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Practical Ways to Support Colleagues and Employees with PTSD

May 15, 2024

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

  • Understanding the impacts of trauma.
  • Recognizing its signs.
  • 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. It’s 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 who have PTSD and trauma-related stress can 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 severe 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, the challenges become even more significant. 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

Both employers and employees need 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 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. We can all create a safer, more supportive workplace by following simple steps. 

  • 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 their experiences and concerns openly. 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 improve 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. Examples 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 available resources, 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. 


WORKPLACE SOLUTIONS is a group of dedicated professionals who provide assistance and resources to individuals and families to create a satisfying and meaningful life. We’re counselors, attorneys, financial professionals, and experienced specialists in a wide variety of fields. Because life’s challenges and opportunities show up in a range of different areas, we assist in a number of different ways.


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