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Becoming Trauma-Informed: Practical Ways to Support Colleagues and Employees with PTSD

May 29, 2024

Trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder present significant challenges in our society, but they often go unaddressed in the workplace. Employers and employees alike need a better understanding of the issue and how to effectively address it in order to truly support themselves, their co-workers, and overall organizational well-being. Creating a trauma-informed workplace involves understanding the impacts of trauma, recognizing its signs, and implementing strategies to support those affected.  


What is PTSD and How Does It Impact Us at Work? 

Trauma can manifest in various forms, including but not limited to physical violence, emotional abuse, accidents, natural disasters, and witnessing traumatic events. When we experience trauma, it can significantly impact our mental health and ability to function in various areas of life, including work. 


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a specific type of trauma-related mental health condition characterized by symptoms such as intrusive thoughts, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, and avoidance behaviors.  


The impacts of trauma and PTSD can be severe and can hamper a person’s ability to concentrate, interact with others, and manage everyday tasks. People suffering from PTSD and trauma-related stress often experience heightened anxiety and a lack of trust in themselves, others, and the world around them; this can hurt their relationships with their co-workers and managers and lead to feelings of isolation and alienation.  


PTSD and trauma-related stress also have serious impacts on job performance and engagement. People suffering from these issues can feel overwhelmed by manageable tasks and be less able to focus and remember details.  


If the trauma occurred at or was related to the workplace itself, the challenges become even greater. Employees who experience trauma in the workplace will often find it extremely difficult to return to work at all, leading to increased attrition.   


Recognizing Signs of Trauma-Related Stress 


It’s essential for both employers and employees to recognize the signs of trauma-related stress in themselves and those around them in the workplace. Some common signs include: 


Changes in behavior: This could include increased irritability, withdrawal from social interactions, or difficulty concentrating. 

Physical symptoms: Trauma-related stress can manifest as physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive issues, or fatigue. 

Emotional distress: People may experience heightened anxiety, depression, or mood swings. 

Avoidance behaviors: People may try to avoid situations or triggers that remind them of the traumatic event. 

Flashbacks or intrusive thoughts: Repeatedly thinking about the traumatic event or experiencing flashbacks can be indicative of PTSD. 


Practical Tips for Building a Trauma-Informed Workplace 

Building a trauma-informed workplace involves fostering an environment of safety, trust, and understanding. By incorporating the simple steps below, we can all contribute to creating a safer, more supportive workplace.  


Educate yourself: Learn about trauma and its effects on mental health. Understanding the basics can help reduce stigma and increase empathy. 

Promote open communication: Encourage employees to communicate openly about their experiences and concerns. Create channels for anonymous feedback if necessary. 

Provide training: Offer training sessions on trauma awareness and how to support colleagues who may be experiencing trauma-related stress. 

Offer flexible work arrangements: Flexibility can help people cope with trauma-related symptoms and take care of their mental well-being, such as attending therapy sessions or taking time off when needed. 

Implement trauma-informed policies: Review your existing policies and procedures to ensure they are trauma-informed. This could include protocols for handling sensitive situations and providing accommodations for employees with PTSD. 

Create a culture of support: Foster a workplace culture where employees feel supported and valued. Encourage teamwork, empathy, and kindness. 

Offer resources: Remind your employees about the resources available to them, such as their EAP, counseling services, and support groups. 



Trauma and PTSD are frightening and pose significant challenges, but by becoming more trauma-informed and implementing supportive strategies, organizations can create a safer and more inclusive environment for everyone.  






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