January 12 2007 - A study by researchers from the Institute of Work Psychology at the University of Sheffield, in collaboration with the Institute for Employment Studies and Atos Origin, has found that effective workplace trauma management can help reduce absence and improve health among employees.
Commissioned by the British Occupational Health Research Foundation (BOHRF), the study identified 815 workers from the Royal Mail Group (RMG) who had experienced a potentially traumatic incident and followed them for 13 months. The Royal Mail Group has an established trauma management programme and incidents ranged from armed raids and hostage-taking situations, to road traffic accidents and verbal abuse.
The RMG trauma management programme comprises three components:
- crisis management and practical support on the day of the incident
- a Support Post Trauma (SPoT) protocol ensuring managers provide appropriate practical, emotional and social support, and
- ongoing contact with a professional trauma counselling service
The latter two components were designed and provided by Atos Origin.
Researchers found that employee absence following trauma significantly correlated with perceived organizational support. Those who felt supported immediately post-trauma were found to have lower levels of absence 12 months later. Perceived general support from the organization was found to be more important in helping employees recover than more specialist forms of support.
Dr Jo Rick, lead researcher, said:
"For a long time there has been much debate about the appropriate response to psychological trauma. This is primarily due to adverse outcomes of psychological debriefing - the most popular organizational response to trauma. The lack of evidence on the best response to trauma has left employers with little or no guidance on what to do for the best.
"Our research moves beyond this deadlock and, in line with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, provides evidence about different approaches which work. It also identifies that the way individual employees perceive the support offered by their organization post trauma could play an important part in their recovery and reduce sickness absence post trauma."