As the threat of war in Ukraine continues to grow, employers across the globe need to prepare to support employees who may need direct assistance.
Global conflicts are increasingly unpredictable. If you’re dealing with remote workers currently living in a burgeoning war zone like Ukraine, or have employees in hot zones that could quickly become dangerous, you need to be prepared in case your employees are personally impacted by the daily news headlines. Here are seven ways to offer practical support.
Focus on Flexibility
Don’t assume that everyone is informed about current events. Disseminate information about conflicts and headlines that are impacting your staff, especially to colleagues and managers of impacted workers. Make it clear that employee safety comes first, and that there is no obligation for impacted employees to attend meetings or meet deadlines. Employees should feel comfortable asking for support from other members of the team where necessary.
On the other side of the coin, work can be a lifeline for many people in a time of crisis, so avoid making blanket policies like enforcing time off work for those who are affected by a tumultuous event. Allow the impacted employees to lead the way. Check in regularly to see what support they might need.
Offering paid leave, full flexibility in work hours, or full time off as needed can assure that each individual employee is empowered to make the right decisions for their specific circumstances.
Offer Relocation Support
If you know that employees are living or working in a danger zone, you can offer relocation support – either to a less focal hot spot or even out of the country altogether. Don’t forget to include their families in any plans, and consider complexities such as children getting to school. You might want to include pre-decision counseling to help employees make the choice about whether to stay or go.
If employees decide to stay in their location, or if relocation is impossible – offer them options for safer transport, such as a car and a driver to get around a dangerous city. This could provide better protection and give an alternative to walking through the streets or relying on public transportation.
Alternatively, if they choose to relocate, help simplify the process by submitting for emergency immigration or work permit to another location. Every minute can count in these situations. Employers can help remove the burden of paperwork and processing.
Send Practical Supplies
In times of chaos, even everyday tasks such as getting groceries, medicines, or even visiting the bank can be . Look into sending supplies to workers who are living in dangerous locations in times of crisis.
In the Ukraine for example, websites such as Zakaz can sendlocal supermarket deliveries to employee’s front doors, while Ukraine’s national postal service ukrposhta.ua has a comprehensive list of suppliers of medicines, medical equipment, vitamins and hygiene products – also delivered straight to their door.
It may be difficult for staff to open up about what they need from their employer. Consider using technology like TINYpulse where managers can ask questions and employees can rate them anonymously so that HR can get an understanding of what’s helpful and what isn’t. It helps decision-makers recognize which requirements are urgent and what suggestions are truly going to make a difference to employees in need.
Other supplies could be useful to ensure that the business and organizational needs are not disrupted by the current situation. Equipment to support IT to ensure connectivity and security can prove to be useful to support both the organization and individual employees.
In the case that the internet goes down, employers can cover cell phone reimbursement. Other communication tools, such as satellite phones or long-distance radios can provide means for contingency communication. In addition, UPS 2000VA batteries offer office backup power supply. And each employee can also get backup battery supplies.
Checking-in To New Levels
Having contact details for your employees is critical in order to maintain ongoing support. Confirm with each employee that their personal information and current address and emergency contact is listed and up-to-date in the organization’s HRIS tools. Assign a lead for each location to help provide an efficient way to gather information and updates, and also communicate updates back to the team. Establishing a daily check-in process is highly advised.
Consider Implementing Exceptional Assistance Measures
In extreme situations, you may want to implement a policy to offer employees Exceptional Assistance, which usually comes in the form of financial support. This may even come under your duty of care as an employer, especially if you have previously relocated employees to this region.
Exceptional Assistance could cover anything from travel costs or travel documentation fees and charter flight charges, and may also help employees who are unable to work for long periods of time due to their living situation. In this case, their salary could continue at the same rate as normal, providing them the peace of mind to support themselves and their families until the current crisis resolves.
Another approach could be to develop a contingency plan when it comes to financial support. Money could be transferred as petty cash immediately, to be used for housing, communication, and transportation. You can also reset payroll cycles to be more frequent, even weekly, to provide more and easier access to salary. Or, even more assertively, employers can consider paying salary in advance, to pre-emptively overcome a potential dysfunction in the banking system.
Provide Medical Coverage Contingencies
In such uncertain times, insurance can also give some peace of mind. Arrange cost-effective health and medical insurance schemes specifically designed to provide the essential elements of hospital care and treatment in challenging areas. Policies can also provide hospital in-patient and out-patient coverage, plus emergency medical evacuation and repatriation, if required. It’s important to consider global coverage, especially given the potential of relocated employees.
Provide Mental Health Services
In some cases, the most impactful thing you can provide is the knowledge that the employees are not alone.One in five people who live in a war zone suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder or even schizophrenia.
Now’s the time to brush up your approach to offering mental health services across your organization, and communicate their availability to the relevant employees. Ideas include:
- Counseling: Make sure employees know they have someone to talk to, off the record and without shame. This should be offered both during a stressful event and also afterwards, for as long as necessary. 70% of employees find accessing counseling at least moderately challenging, and access to mental health professionals is something you can offer to smooth the path.
- Mental health days: Make time off for burn-out, stress and “too much going on” part of your PTO plan for your employees. “Pulling a sickie” can feel dishonest, and so making mental health days part of the package can encourage those who need a day off to take one without guilt or fear.
- Family cover: Remember that your employees do not exist in isolation. If an employee’s wife, parents or children are struggling – they are likely struggling too. Extending mental health support to your staff’s wider family could make all the difference.
- Anti-stigma campaigns: Offering mental health services is only as impactful as the number of employees who feel comfortable saying yes. Actively work to reduce stigma around accepting support, and role model this approach by encouraging leaders to open up about their own challenges.
It can feel helpless to sit watching the news and worry about remote workers who are living with dangerous and even life-threatening situations. From practical support with supplies, finances, or relocation, to the right mental health strategy and flexible work balance – we hope this advice can help you get active in supporting your employees.
It is also essential to consider cultural norms for each location. The help we think is right, remotely, can be received differently and possibly as detrimental culturally. It is important, above all, to communicate with the local staff and keep and open dialogue.
Need any more advice on supporting employees in a specific region? Contact us here.