How the Ukraine-Russia Conflict Affects International Remote Work

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is just the latest large-scale crisis and source of consternation on the world stage. The effects of a lingering pandemic, decimated economies and the threat of a spiraling world war add up to a difficult situation for employees, recruiters, managers and business leaders.

This is a brief overview of how the Ukraine-Russia conflict affects the stability, availability, culture and security of international remote employment.

Workforce and payroll management

Around 40% of Russian citizens named the flexibility of remote work as one of their top job search criteria in 2021.

Remote work had become equally important among Ukraine’s workforce, especially the 200,000 software and app developers based there. Ukraine is one of Europe’s favorite homes for employers wishing to outsource development tasks.

The pandemic has played a significant role in the expansion of Russia’s remote working workforce. Unfortunately, recent events complicate bureaucracy and culture.

Expect this ongoing conflict to have a measurable impact on employees, whether they are citizens of directly affected regions or not. It starts with significant complications about how workers are compensated in each country.

  • Russia: The international financial market isolated Russia through sanctions and devaluations and made it impossible for multinational companies to compensate employees and contractors residing there.
  • Ukraine: Sanctions and other organized responses from world leaders have compromised and isolated the Russian economy. Ukraine, on the other hand, has been crippled by deliberate attacks on its economic infrastructure.

Worker Divestment

Employers may find themselves forced to place Ukrainian and Russian teleworkers on indefinite unpaid leave or terminate their contracts. Regardless of how the war ultimately unfolds, current events may have a long-term chilling effect on multinational employers hiring Russian or Ukrainian workers.

Due to Russia’s economic isolation, multinational employers are likely to consider mass layoffs and disband remote teams based in Russia or Ukraine.

Keep employees safe

The law in the UK, USA and throughout the industrialized world places the onus on the employer to take all reasonable steps to ensure a safe workplace.

The war pushes these legal precedents to the extreme. However, employers seem to recognize the moral imperative to repatriate Ukrainian-based employees and contractors, whether indigenous or not, as quickly as possible to get them out of harm’s way.

Other Labor Market Changes

The outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine has resulted in one of the greatest humanitarian crises in living memory. At least 1 million people have been driven from their homes in Ukraine since the violence began.

It may be difficult to assimilate these citizens into the European Union (EU) workforce without revising visa and labor mobility laws. UK governments are doing their best to accommodate these refugees by instituting visa waivers and other measures. Nevertheless, the business community may need to push for faster changes.

Mental health accommodation

Mental health experts observe that remote work can amplify some people’s tendencies to experience isolation and depression. Others thrive in such an environment.

Either way, adding the mental burden of an ongoing large-scale armed conflict could be the breaking point for some remote workers. Some employees may have acquaintances or family members at risk, which would seriously compromise their mental health and work performance.

Let this last question become a secondary concern. Managers and team leaders – especially those supervising remote teams – owe it to their direct reports to make a range of mental health resources available, even if only a listening ear in times of anxiety.

Lost economic opportunities

The EU accounted for 37% of all Russian trade in 2020. Russia has also offered lucrative expansion opportunities for European companies in virtually every sector. Working class individuals on several continents have benefited from this productive relationship for generations.

Economists expect slower growth in European and Western businesses expanding into Russia or adjacent markets due to the recent severance of economic ties.

Automotive, energy, agriculture, financial services, luxury goods and general manufacturing are all gearing up to suspend new projects, acquisitions, expansions and other investments across the region. Expect this to cause an additional chilling effect on employment in the disputed area and beyond.

War Between Russia and Ukraine: The Fallout of Manpower

Economists have devoted years of work to unraveling and assessing the long-term impacts of this conflict. What is clear is that the workforce in the two countries likely won’t be the same for some time.

A new iron curtain is rising between countries that previously enjoyed a precarious but promising peace. It is a time that calls for solidarity and a spirit of welcome towards all members of the working class, regardless of national origin and place of work. When political leaders choose war, it’s up to business and workers to build bridges.

image credit: [email protected]/depositphotos.com

Devin Partida writes about AI, apps, and technology at ReHack.com, where she is an editor.