Supporting our team in a time of crisis

Watching the crisis unfold in Ukraine is harrowing and has left many of us feeling helpless, anxious and angry. Even though we have no business ties to Ukraine or Russia and none of our team members are based in either country, we feel personally and deeply affected by what’s going on. After all, we are not just a business we are a multicultural team of people. And looking after our people is one of the most important values we hold dear at AJT. In this article, I’m sharing how we are supporting out team through this time of crisis.

It can be hard at times like this to find the focus to carry on with our work. Everything feels rather futile in the face of the atrocities and human suffering we watch or read about in the news. Yet, as a team, we have to find ways to continue to function. We have to continue our work to make our living and to serve our clients. We have to find a balance between staying informed without letting anxiety tip us over the edge. Getting involved without becoming overwhelmed. As a business, we wanted to act fast, both to show our support for Ukraine and also to support our team.

Communicating with the team

Here at AJT, we do our very best to look after the mental health of our team members. Working in a fully remote environment means it’s even more important to check in on our team and we use The Happiness Index as a tool to monitor happiness levels in our company. From the start of the invasion, we could clearly see happiness scores decreasing and the comments from our team members showed increasing anxiety about the events in Ukraine.

We felt that it was really important to acknowledge what was happening and to talk about it. At the beginning of last week, we invited everyone who wanted to talk about events in Ukraine to an open Zoom call. We chatted, shared our thoughts and worries, and discussed what we could do as a business and as individuals to help and to contribute to those most affected.

After the call, we set up a #ukraine Slack channel for any team members who wanted to chat about the situation, to check in with each other and also to share some of the positive news stories coming out of this. We were aware that people might not want to think about war while at work or to be pinged about this topic. We wanted to respect everyone’s right to opt in or out of the conversation and gave people the option to join the channel or not.

Sharing information

We started by sharing what we had chatted about on the call, and our colleague Alicia quickly set up a Google Sheet with useful links that we had shared about reputable news sources, charities and ways to donate.

We shared information about how to consume news mindfully, to make sure we consult reputable news sources, and to fact check before sharing information on social media. We discussed how to talk about the conflict using appropriate language and terminology, and our colleague Kasia encouraged us to learn about the history and culture of Ukraine so that we can better understand what’s happening in context.

Taking action

Beyond talking and discussing, we also wanted to ‘put our money where our mouth was’ and take real action to support the humanitarian effort:

  • We immediately donated £500 to the charity Polish Humanitatarian Aid (PAH) who provide medical assistance, food, hygiene kits, blankets, sleeping bags and other bare necessities to people in Ukraine
  • We are giving colleagues paid time off to attend peace demonstrations in their area
  • We have encouraged our team to register with Translators Without Borders and have offered everyone an allowance of 5 hours per work to spend on volunteering during work hours
  • We changed the colour of our company logo on social media to show our support for Ukraine
  • We will donate any planned but unspent social budget for our financial year ending 31st March to more aid organisations

By donating money as well as donating our time, we hope to be able to contribute and help in some small way.

What’s next?

It is hard to predict how the situation in Ukraine will unfold over the coming days, weeks and months. Here at AJT, our priority is to support our team members and closely monitor mental wellbeing. We will continue to have regular chats for anyone who needs and wants them. We will continue to share helpful links on social media and will not be sharing marketing posts that will clutter up people’s newsfeed during this time.

We will continue to look for ways to support the humanitarian effort and to use our voice in the fight for peace. Some businesses may be hesitant to make open statements, feeling that ‘they don’t want to get involved in politics’ but for us this isn’t about politics, this is about humanity, peace and democracy. It’s about showing Ukrainians and Russians alike that the world is watching.