The COVID-19 pandemic is a traumatic event. People experiencing a trauma may show heightened fear, worry, sadness, or frustration. Many experience difficulties concentrating or making decisions; physical reactions include problems with sleep, head/body aches, and more. These can affect one’s work performance and connection to coworkers.
Creating a trauma-informed workplace builds trusts and shows an investment in the well-being of employees. Employers can take a trauma-informed approach to support their employees by following the “Four Rs” from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA]:
- Realize the impact of trauma and understand paths for recovery
- Recognize the signs of trauma in staff
- Respond by integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices
- Actively Resist re-traumatization
Employers should work to recognize how their staff are coping with restrictions and managing fear. Supervisors can meaningfully acknowledge what the employee is experiencing, and how it is affecting them. Employee Assistance Programs [EAP] can provide time-limited confidential counselling or referrals if services are needed ongoing.
Employers can also put flexible work hours in place, as well as telecommuting, and more frequent breaks for self-care activities—a five-minute walk, or 3-5 minutes of stretching can help reduce the buildup of tension and stress. Small breaks also provide time away from devices, which helps reset attention and focus.
Telecommuting staff can feel a disconnect from their co-workers. Employers can facilitate video lunches where employees can connect on a personal level. Remote meetings among team members can start with a brief five-minute social time. Leaders can create a work culture where self-care is not only promoted but accepted.
Employers can also actively resist interactions that may trigger re-traumatization—recreating a loss of safety/power/control. An example of this is challenging the effect the pandemic has had on an employee or isolating them because their experience/beliefs may be different than others. Re-traumatization can lead to employees losing trust in their employers.
If you have an employee who would like to speak with a mental health counselor, let them know they can reach Seven Counties Services at (502) 589-1100 to schedule a first appointment.
For more info on trauma-informed practices, go to: https://ncsacw.samhsa.gov/userfiles/files/SAMHSA_Trauma.pdf.