees transport facility from and to the metro station, CEO and co-founder Amit Jain said. It follows this practice across its offices in Gurugram and Mumbai, too.

However, not all employees are keen on working out of their sofas and beds; they choose to spend long hours in the office—a trend that surfaces year after year.

Electricity at home is sporadic. Excessive air conditioner usage is tripping power lines, leaving people without any way to cool down in the sweltering heat. The wifi connection is no dependable either. People want to “beat that irregularity,” Gogia said. “Folks come in super early while the roads are still not crowded and it’s not too hot. The office AC is on 8-to-8 anyway, so some even stay later.”