When the war in Ukraine unfolded on February 24, 2022, it jolted global businesses with operations in the country like an unexpected earthquake. Multinational corporations faced the dual challenges of ensuring their employees' safety and keeping business operations running. We hope that by sharing our experience and the lessons we've learned in navigating through such challenging circumstances, we can help other businesses fine-tune their crisis management strategies.
What the Numbers Tell Us
The war in Ukraine has spread far beyond the region's borders, showing how our world is interconnected and how a conflict in one area can significantly impact global dynamics. According to statistics, the ripple effects of the war have been severe, spanning from mass displacement to global economic distress. The human impact has been stark, with millions of Ukrainians being forced to seek refuge in neighboring countries, while millions more lost their jobs due to the war's disruptions.
- Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022, more than 16 million people have crossed the border into other countries. (Statista)
- Most refugees from Ukraine fled to Poland, with Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Moldova being other top destinations for refugees. (Statista)
- Ukraine and Russia combined export 30% of the world's wheat and other food supplies. The war has now put 38 countries in a position of acute food insecurity. (National Public Radio)
- In the first eight months of the war, 2.4 million Ukrainians lost their jobs. (National Public Radio)
- Between January and October 2022, wages in Ukraine dropped by an estimated 11%. (Centre for Economic Policy Research)
- The total global economic cost of Russia's war in Ukraine could exceed $2.8 trillion. (Wall Street Journal)
- Russia's invasion of Ukraine caused the gasoline process in the U.S. to go up by more than $1, with higher cost increases in Europe. (Cato Institute)
- Global inflation, caused partly by Russia's war in Ukraine, reached 8.8% in 2022, up from 4.7% in 2021. (International Monetary Fund)
- The global cost-of-living crisis caused by the conflict in Ukraine plunged an estimated 71 million people into poverty around the globe. (United Nations Development Programme)
Supporting Team Members During a Time of Crisis
When disaster strikes anywhere in the world, particularly during wartime conflicts, it's essential for a company's management to respond swiftly. This rapid response helps ensure their business remains up and running, while also prioritizing the safety of their team. Following proven best practices can help organizations navigate the stressors and disruptions caused by a crisis, such as the conflict in Ukraine.
Establish a Crisis Management Team
This war taught us that an organization can't afford to be without a dedicated crisis management team. This team should comprise individuals with different skills and backgrounds, capable of making fast, informed decisions under immense pressure. They should be able to assess the situation quickly, decide on a plan of action, and execute it efficiently. We built such a team and developed a robust Business Continuity Plan focused on identifying the potential risks associated with the war, devising contingency plans, and establishing emergency protocols to mitigate the disruptive impact of the war to be able to mitigate the disruptive impact of the war and promptly react to the situation. Every team member had a predefined plan of action, ensuring that everyone knew their roles and responsibilities.
Prioritize employee safety
Employee safety is critical in war-torn regions, affecting their well-being and overall business continuity.
One of the key steps we took was establishing an Emergency Line. This dedicated communication channel provides employees with instant access to help and advice around the clock. It serves as a lifeline for staff members, allowing them to report emergencies, seek assistance, and receive prompt responses to any immediate concerns.
Helpware also launched a location-tracking system through dedicated safety apps. These tools not only help us keep track of our staff's whereabouts but also enable employees to alert us quickly if they find themselves in dangerous situations.
We felt it was crucial to boost our support for our employees' physical health. Consequently, we increased our medical insurance coverage by 74.3%. This substantial rise allowed our team members to have more extensive healthcare protection, giving them one less thing to worry about.
Provide relocation assistance
If employees must move to escape conflict zones, companies should work with them by helping them transition to a safer place.
As the Ukraine war intensified, Helpware's crisis management team facilitated the relocation of over 250 employees to safer areas within Ukraine and internationally. Along with this, we rapidly expanded our footprint in Europe by opening new locations in Poland, Albania, and Georgia in 2022. Importantly, Helpware bore evacuation and relocation-related expenses, considerably alleviating the personal cost and stress for our employees during these moves.
Help employees manage emotional stressors
Sometimes, people in distress are unaware of how to navigate complex emotions and may develop unhealthy coping mechanisms. That's why the Society for Human Resource Management notes that it's essential to help employees identify emotional stressors and explore ways to manage them effectively. Hiring a professional is the wisest approach if companies don't have the right expertise in-house.
Helpware introduced special counseling sessions for employees to help them cope with the effects of war-related stress. These sessions create a safe and private environment for our teams to share their emotions and learn practical ways to manage the complex stress caused by ongoing conflict, with the help of experienced professionals.
Securing seamless office operations
War zones pose extra challenges for businesses. To make sure employees have a safe, secure place to work, necessities like first-aid kits, food, water, backup power, secure communications, and increased security measures become crucial.
Beyond the basics, we've equipped our Kyiv and Lviv offices with power generators for uninterrupted operations during power outages, which are common in places in the thick of war. Anticipating the war's impacts, we also took the strategic step of opening a new office in Odesa. This office serves as a backup, ready to keep our business running smoothly if other locations become affected by the war.
For data safety and open communication lines, we've installed UPS systems in server rooms to ensure continuous power. We've also secured an uninterrupted internet connection, which is vital for a BPO company like ours, across all offices.
Maintain Operational Continuity
While ensuring employee safety is paramount, businesses also have to consider how to keep their operations running. In our case, we had contingency plans in place that allowed us to relocate operations, use remote working capabilities, and rely on employees in other parts of the world, such as Philipinnes, Mexico, our EMEA locations, and others.
Weathering the Storm while Nurturing Growth
Helpwear did a standout job during the crisis in Ukraine. We set a new high for ourselves in handling tough situations. It's heartening to share that due to all measures we took, not only have we managed to safeguard the welfare of our existing teams, but we've also successfully welcomed an additional 100+ members to our family since February 2022.
Our Ukrainian team has remained unwaveringly dedicated and it keeps working on over 25 ongoing projects, boasting a remarkable attendance rate as high as 97.3% while maintaining a pretty low attrition rate.
As we navigate this crisis, our priority remains the same – ensuring the safety, well-being, and professional growth of our team members, while continuing to deliver exceptional service to our clients. Our experience in Ukraine has shown us that, with the right strategies and commitment, it is possible to show exceptional performance even amidst adversity.