Many of us are familiar with ‘business continuity’ – threat analysis, business impact analysis, solution design (and testing) are now considered key to maintaining systems and services during periods of high threat such as spate conditions, direct, or indirect attack or strain.
Quite how these concepts transpose into the realm of mental health, however, can be problematic for many organisations.
Let’s consider for a moment some key components of a robust & systematic psychological continuity strategy that would enable your organisation to function effectively through, and in the aftermath of a critical Incident:
- Has your organisation carried out a robust psychological threat-analysis?
- Has an evidence-based business impact analysis been produced?
- What is your maximum tolerated period of disruption?
- What is your organisations recovery point objective?
- What is your recovery time objective?
If you can adequately demonstrate answers to the above questions – congratulations!
However, if you had difficulty, but you’re aware of your organisations’ commitment to ‘awareness’ campaigns of one sort or another, then you’re part of a majority that may need to begin considering a more robust and trauma-informed approach to business continuity.
Integrative approaches to continuity are now becoming the norm, however, when it comes to psychological well-being, we are tending more and more to rely on committed and well-meaning ‘champions’, and awareness campaigns which encourage people to ‘talk’ and accept that it’s ‘ok not to be ok’. This is all well and good, and there is much value in encouraging communication, undoubtedly.
However, such sticking plasters cannot effectively mitigate the serious disruption that can be caused by stress, distress and trauma. As we know, stress, trauma, depression and anxiety are the cause of major financial loss, manifest in absenteeism and lost capacity. Evidence gathered during our experience of the 2017 London terror attacks and Grenfell Tower disaster also points clearly to a new concept that must be recognised if it is to be understood, and therefore managed – ‘presenteeism’.
Evidence shows that while we’ve all been worried about colleagues who are off work, we’ve been less aware of those still ‘at’ work, enduring trauma, and ‘coping’ with it alone, all the time making key decisions from the perspective of traumatic avoidance.
Consider the traumatised incident commander deciding whether or not to commit their people into a high-threat environment – would trauma-based risk aversion influence the quality of risk assessment and situational awareness? Evidence suggests it would, and with that, obviously, comes risk.
These are deep concepts and require a trauma-informed perspective to consider effectively. However, what’s clear, is a requirement for continuity strategies that support mental health at an infrastructural level, if organisations are to (not only) survive critical incidents, but consequently, become more resistant and more resilient thereafter.
The strain of absence due to trauma can great, but it is observable and therefore manageable. The strain of presenteeism is far harder to observe and more difficult to quantify, but the benefits of doing so are potentially huge.
Organisations therefore, should demand more from their employee assistance providers.
For example, does your counselling/therapy service provide clear data regarding outcome against investment? Or, (as is often the case) does your organisation simply measure success by a return to work?
Maybe it’s time to think a little deeper, and to grasp what is reasonably foreseeable in terms of psychological trauma and long-term business impact, if we are to assure the best for our colleagues?