Accommodating workers with post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or seen a traumatic events that involved a threat of injury or death. While many people associate PTSD with war veterans, the disorder can affect anyone who has experience natural disaster, serious accident, violent assault or other similar occurrences. According to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), roughly 8 percent of Americans will develop PTSD at some point in their lives.

Workers who suffer from PTSD may risk serious discomfort and lack of focus, especially if they work in industries that involve large objects and loud noises. According to the American Psychiatric Foundation, not all forms of PTSD require treatment, and many people recover from support from family and friends. Some of the symptoms that can affect work performance include intrusion of thought, avoidance of situations or people that are reminder of the traumatic event, emotional numbness or a flood of emotions, insomnia,  paranoia and difficulty remembering information.

JAN provides many resources for employers to help workers cope with symptoms and feel safe. Businesses should increase natural lighting, reduce clutter in the workplace and provide at least one private space. Employers should also divide large assignments into smaller goal-oriented tasks and help workers maintain a to-do list. Time management can be especially difficult for people with PTSD, so it helps to remind employees of deadlines and schedule weekly meetings with supervisors.

To help with memory deficiency, JAN suggests providing written instructions and recording minutes of each meeting. To help workers cope with stress, businesses should be generous with break time, and provide workers backup coverage. It’s a good idea to maintain a consistent schedule, and to avoid interruptions during work periods.

JAN recommends that business owners ask themselves the following questions: What limitation does this person have? What tasks are problematic for him or her? Has the person asked for accommodations? Should supervisors be trained in PTSD awareness? What resources can be provided?

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