Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by experiencing traumatic, frightening or distressing events. PTSD can happen to anyone, at any time.
While commonly assumed to be associated with return from military service, PTSD can be caused by a range of life events including the death of a loved one, a serious accident or childhood neglect. It is estimated 3% of the UK’s adult population struggle with PTSD.
Managing work life with PTSD
The symptoms of PTSD can be severe or debilitating. For some people living with PTSD, maintaining a job and other responsibilities is often difficult. Symptoms, such as low mood, memory loss and avoiding triggers, can make focusing on your career a challenge. Others are able to continue with their job and function well in their workplace. They may have milder symptoms or have developed a level of control over displaying their emotions to others.
However severe or mild your condition, the careers available to you should not be limited by a PTSD diagnosis.
- If you currently employed, there are options available to help you cope with your condition while remaining in employment. Discuss with your employer about the range of reasonable adjustments they can offer to make your work place a more manageable and comfortable environment. Alternatively, you are entitled to a leave of absence. If you would like to learn more about your rights, visit our dedicated guide.
- If you are currently unemployed and looking for work, you should not be discriminated against because of your condition. Employers offer an adjusted recruitment process for people with long-term mental health conditions such as PTSD, which often includes a guaranteed interview. Explore our guide to help you find which career is right for you.
For people suffering from PTSD, function at work will improve with the right treatment plan. There are a range of treatment options available, some of which include strategies to improve social interactions skills, as well as job training and education. Visit the NHS website to find out more about the range of treatments available.
PTSD may affect an individual’s ability to drive safely. Employers are encouraged to take this into consideration and provide alternative positions without driving requirements for employees diagnosed with PTSD. If you have been diagnosed with PTSD you must inform the DVLA about your condition.
Advice for employers
As an employer, it may be difficult. Often people experiencing PTSD struggle to admit to their employer they are suffering and encouraging them to seek professional help is not always straightforward. It is important to ensure your workplace is a safe and secure place where people with mental health conditions feel comfortable to speak out.
Ultimately, it is the choice of the employee to notify their employer of their PTSD diagnosis. Some may require a leave of absence, while others may want to keep working to maintain a sense of normality. In these circumstances, it is essential your HR team take the time to discuss with your employee the ways to help them in the workplace. Such reasonable adjustments you may want to consider to help workers with PTSD manage their symptoms in the workplace include:
- Noise levels: Your employee may prefer to work in a location where noise is kept to a minimum, perhaps even a private office.
- Seating location: Allowing your employee the option to choose where they sit could bring them more comfort while at work. Some may prefer to sit close to an access door or window, or for people experiencing hypervigilance they may prefer to sit with their back to the rest of the room.
- Flexitime: For many people with PTSD, having a flexible working hours could be particularly beneficial. Consider providing options to allow them to work alternative hours or from home.
- Task management: If your employee has highlighted they struggle to concentrate, they may benefit from having their tasks broken down into smaller, more manageable chunks. They may require additional time for each task, without the pressure of deadlines.
- Specific requirements: Specific requirements should also be considered based around the trauma experienced that caused the development of PTSD. For instance, if the initial trauma involved a car accident, then you shouldn’t expect your employee to travel to meetings in a car.
These considerations may not all be necessary, and the list is by no means exhaustive. The best thing you as an employer can do is discuss with your employee the measures you can provide that are the right fit for them. By making these simple adjustments, you are creating a positive working environment, bound to benefit your business by increased productivity, engagement and staff retention.