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Coping with Trauma in the Workplace

At KRTS International, we’re passionate about reaching as many people as possible with effective trauma solutions. One of the ways we do this is through collaboration with specialist
employee assistance programmes such as Health Assured who deliver our digital PTSD programme KRTS Power to Recover®.

This week’s blog is written by the clinical team at Health Assured and offers guidance on helping employees who have experienced trauma in their life …

“No matter the workplace, employers should always try to make it accommodating and comfortable for their employees. The same is especially true for any employees that may experience trauma, as even their everyday duties may be affected by the likes of PTSD. PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, can affect anyone. Employees with previous military experience may have it, yet it can also affect employees who have experienced traumatic events in their past. Victims of abuse, prior first responders, even those who suffer from general depression can be affected by trauma.

Knowing how to handle any effects and how to help employers goes a long way. Trauma management is just one way to provide support, especially as it helps when dealing with critical incidents.

How to discuss trauma with employees

First off, if you are an employer, you may wish to seek the help of a licensed therapist who is specially trained at helping people who are dealing with trauma in their lives. With professional support, your employee will be able to get the help they need. We recommend that you seek expert advice first before dealing with delicate matters yourself.

How to tell if an employee is coping with trauma

Naturally, it’s difficult to ascertain whether an employee is suffering from trauma or has any mental health issues unless they directly discuss it with you. However, it isn’t impossible to notice, as some employees that work closely with a colleague coping with trauma may notice a few symptoms.

It is vital to note that as an employer, you should never seek out ‘proof’ or try to ‘catch’ an employee with these symptoms or handling trauma. These symptoms are merely ways in which you may spot an employee coping with trauma that may lead to discussing possible help during one-to-one meetings.

Easily noticeable symptoms:

These include symptoms that you could arguably notice whilst working with an employee, whether it’s due to casual conversation or clear physical symptoms.
● Flashbacks, reliving the experience
● Headaches, nausea, and dizziness
● Difficulties with concentration and memory
● Slowed or stunted thought process
● Withdrawal and isolation
● Reluctance to eat
● Sleep problems and tiredness

Difficult to notice symptoms:

These include symptoms you would only logically be able to notice if you discussed mental health or trauma with the employee directly.

● Avoidance of places and things that represent reminders of the incident
● Recurrent thoughts about the trauma
● Feeling of numbness
● Sense of insecurity and disbelief
● Frequent guilty feelings
● Frequently experiences nightmares

While none of these symptoms may be common when they occur they can be overwhelming or stressful to the employee. As they experience the symptoms or shortly after them, the employee may need time to process the experience. This helps them work through, manage, and even make sense of what they have experienced. Give them space, let them have some time to recover, and only offer your help and support. It is all you can do, as attempting to force your support on them can potentially lead to further stress.

How to help an employee coping with trauma

Whether an employee actively seeks and accepts your help and support, there are ways you can reasonably accommodate anyone coping with trauma. It will ultimately come down to
how the employee wants to handle and address their trauma. However, until professional help can be enlisted, employers have plenty of methods to provide an employee with a comfortable, supportive work environment:

Reinforcing resilience

Encourage activities that help employees focus on positives. This includes exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and engaging in hobbies & interests.
As an employer, you can encourage these with workplace incentives, such as providing healthier food and organising fitness classes.

Maintain routines and communication

Emphasize the importance of sticking to a comforting routine, as it can help to create a measure and feeling of control over one’s life. It’s also a good idea to assure employees that it’s healthy to keep in touch with family, friends, and even other colleagues can make life easier.

Focus on relaxation and improvement

Some employees may not want to take time off or try to overwork themselves for fear of disappointing others or feeling guilty themselves. Make it clear that they are entitled to, and encouraged to, take time off to focus on themselves.

The same applies to attempts for self-improvement, as an employer can aid with an employee being proactive and help determine what an employee needs to move forward.

Strengthen the team

Think about ways to bring employees together and establish stronger connections. After all, a team will see each other most days of the week and work in close proximity, so a good sense of camaraderie can only help.

Consider making use of team-building exercises, fundraising efforts, or even arranging a form of dedicated support group.

Considering specialist help with trauma in the workplace

If the best of intentions still don’t provide adequate support, you may wish to do what’s best for your employees and company by reaching out to external assistance.

Specialists in handling trauma with employees can help by providing:

● EAP support: specialist assistance with a UK based Employee Assistance Programme.
● Expert advice and information: specialist leaflets about trauma, along with appropriate managerial support tools.
● Consultation services: experts and specialists will be capable of handling consultative approaches to issues such as mediation with inter-office disputes and
employee absence management.
● Debriefing and direct interactions: professionally training support with on-site issues, including immediate responses and counselling services.

As an employer, it can be difficult to accommodate employees coping with trauma. However, there is always help out there, which can assist both you and your employees.

For more information on trauma, please see the following link.

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