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What is workplace trauma and how to support your employees?

Workplace trauma Support for Employees

Anyone could be affected by trauma at work. Workplace trauma is real. Therefore, it is important to recognize the different events that trigger a trauma response, how different people react to a traumatic event and what you, as an employer, can do to mitigate the impact of the traumatic even on your team.

Different types of trauma

Firstly, there is a single incident trauma, which is caused by an identifiable crisis – an event with a clear beginning and end. For example, this could be an accident, sudden death of a dear colleague or robbery. This type of trauma is often a single event experienced by an individual or a group of people. It is often the case, that in the workplace environment this event is known or by many, so it is likely that the teams or the company accepts and understands an individual or group traumatic response and is open to talking about it. Secondly, there is a complex trauma which is caused by ongoing events. For example, discrimination, a chaotic work environment or bullying, which happen repeatedly over time. This type of trauma can be less obvious or hidden and, in many cases this may bring shame, it will be difficult to escape from due to workplace culture, it will be uncomfortable or even ignored or denied by others (which is highly invalidating for the people involved in the situation).

Recognizing symptoms of trauma in the workplace

There are psychological, cognitive, and physical symptoms generally observed in people who have experienced a trauma. People can feel chest pains, headaches or constricted breathing. They might feel anxious, depressed, frustrated, or angry. They may disconnect from others and disengage from their work. Some of these symptoms can be part of someone’s normal behaviour; therefore, it is important to identify that these might be the result of a trauma event. For example, someone who is always at work suddenly is absent every Monday, or a formerly responsible employer is lying or making bad decisions. This can occur as someone who has experienced a traumatic response can feel unsafe or overwhelmed. Their self-self-esteem and confidence may fall, or they might feel out of control.

Other examples of someone experiencing traumatic moral injury or ongoing trauma can be presented with similar symptoms of burnt out. Likewise, it can present with strong emotions of anger or frustration, and increasingly unexplained arguments.

The cost of trauma for businesses

Traumatized employees can have a huge effect on the day-to-day processes of an organization. These can range from absence, less productivity, which can lead to loss of thousands of pounds.  Mental health costs UK employers approximately £56 billion each year. What is more, without the right assistance, the employees may not recognize that they are undergoing trauma-related symptoms.

However, there are steps you can take to reduce this enormous number of lost pounds. For example, for every £1 spent by employers on employee support program for mental health mental health interventions, employers could get back £5.30 in reduced absence, presenteeism, and staff turnover. Therefore, it is highly important to invest time and money in corporate mental health services.

workplace environment

How can HR managers support employees experiencing workplace trauma?

Firstly, it is vital to build a positive environment of support and awareness, and culture that cultivates a workplace everyone wants to be in. It is paramount not to invalidate the experience of the individual or the groups involved in the trauma events. Being considered of people’s differences and offering help wherever possible – breaking workplace stigma of trauma. Secondly, having at hand professional support available for everyone in a form of bespoke boutique mental health services for companies or affordable workplace employee counselling. These offer more than just a positive conversation or a shoulder to lean on. In this case, a professional help can be a lifesaver within the first days or weeks to support people to process the traumatic event. Therefore, try incorporating workplace trauma support and critical incident response into your company HR systems can be crucial. Finally, when delivering evidenced based trauma support for groups of employees or senior managers, there is a human and financial benefit.

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