Once Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Ukrainians needed to evacuate and work had to be replanned. Given this tragically difficult event, individuals and companies are still trying to get out of shock. Managers and HR partners keeping up with global and local news must understand that these events may shatter people who haven’t even been directly affected by the war. It’s critical to support your employees during these chaotic times. Here’s how to approach the issue.
PandaDoc is a B2B SaaS software company founded in 2013. We have approximately 750 employees, 173 of which are from Ukraine. We lovingly refer to them as Pandas.
Our direct response to the situation has been to support our people in every imaginable way. We started by immediately evacuating our Pandas and providing financial support to them.
For example, during the very first days of the war, several Pandas from Ukraine were at a company meeting in Portugal. They had return tickets and were planning a home return when the invasion began. PandaDoc prolonged their Portugal stay for a week so they could remain in one place, cope with the shock, and consider what to do next. The company then booked places where people could stay for a longer period.
Looking back now, we’ve helped in several ways:
Communication is crucial, and discussing changes openly with your employees is especially necessary during moments of turbulence. So, communication should be:
Words of support have become one of our most powerful tools. It’s been important for Pandas to know that the company will help look after them during these hard times, and that there’s a safe place to discuss concerns openly.
We immediately offered recordings of mental health sessions to our team. Later, we’ve created a Ukrainian Emergency Knowledge Base — all necessary info about the situation in one place.
We’ve added extra budget for employees to use for relocation, mental health support, and anything necessary for their safety. Also, our HR team has pitched in to help find and book accommodation, organize evacuation buses, help with documents, and so on. Pandas have mostly spent this additional budget on booking accommodation, tickets and fuel, and most sweetly, travel documents for pets.
As always, we collaborated closely with internal leaders by providing them with information on processes and operational changes. For example, in the first weeks of the Ukraine crisis, we held a meeting with the PandaDoc leadership team and covered the following:
We’ve ensured that managers have received this info before anything is announced to the entire company. We’ve also provided managers with an opportunity to get their questions answered — so when their employees come to them, they’ll be fully prepared to discuss anything that comes up.
Also, we talk regularly with managers, one-on-one, so we know what’s going on with their employees and how we can help. Our HR team has provided support on request if conflict situations have arisen.
Once the time was appropriate after the war began, we began offering mental health sessions to the entire company. Licensed psychologists have worked with our team, facilitating sessions on these crucial topics:
Furthermore, we’ve offered additional educational sessions for managers on, for example, the role of a leader during a crisis. We’ve also organized workshops to help managers determine who needs help, what they can do (and what they can’t), and how to use feedback to help employees regain their productivity.
We’ve routinely conducted regular Lattice Pulse surveys to monitor changes. Predictably, the data has shown a decrease in self-efficiency, motivation, and engagement during the first months of the war. On the other hand, all our steps mentioned above led to a boost in the company’s commitment to Pandas, manager support, job satisfaction/fit, and a sense of belonging. For example, leadership indicators increased by over 14%, and support by 3%.
I genuinely believe it’s crucial for HR partners to develop emotional intelligence and awareness. This way, they can:
Being Ukrainian myself, I experienced the same feelings as other people. Also, I moved to another country and worked without days off to support others. Years of therapy, as well as holding a Master’s Degree in Psychology, have helped me a lot. This way, I could understand my limitations and the things I could influence.
Also, I became highly focused during the first months of the war. That was my way of managing stress. However, I know it’s easy to miss the moment when exhaustion takes hold, so when the situation eased, I took a vacation.
Here are a few books I’ve found to be particularly helpful:
Finally, I’ve learned how to support myself and, when necessary, ask for help. If I’ve ever felt overwhelmed, I know I can ask my teammates to pitch in. There have been simple daily actions to get back to myself, such as practicing pilates, getting a massage, or working less.
Since 2020, the world has been in turmoil. And these days, the usual workflow is no longer what it used to be: no commute, no coffee queue, no one dropping by your desk to say hi. The events of 2022 have made even more of us work from different places and time zones. PandaDoc has adapted to this new reality of remote working environments — here’s how we’ve done it effectively.
If you’re wondering how to ignore stress, the answer would be “It’s impossible — and not always necessary.” A stress reaction is natural, and it’s what makes us human. We talked about this with psychologist Aleksandra Zinkova and shared our own experiences of how specific recommendations worked for us.
If you’re wondering how to ignore stress, the answer would be «It’s impossible and not always necessary». A stress reaction is natural, and it’s what makes us humans. We talked about that to a psychologist Aleksandra Zinkova and shared our own experiences of how specific recommendations worked for us.