The People Behind the Front Lines at Brunel: Russia

In the midst of global instability, projects, companies and contractors worldwide are learning to improvise. So is Brunel. Our operations teams are working harder than ever to bring a sense of stability to the lives of our clients and contractors caught in the crossfire.

How can I go into work if I’m quarantined? Will I still get paid? Do I have to use my holiday days? What if my project gets cancelled? What happens if I contract COVID-19? Will my health insurance cover it? How can I get back to my home country with closed borders?

These questions are keeping Brunel’s global operations teams busy. But with it comes the satisfaction of helping keep their contractors safe, healthy and sane when it’s needed the most — all while helping clients keep project operations running as smoothly as possible. 

Those braving the front lines are the regional Operation Managers themselves. We’ve sat down to (virtually) hear from each of them. What we learned: Brunel doesn’t sleep until our people are taken care of.  

Olga Palagina, Russia Operations Manager: “It's quite a challenging time, showing everyone’s involvement and loyalty.”

What’s the current situation in Russia? 

“We are now working from home as a ‘self-isolation regime’ is introduced by the president in Russia. Additionally, each region of our huge country has the right to establish their own bureaucratic rules on their level — tightening or lightening the measures to prevent COVID-19 spread.”

How is the Brunel team in your region working hard to ensure essential projects stay on track?

“My team and I are very focused now on checking the legislation and practical aspects, such as possible travel routes which are limited at the moment, for each particular region where Brunel contractors are working, or where future candidates are supposed to be sent. Legislation and practices are changing almost every day due to the current situation.”

What’s been especially challenging? 

“Particularly challenging are constant changes in different locations that require quick reactions, absence of clear instructions from the government, dealing with closed (or opened in accordance to a special schedule) authorities involved in operational work, cancellation of flights/international border closings, arranging special permits for employees, and the inability to launch new projects as planned.”

How has your team managed to stay connected to your clients/contractors during this situation?

“We are constantly in touch with our clients and contractors, providing support and consultations – legal, travel, even mental, as people are often at a loss. More than ever, they seek cooperation. For example, to bring the contractor to their work location in Russia after his rotation vacation abroad on the very last day when the air border is still open. The timing between calling the person with this alert and his flight took just several hours.”

What’s been positive or uplifting?

“Cooperation and spirit within my team is uplifting; everybody’s involved. The first weeks of remote work were really hard, as we usually prefer to solve challenging issues by briefly brainstorming internally or with colleagues of different departments at a meeting. Now my team has short skype calls every day to launch the day and on Friday we discuss the results and update the whole week — all news, tricky cases, also split tasks and plan further. 

HR is now like an information hub – contacting contractors, preparing addendum's to labor contracts and other HR paperwork, sending mails with instructions to the contractors by teleworking through emails, Skype or mobile calls, chats in messengers. It's quite a challenging time, showing everyone’s involvement and loyalty.”

What advice would you give local candidates/contractors in your region during this time?

“Stay safe, loyal and connected. Stressful times can make it challenging to act in the way we used to. But, even when feeling stressed, remember who you are, what you believe in and what you are responsible for in both your corporate and personal life.

Things will eventually return to normal. In the meantime, it is important to grow in confidence and be prepared. Besides long-term goals, there are things we do each day and week which we can improve and do better already now (and will enjoy).
 
For me personally, the best words were pronounced by Queen Elizabeth during her speech: 'This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavor, using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal. We will succeed — and that success will belong to every one of us. We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.'”