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Office administrative officer missing? This may be the reason

The Coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent lockdown has led to millions of jobs being lost across Indian workplaces. Your administrative officer's job is one of them.

August 22, 2020 / 08:49 AM IST

When Varsha Chandhok realised that some of her important files were left in office amidst the coronavirus lockdown, the first person she reached out to for help was the administrative officer. Turns out, the administrative officer was terminated.

This financial services firm of which Chandhok is a part of had 10 administrative officers of which only one has been retained. These personnel handled day-to-day activities from sending pre-meeting pointers to booking the meeting room, arranging for refreshments and preparing a log of office supplies, dry food that will need to be ordered from external vendors.

However, with COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown forcing a remote-working culture across India Inc, among the several million jobs that have gone under the axe are administrative officers in corporate offices.

Also Read: 10.8 million jobs cuts and counting in India

With employees working home, the requirement of having multiple administrative officers has drastically reduced. Hence rather than having 10-15 member teams of administrative offices to handle empty workplaces, corporates have now resorted to cutting down on these personnel.

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A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

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Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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India has close to 1.9 million registered companies. Considering that each company has close to seven people as administrative staff on an average, this translates to 13.3 million personnel across the country.

Kolkata’s Pradeep Naskar lost his administrative assistant job in a tax firm within weeks of the lockdown being announced across India. His job involved replacing office supplies and helping setting up meeting schedules for colleagues.

“It is as if they were waiting to sack me. Since the other officials moved back home, the company felt that my services were no longer required. I haven’t found another job yet,” he added.

Moneycontrol had reported earlier how 10.8 million jobs have been lost so far across India Inc due to the pandemic. Human resource consultants said that of this 20 percent of roles pertain to administrative staff who cannot be accommodated into other roles.

“Administrative roles are not like accounting or marketing jobs. Since the skill levels required are low, finding alternative roles will be tough. Plus, these personnel really don’t have anything productive to do due to remote working. Hence it is a tough but necessary call to let go off these personnel,” said the senior manager of human resources at a consumer appliance firm.

So, during the remote-work era, staff like Chandhok who need help in retrieving documents from the workplace, now the HR team and the transport fleet team have replaced the minimal administrative requirements. Meetings have moved online and hence employees themselves are now responsible for organising these for their teams.

Considering that work-from-home is expected to continue till December end across workplaces, the tough times for administrative positions at workplaces continue.

However, HR officials are of the view that if administrative staff laid off from companies could up-skill in areas like safety (fire, natural calamities), sanitation and emergency response (first aid, evacuation) then they could be redeployed into factories and public spaces like shopping malls and theatres.
M Saraswathy
first published: Aug 22, 2020 08:49 am
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