4 Expert Tips to Support Employee Mental Health and Wellbeing During War in Ukraine

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is affecting  the mental health of people all over the world, including work motivation and levels of stress that people bring to the office. Recruitment and personnel rent solutions expert explains how employers can help.

March 31, 2022

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has affected people’s wellbeing worldwide. Employers should be aware that, for some of their team members, anxiety, stress and depressive moods rise due to constant media updates about the war, not to mention the mental state of those whose family, relatives, or friends are in the war zone.

“After two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, it seemed like life might soon return to normal. Now we have another global crisis, and people are more sensitive as they have not yet recovered from the pandemic,” said Diana Blažaitienė, recruitment and personnel rent solutions expert at Soprana Personnel International.

“Dealing with both employers and employees and meeting their needs is our everyday job. As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine lasts, employers should react and give support to their staff — they should not close their eyes to people’s emotions,” explained Diana Blažaitienė.

The expert suggested that employers consider the following 4 steps to improve employee mental health:

1. Acknowledgment of the situation

It’s important to understand that employees may be experiencing the negative impact of Russia’s invasion of  Ukraine. Not only those who came from Ukraine, have family or relatives there, or live geographically close, but all employees in general.  The main  message from a CEO or a senior manager should be that of open support and understanding that everyone might be experiencing various emotions.

2. Teaching employees to recognize the symptoms of stress in colleagues

Employers should take the time to notice any changes in appearance, behavior, and mood that are not typical for a person. Special attention should be given to those who were directly impacted by the war. Sofiia Zavadska, a Ukrainian, who has been recruited by Ms. Blažaitienė’s company and has been living and working in Lithuania for the past several years, shared her experience.

“I’ll be honest, I was falling apart during the first week of the war. Sleepless nights, skipping meals, shaking hands each time you receive a new notification, or trying to reach your family, friends who are in Ukraine. Our team leader suggested working from home. A colleague turned off my working phone and redirected the calls to his phone. Give a stressed person a couple of days off. Please do not think about the money at this moment. Think about the employee who will come back to work at least somewhat rested and grateful for the provided support,” said Ms. Zavadska.

3. Encouraging employees not to “doomscroll”

According to Ms. Blažaitienė, employers should talk to their employees and urge them not to watch headlines constantly or read posts on social media related to the war in Ukraine. “While getting as much information as possible might show that you are gaining control over the situation, but when you are experiencing chronic levels of stress and anxiety, it’s making you feel even worse. It’s also unhelpful when you can’t take any direct action,” explained the expert.

Instead, businesses are encouraged to motivate people to focus on what they can do: donate, join a support initiative, volunteer, etc.

4. Reminding workers of the variety of resources available to them

The company might offer free professional psychological help in person or in groups, or give subscriptions to mobile apps which help manage stress and anxiety. Employers can also prepare a list of related literature, podcasts, collect and share helpline and support group numbers, organize group meditation and awareness exercises for employees, etc.

Ms. Blažaitienė has arranged special therapy for Ms. Zavadska, which included manual treatment and energy balance.

“Therapy, meditation, and communication with my family and friends in Ukraine helped me the most. It is important to understand that you are the one responsible for your life and wellbeing. It is not a shame to take care of yourself,” shared the Ukrainian.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, more than 28,000 refugees have arrived in Lithuania and officially registered with the Migration Department. Of these, 9 thousand children under 18 years. Using the help of the Employment Service, more than 800 companies offered over 5,2 thousand job places, according to the information of the National Employment Service. It is believed that these figures may be even higher, as employers in Lithuania are free to employ Ukrainians from March 1 without any additional procedures.