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Keeping the lights on: how Xpand responds to blackouts and challenges during the war in Ukraine

Apr 11, 2024 news UAbusiness

Сomments Maria Didyk, Xpand's administrative manager

In today's Ukrainian business landscape, where unexpected disruptions can throw operations off the course, the ability to adapt to challenging conditions is vital. As the Administrative Manager at Xpand, I've been at the heart of our efforts to protect our offices against potential blackouts.

In this material, I would like to share the measures implemented by Xpand and the resilience we showcased during the demanding winter months. Ensuring the smooth functioning of our offices spread across key cities like Kyiv, Zhytomyr, and Bila Tserkva goes beyond mere convenience — it's a strategic necessity. By foreseeing and addressing potential risks, we not only safeguard our day-to-day operations but also prioritize the well-being of our employees and ensure the continuity of our services.

To begin with, we really prepared for various challenges, calculating various scenarios to minimize risks for the entire company and achieve uninterrupted work and project delivery. Most of our employees relied on office desktop computers, accessing them remotely through desktop connections. We clearly understood that this could be a problem in case of blackouts, so we decided to move all computers from the Kyiv office to Zhytomyr (this particular office had been equipped with a large generator for several years). This provided us with a sustainable solution when the blackouts started. Picture the lounge area - tennis room, typically designated as a relaxation spot, now filled with computers from Kyiv. This interim measure proved invaluable, affording us the time needed to procure laptops for every Xpand employee, ultimately replacing desktop computers with more portable and versatile devices.

While moving computers to Zhytomyr, we tried to buy a generator or a flashlight at least. Of course, we understood the responsibility and were determined to provide Xpanders with the necessary equipment.

Everyone who remembers November 2022 knows what a hard task it was. We managed to buy 2 EcoFlows (rechargeable portable batteries that charge via solar energy or power outlets and produce AC and DC power which would last several hours) and they were delivered to the office in the middle of the missile attack when the electricity was gone. Talk about timing! We joked that it was perfect, crossing our fingers that they were charged. And guess what? They were! Well, at least 30% charged, which was enough to keep us going for the day.

We investigated all marketplaces 24/7 and eventually bought more EcoFlows, a generator, Starlinks, flashlights, power banks, candles, blankets, more drinking and technical water, and food with a long-term due date. After hours in a queue, we bought enough gasoline for the generator.

In those challenging times, when rechargeable portable batteries fell short and blackouts persisted, our generator stood as a lifeline of hope, ensuring that we could keep our operations running and our team safe.

I remember the night when one of our teams worked for a customer for the whole night and it was important to ensure stable work conditions, the generator was just delivered and we tried to turn it on under the pouring rain, even though none of us knew how to do it. It is worth noting here that before the full-scale war, none of us were experts in this field. So thanks to instructions, determination, and a little luck, we managed to get it running. Now, I can operate that generator with my eyes closed.

People were back in the offices! We implemented shared workplaces mode and developed our own “workplace booking app”, so that our employees could visit the office with their relatives and guests. This not only promoted a sense of community but also helped us, as the administration, effectively manage our office capacity.

Our IT team went above and beyond, creating comprehensive lists of instructions detailing what to buy and where to buy it for setting up home offices. They were available 24/7, providing invaluable assistance and support to address any questions or concerns our employees had. Their dedication ensured that everyone had the necessary resources and guidance.

Even though it was a hard time, being back in the offices with the team was very inspiring - we joked, we laughed, and supported each other no matter what. Being a part of such an amazing community helps us to go through these hard times.

In the summer of 2023, we predicted new autumn/winter blackouts and started preparation right away.

We counted how many rechargeable portable batteries we needed for non-stop work conditions and bought a new generator to back up the batteries. In the meantime, our Business Center went ahead and got some big generators for all floors. It definitely gave us a confidence boost!

As we got ready for possible blackouts, we faced another scary but possible threat: a nuclear danger for Ukraine from russia. Therefore, we prepared instructions with actions for this case: the team made a list of things that employees could buy for themselves, where to buy these things, and a clear action plan on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. Of course, in the office, we stocked up on food, water, medicines, masks, glasses, and radios just in case.

In autumn 2023, we took proactive steps to ensure that everyone in our company was prepared for any electricity-related emergencies. We created clear instructions for both the administrative department and all employees on how to operate the generator and what to do in case of a power outage or restoration.

Given that our Business Centers operate 24/7, we wanted to make sure that everyone understood the necessary actions. While the administrative team was available in the office from 09:00 to 18:00 to maintain stable work conditions, every employee needed to know what to do in case of an emergency.

To further assist our employees, we compiled a list of coworking spaces throughout Ukraine along with their operating conditions. This information was shared with all employees to ensure they could quickly find suitable alternatives if needed.

I'd like to highlight the organization of trips abroad separately. Due to the current restrictions, air travel is currently unavailable, and a curfew is in effect, so business trips take not hours, as before, but days. So, organizing business trips became trickier. We had to deal with a lot of logistics. To make sure everything went smoothly, we sent out detailed emails to all the travelers, outlining each step of the journey — from railway stations and airports to bus routes — along with addresses and itineraries. This careful planning paid off, as all travelers safely reached their destinations and returned home without incident.

Even though we made it through winter without any big problems, things haven't exactly gotten easier. We remain committed to ensuring that our offices serve as bastions of stability for every Xpander and their loved ones, providing a sense of security and continuity in uncertain times.

Read more about how we coped with the challenges at the beginning of the full-scale war and how we managed to level them in the article from HR manager.

In those tough times, it was all hands-on deck. But thanks to our resourcefulness and a whole lot of determination, we made it through. And hey, if there's one thing we learned, it's that you never know what you're capable of until you're put to the test.

Reflecting on those challenges brings a smile to my face. Sure, it was tough at times, but it was also incredibly rewarding. There's just something about overcoming obstacles and completing a difficult project that fills you with pure satisfaction.

I'm grateful for the strong support and unity of Xpand team. With such a community, there's nothing we can't handle together.

Here's to facing whatever comes our way with courage, resilience, and a smile on our faces!

Find out more about Xpand and our operations and how we are holding on and delivering results despite all the challenges and full-scale war in Ukraine, please visit Facebook and LinkedIn.