Ukrenergo since Tuesday, 17 March, has transferred the maximum number of its employees to the remote work from home.
For us it is a major challenge. Ukrenergo is a strategic enterprise of the critical infrastructure, and its stable operation is paramount for the entire power system and for the life support of the country. Also, we are a large company employing eight thousand people.
Therefore, when initiating quarantine measures we chose the two top priorities we rely on: health and safety of our employees and operational safety of the Integrated Power System of Ukraine.
But, frankly speaking, we have never had such experience before, and that is why we believe we should share what challenges we have faced. Maybe our experience will become useful for other large companies.
STAY AT HOME
As informed, Ukrenergo has created the operational headquarters comprising the management board of the company, managers of local sub-divisions, and area directors. They meet online on a daily basis to review the current situation in the company and agree on the next steps.
We have recently decided to transfer personnel who work in the offices or at substations to remote work, and the first difficult task we’ve had to resolve is how to organize this process. On the very first day of the transfer, we faced the problem that not all employees who can work from home were actually ready for it. That is why on 17 March almost 60 per cent of employees of the company came to offices. People take their duties very seriously and came to offices in order to better prepare for remote work. But our aim was to make our employees safe preventing their usage of public transport, and safeguard them against potential infection.
Every day, we collect data from our internal Access Control System throughout the entire company to know how many employees came to their workplace today. Managers of subdivisions decide whether they actually need this number of employees at their workplaces. If some employees have no pressing need to be there, they try to transfer them comfortably to remote work.
On 20 March in Ukrenergo less than 30 per cent of employees of the company’s total personnel remained at their workplaces. Mostly, they are dispatchers and operators, personnel at substations, security guards, drivers, some IT personnel, security departments, HR, and cleaners. After final adjustments to the remote work processes, we expect that next week the number of personnel remaining at their workplaces will decrease to 5–10 per cent.
The company guarantees the full payment of salaries to all employees who work remotely. Our trade unions make sure that employees are advised of how to safeguard themselves and their loved ones against the spread of coronavirus.
There is an interesting point we have noticed. Our employees do not see remote work as a vacation. Quite the contrary, the critical situation brings the team together. So far, none of the company’s important business processes has stalled. With the correct work organization it is possible to hold online meetings, achieve efficiently the objectives set, and monitor their fulfillment.
As for the operation and development of trunk power grids, there is personnel working there to maintain the current operation mode of the network. We will finish the major repairs we have started before the quarantine. We ensure in the full scope the construction of important infrastructure objects, such as 750 kV OHL Zaporizhzhia – Kakhovska and substation 550/220 kV Kreminska. Our subcontractors’ personnel also observe quarantine measures of disinfection and personal protection.
Ahead of the air and land transport shutdown, Ukrenergo canceled all business travel abroad. But the absence of flights causes difficulties for our colleagues who are coming home from their vacation abroad. Some of Ukrenergo’s employees are still in Poland, Czech Republic, Egypt, and even in India. We encounter the problem that they are having difficulties in reaching consular hotlines, and not all of them are always available online. It is of critical importance to register the employees at once in the Voluntary Registration System for Ukrainian Citizens on the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, and inform the consulate of the country where they are staying about their names and location. It turns out that it is easier done from Kyiv. It is also very important to help our colleagues abroad with logistics planning if it is possible to leave the country they are staying in. All employees who come home from abroad shall self-quarantine for 14 days.
DIFFICULTIES OF TRANSITION
Another major challenge we are facing is to ensure the safe and effective transition to remote work. The solution to this task is multi-component. On one hand, we need to ensure the remote access for our employees to corporate IT-services and the electronic document management system while maintaining the information security standards. And on the other hand, we need to take care of the safety of the employees whom we cannot transfer to remote work.
Our IT service has arranged the remote access to base programs and services, and since Monday our employees are provided with detailed instructions of how to set up the programs they need for their work. Since Wednesday, 18 March, we have been conducting online training per special schedule to make sure that all employees can attend and we are also providing video instructions. Naturally, not all of them manage to access the system they need at once but for this we have our technical support department and the call center who receive requests from employees, analyze their questions and try to resolve their problems as soon as possible.
Another important objective is to keep our colleagues who work in the company’s offices and at infrastructure objects from using public transport. Often our substations serviced by operational personnel on a shift basis are located outside residential areas. For each regional power system and for Kyiv we have prepared the logistics plan having divided regions into specific areas taking into account the places of residence of our employees, and have organized their transportation to workplaces and back home. Each driver is in charge of the specific area where he collects several employees.
We use our own vehicle fleet, but on the as-needed basis we rent buses where we transport a maximum of 10 individuals. All who enter the company’s transport shall wear face masks, and the bus interior is disinfected before each trip. We are aware that such logistic process would require adjustments, and that is why we have a clear rule: If the “bus patrol” does not arrive to collect an employee, they shall stay at home. Starting yesterday, employees can get into Ukrenergo’s central office only if they enter the territory in their own car or in the transport provided by the company.
In the company’s offices, we have wet cleaning with disinfectants twice a day. In dispatcher rooms, in addition to floors we have wet cleaning of work surfaces and furniture before each shift. Employees who cannot work remotely shall wear face masks and if necessary gloves.
To provide them with protection means and disinfectants the procurement office collects requests from regions and organizes the purchase. Of course, not everything we manage to buy at once and in the quantity required because sanitizers and face masks are now the commodities in short supply. For this reason, it is important to make sure that protection means are distributed equally among our power systems: if there is a surplus it is promptly directed to where we have a shortage. However, while we are nearly fully stocked with disinfectants and face masks, we have a problem with buying no-contact thermometers. But it is not an excuse to not screen the temperature of our shift personnel. For this, some of our regional power systems use thermal imagers.
To avoid crowds of people, canteens and cafes of our company now serve “boxed lunches”. Employees can order “boxed lunches” or take their food home. We hope that such a service will minimize the need for our employees to buy food in stores and endanger themselves.
WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT
We understand that working during quarantine is not quite convenient. Compliance with quarantine is the task that presents many challenges to Ukrenergo, and their correct resolution is paramount for, among other things, the security of the electricity supply of our country. And, as the system operator, we guarantee the stable operation of the power system. But quarantine is necessary. Because nothing can be more important than the health and safety of people who are 24/7 supporting the power supply system of Ukraine. As of today, not a single case of coronavirus has been recorded in Ukrenergo and we hope that we can keep it this way.