Making employees aware of EFAP and/or having psychologists on site are not sufficient. Managers have to accept the role of crisis leadership and be the first line of support.
Recently, a few health care professionals in BC were referred to me for ‘Covid19-burnout’ and depression’. These professionals have access to their EFAP. They also mentioned that their manager had organized for individual and/or group sessions onsite to get ‘debriefed’. On the surface, this seems like a great support for the employees.
However, from my experience in responding to traumatic events (covid19 is prolonged trauma), I feel this approach is fundamentally weak and will result in possible long term PTS or even PTSD.
I would recommend:
The manager or the supervisor meet with their respective teams at the beginning and end of each shift for 10-15 minutes to defuse – (simply ask employees if they are ok, do they need anything, normalize the reactions to stress, identify support, provide support, address gossip, state facts). This sounds so simple but it sends a number of crucial messages: As a supervisor, I am here with you; we are a team; you are not alone in your stress and reactions. It also grounds the employees before and after the shift. This important step opens the employees to contact a counsellor.
Organize a mandatory organizational (or departmental) debrief once a month (more frequently if the stress level and defusing meetings are intense) to discuss what organizational support and communication is going well and what needs to change.
Organize a mandatory emotional group debrief with a qualified trauma specialist when the defusing meetings indicate the need for emotional group debrief.
The typical arguments against these steps are:
We don’t have time.
People don’t like to be mandated.
People are already aware of our excellent resources.
The manager’s door is always open.
These arguments indicate lack of understanding on what an individual goes through in a traumatic situation: they feel helpless, alone, disconnected, ‘normless’, unsure of whether their feelings are normal.