Like everybody, I’m watching and following the stream of news about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with total horror. Since I have team members from all across the world, including Ukraine, I’d like to share a few thoughts on what we can do in such situations.
Relieve all team members in Ukraine from any work duties until they and their loved ones are safe. This probably goes without saying, but to be clear: nobody is going to work anyway when bombs are flying over your house! So remove any ambiguity of expectations for them (and the team!), and make sure the team is ready to cover their absence until further notice.
Yes, especially in some teams, it means a total halt of any progress. It is about the time to roll up your sleeves and figure out what is essential, negotiate, and reassign unaffected (I mean, less affected. There’s no way this insanity does not move somebody) individuals to those business-critical areas.
Establish Direct Connection
It is unreasonable to expect people are fleeing from a war zone or taking shelter to check work Slack. Therefore, make sure you personally, or someone else from the team, has another way of connecting with Ukrainians. Do not rely on phone calling - this is the last thing you should be doing. Text messages apps like Telegram or WhatsApp are popular among Ukrainians, and it’s easy to connect through them using a phone number you undoubtedly already know.
Figure out what you or your company could do for themor their families. Situations might be wildly different, so it’s impossible to summarize, but this is the time to put strict rules and policies aside and turn on maximum flexibility. Is money a problem? Can we pay some part of the salary in advance? Do they need contacts who could accept them after crossing the border? Figure it out and provide all help you feasibly can from a distance, or if they arrive in your or neighbor country - in person.
Keep The Team Updated
There is no way team members from other countries will just ignore the issue and move on like nothing is happening. Share the news about everyone’s wellbeing and, if it’s not private, next steps or check-in plans. Make sure your team has enough information to worry about their team members as little as possible. Remember, the team also needs to be focused enough to keep the business afloat, so when the world goes back to some normal state, there is a workplace to come back and a paycheck to rebuild your life!
Russians In The Team
Unavoidably there might be some tensions if the team is multinational, with both Ukrainians and Russians in the same team. Remember: even a war doesn’t give anyone a ticket to treat anybody unrespectfully! Cut any sparks of such behavior as early as possible, and turn the attention to something that can be useful: helping everyone affected, pushing your projects forward, and so on. It’s best to invite anyone to keep any political discussions to an absolute minimum due to the incredibly negative emotional charge they’re bringing.
Emotions are on absolute high right now. So let’s find a way to drive this energy to result in something useful. Help, guide, donate. Drowning in social media is not very likely to move a needle - find a vector that can.
Photo by Emilio Morenatti