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The First 30 Days of Workplace Crisis: Communication & Support

The ongoing war against Ukraine is affecting us all, with extreme crisis reactions forming among employees in bordering countries as well as in companies with a Ukrainian workforce. However, crimes against humankind have an impact on us all and even those not impacted directly will experience common trauma reactions, specialists say. 

According to crisis psychologists, the 30 first days after the start of the event matter the most. Here are 5 things you could do at your workplace to support your employees during that time.

  1. Allow more frequent breaks. Since the beginning of the war, we have seen a rise in the number of workplace accidents happening. Difficulties with gathering attention, memory problems, inability to concentrate, and extreme fatigue – but not realizing it – are common during the first 30 to 40 days. Instead of working for 3 or 4 hours in a row, there should be smaller breaks after each hour to avoid serious workplace accidents. Rest enables better self-control.

  2. Offer opportunities to talk. If a person going through a crisis doesn’t get the chance to talk with someone during the first month, they will have no energy to talk the next, specialists say. Even those with opposing beliefs need to say those out loud (in private) to someone who can listen in order to hear them and possibly start changing his viewpoint. If there are no resources available for one-on-one meetings, introduce anonymous polls, for example, and ask what people would like their employees to offer at times like that.

  3. Don’t wait for people to come and ask for help. Your employees, men in particular, might think that there is someone else who needs the help more than they do. “If the help isn’t offered directly to me, it’s probably not meant for people like me” is a common thought, specialists say. Instead of a general announcement, send each employee a direct message, for example. The sooner the better: after the first 30 to 40 days, those of your people experiencing the crisis more extremely will be too exhausted mentally to reach out for help themselves and will later be at risk for developing PTSD symptoms.

  4. Teach basic communication skills. Males and females tend to react very differently to traumatic events, which is often a source for a new conflict both at home and at work. But often, the most important support for your employees also comes from their homes: from their partners and other family members. Therefore, it makes sense to enhance their sense of belonging through guiding them to understand and support each other. Invite a family therapist to hold a short seminar, for example, or share relevant articles via your employee app.

  5. Ask for help. Volunteering and giving untrained support means an extreme risk for burnout. As an HR worker, your task is to take care of your people, however, you do not have to do it alone. Be the middleman or project manager who finds trained specialists and appropriate resources to support your employees with and avoid holding all crisis-related conversations yourself.

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