Trauma Informed Workplaces

In any organisation statistically, 64% of your colleagues will have had at least one Adverse Childhood Experience and 20% will have experienced 4 or more. This includes: emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, physical neglect, domestic violence, household substance abuse, household mental illness, incarcerated household member, witness violence, felt discrimination, adverse neighbourhood experience, bullied, and lived in foster care. People who experience trauma in childhood end up in the workplace as adults. The higher the ACE’s score, the higher the likelihood of developing long-term health problems like heart disease, stroke, cancer and Type 2 diabetes (a dose-dependence relationship). Also. unsurprisingly, employees who reported more ACE’s were more likely to report lower workplace well-being (Neilio et al, 2022). Organisations can help support these invisible co-workers, who have shown tremendous resilience who walking into work wounded. Educating the workforce to be trauma informed and giving them the tools to build their resilience further will support some of an organisations’ best and brightest.

As stress, anxiety and depression dominate absence I think now is the time to bring ACE’s out from underneath the carpet and integrate it fully into workplace wellbeing. Offer yoga and mindfulness at lunchtime, but explain about toxic stress and the impact on a developing brain. Fully aware, teach people how to manage the anxiety born out of Complex PTSD. Your employees need to know, it’s not what’s wrong with them, it’s what happened to them. Maladaptive behaviours born out of a young persons’ attempts to survive and mitigate adversity can be unlearned and better more adaptive behaviours can be taught. Brave organisations will lead the way in this and reap the rewards. A recent paper concluded, ‘It is our suggestion that people, businesses, and systemic institutions propagate agendas that consider the often-hidden effects of trauma. Businesses have billions of dollars to gain by engaging stakeholders in organizational self-discovery, developing employees, and bringing in experts to support these measures Without a doubt, shining a light in the organizational shadows of collective personal trauma will add value’ (Neilio et al, 2022).

Neilio, R. M., Toohill, K. A., McCreedy, R. T., Young, A. F., & Tortez, L. M. (2022). The Invisible Co-Worker Among Us: Understanding Childhood Trauma and Workplace Well-Being. European Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 25-35.