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Some concerned about post-traumatic growth as workers return to offices

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Posted at 4:03 PM, May 18, 2021

As more people are getting vaccinated and returning to normal activities, experts say it's important to talk about mental health.

Two-thirds of workers say they've experienced mental health challenges since the pandemic began. And as companies bring workers back into the office, it means many people could return to the workplace a different person than when they left.

It's the result of something known as post-traumatic growth.

“We've gone through not only the pandemic, but civil unrest, political upheaval,” said Christina Barss, Ph.D. with Allen Interactions. “And when you go through an adverse situation that depletes all of your resilience, you go through a process that helps you get to a higher level of functioning. And that's what post-traumatic growth is. You're not better. You're different.”

Barss helps organizations achieve business goals while fostering a happy, engaged workforce. She says people who have experienced post-traumatic growth will often have a greater sense of who they are, with new priorities and a renewed sense of life purpose.

Barss says if this growth and the emotions that come with it are not addressed, the person can experience shock and new stress.

She says employers who don't plan for the change risk having a toxic work environment among employees.

“What will happen is they'll internalize it and disengage from the organization and from their work. And when they do that, you'll see a loss of productivity,” said Barss. “You want to create that healthy and safe environment. Post-traumatic growth is a really positive thing.”

The nonprofit Business Group on Health predicts large companies will make employee mental and emotional health a main point of focus in 2021.