Statistics show that 66% of people in the general population have at some time during their life been traumatized. Moreover, about 80% of general workers experience continual feelings of stress on the job.
When you combine stress with a traumatic experience, there’s a high risk of developing adverse workplace behaviors.
There are ways for emergency managers, in collaboration with company leadership and human resource experts, can help improve resilience and reduce stress among employees.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is merely a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. A couple of academic bodies have different definitions for it. At the University of Maryland, it’s defined as “an experience that causes physical, emotional, psychological distress or harm. It is an event that is perceived and experienced as a threat to one’s safety or the stability of one’s world.”
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) calls it an “experiences that cause intense physical and psychological stress reactions.” These forms of reactions can result from a single event or a set of multiple events that has a long-lasting effect on the individual.
Different Ways of Experiencing Trauma
There are different ways one can experience trauma in the workplace. The first common way is acute trauma. Acute trauma is a traumatic event that an employee has no control over and happens without any warning. A primary example of acute trauma is workplace-related accidents.
Acute trauma usually manifests when a worker experiences the death of a co-worker on the job. It’s most common in factories and manufacturing establishments. Acute stress can also occur due to job layoffs, downsizing, company shutdowns or forces external to the workplace. Random violent terrorist acts, which might happen at work or in one’s present surroundings, can also cause acute trauma.
The Economic Cost of Trauma
It’s estimated that on a daily basis, almost one million workers are absent from work due to some form of stress. Also, the number of employees who call in sick every day from stress-related issues seems to be on the rise.
As scary as these statistics are, the global workplace environment isn’t exactly getting stress-free. With increased absenteeism, the workload for the employees present at work increases, which in-turn leads to more stress.
Take the 2008 economic crisis for example, when companies began to demand more from their employees for even less pay. This only piled on the amount of time, pressure, and individual responsibilities. The constant threat of company closures and downsizing didn’t help matters either. At the time, employees were put under an increasing amount of pressure to work more to keep the jobs that they were being underpaid for.
Organizations that have employees who feel continually stressed, are likely to see an increase in workplace accidents. When people feel stressed or under pressure, the ability to innovate, think and solve complex problems decreases. As a result, stress can lead a person to take certain chances that they usually wouldn’t.
Often, an employee isn’t aware of the total outcome of the decisions being made. To emphasize this point, one of the most pronounced reactions to stress is risky behavior.
So how can employees build the necessary resilience in the face of traumatic or stressful events?
Before your able to build any form of resilience, you need to understand yourself. Employees who’ve experienced traumatic events can make use of the following resiliency factors:
- Hope: Understanding that this is just a passing phase, and everything gets better with time. Time heals all.
- Connections: Getting support from family members, friends and acquaintances will help with burden sharing- and eventually, lightening.
- Sharing: This tool is quite like the one above, but it involves sharing issues with one’s support system. Developing a network of people with whom you can talk to can provide you with the opportunity to gain a fresher perspective about a given issue.
- Time: Some people just need a little “time out” to recoup and relax.
- Self-care: Exercising, eating well and getting proper sleep are all factors that play into a person’s ability to be stress-resilient.
Getting professional help: Many traumatized people end up turning to alcohol and drugs to escape from what they feel. Professional substance abuse treatment centers like Recovery in Motion are able to help in individuals who are victims of trauma and unable to tackle their problems alone.
Helping Your Employees Build Resilience
One major way organizations can work to build the resilience of their employees is to integrate the workplace culture with the fundamental principles of SAMHSA. These principles are:
- Safety: Ensuring that everywhere in the organization, employees feel safe and secure-physically, mentally, and psychologically.
- Transparency: Ensuring decisions and operations concerning the organization are taken and conducted with openness, with the aim of developing trust among workers, clients, and customers.
- Peer support: It’s also essential to develop a culture of mutual support that can help build trust, develop relationships, and establish a safe working environment for employees.
- Mutualism and collaboration: Leveling differences in power between the leadership and the company’s employees.
- Empowerment: It’s essential to help everyone in the organization find their strengths, develop and validate them. This helps to build on what everyone has to offer, as opposed to responding to suspected deficits.
- Surpassing background issues: The organization should also work to move past issues relating to cultural stereotypes and bias.
It’s the responsibility of an organization to understand the importance of psychological safety, which is an approach that’s built around the concept of resilience. Psychological safety is designed to reduce the symptoms caused by trauma and stress.
Companies should also provide employees with access to professional help and other outside sources such as crisis counselors, EAP services, etc.
Encouraging employees to be active in their recovery through self-care, exercise, eating healthy and getting adequate sleep – is a great way to help with the process of building resilience.