Employees Challenged by a Traumatized Workforce Unable to Concentrate; Experts Offer Advice

According to the Mental Health Index: When compared to before COVID-19, PTSD is up 53% and Sustained Attention is down 53%

Chronic pandemic-induced stress and anxiety have unleashed a nine-month surge in PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). As a return to the workplace for many looms large, U.S. employers are faced with a fearful and overwhelmed workforce unable to concentrate. According to the Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, as risk of PTSD continues to increase month over month, the capacity for sustained attention continues to decline. When compared to before COVID-19, risk of PTSD is up +53%, while the capacity for sustained attention is down 53%.

The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, powered by Total Brain, a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform, is distributed in partnership with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, One Mind at Work, and the HR Policy Association and its American Health Policy Institute.

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“Employers are being challenged like never before; the far-reaching impacts of the pandemic are testing even our nation’s most seasoned business leaders,” said Louis Gagnon, CEO, Total Brain. “Workers’ focus is being hijacked by intense fear and trauma. It is critically important that employers are prepared to address trauma in the workplace including understanding their role in exacerbating trauma and their power to help alleviate workers’ overwhelming anxiety.”

“As the uncertainties of the ongoing pandemic and the return to the workplace continue to increase stress, anxiety and trauma among employees, it is crucial that employers recognize this trend and develop strategies on how to provide the necessary support for employees’ mental wellbeing,” said Daryl Tol, executive vice president, One Mind at Work.

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Advice for Employers

According to experts at One Mind at Work, there are three important steps an employer can take to address trauma.

  • Recognize the multiple dimensions of trauma
    Trauma can stem from individual experiences, in and out of the workplace, as well as stem from a variety of events or incidents. Bringing together a representative strategic planning group on trauma from within the organization can help leaders to understand potential risks and pressures that may exist for different employee types or those working in different locations.
  • Practice traumatic event responses
    Scenario planning that helps each person understand their role in the event of a traumatic incident, including when and how their responsibilities will evolve as needs change, allows employers to respond more quickly and effectively while also creating opportunities to consider response gaps.
  • Integrate trauma into mental health conversations
    Integrating trauma into information sessions aimed at normalizing mental health discussions make it more likely that employees experiencing distress will be able to recognize and respond to their mental health needs.

Michael Thompson, National Alliance president and CEO, said, “It’s clear that there will be lasting impact on mental health in the workplace due to the pandemic. The prevalence of trauma for employees is real, but so are the improvements in focus and resources by employers to support mental health and wellbeing. On balance we may be better in understanding and supporting mental health as we move forward.”

Colleen McHugh, executive vice president of the American Health Policy Institute and strategic advisor for HR Policy Association said, “While the findings of PTSD are alarming, large employers have bolstered their efforts to provide safe, healthy workplaces and increased their benefit offerings including mental and behavioral health care, childcare and flexible work arrangements. Additionally, employers are focused on reducing the stigma and integrating mental health care into their workplace culture. We encourage employees facing increased anxiety, lack of focus, or the PTSD that has affected so many people during this pandemic era, to seek this extra support offered by their employer.”

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