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Expert blog - Childhood trauma and organisational realities: A critical assessment of key challenges, issues and future opportunities

Dr Stefanos Nachmias, Nottingham Business School, writes about a British Academy funded project which aims to explore how childhood trauma is supported and managed in the workplace.

Desk with two chairs
The research seeks to explore what support survivors of childhood trauma need from their employers

Childhood trauma is defined as overwhelming negative and traumatic experiences in early life (for example sexual abuse, physical violence, emotional violence), which negatively affect individuals’ health and wellbeing in adulthood years.

Currently, there is no agreement on whether childhood trauma should be considered as a health and/or mental health issue. Despite a growing pressure for organisations to support wellness at work, including for marginalised or hidden groups, our understanding of the effect of childhood trauma survivors’ experiences in the workplace is significantly under-developed. Creating a healthy working environment is essential for any organisation’s future business performance.

Therefore, organisations, policy makers and support groups should take effective steps to understand how such experiences might influence survivors’ work and wellness at work. Organisations then should develop appropriate mechanisms to support employees experiencing or recovering from any type of mental health issues including childhood trauma, in order to ensure that these individuals have a positive contribution at work.

Although a plethora of research exists on the clinical, social and psychological effects of childhood trauma, knowledge on how organisations support survivors’ welfare is scant. This is a timely project as it contributes to the current agenda on well-being, especially relating to vulnerable and under-researched groups.

The aim is to go beyond the causes of trauma and to focus on the work experiences of childhood trauma survivors in order to inform our needed understanding of current organisational support practices. The development of practical resources to support organisations with employees experiencing/recovering from childhood trauma will be a significant contribution. The project seeks to offer valuable insights into how organisations can design effective support mechanisms for survivors, especially post Covid-19.

The impact of Covid-19 towards organisational practices reinforces the need to change current thinking and develop long-term strategies to support vulnerable individuals. The project’s ambition is to offer new knowledge and insights to ensure survivors have a positive contribution to the organisation’s strategic decisions. The scope of the research team is to engage survivors and stakeholders in a number of critical conversations to share knowledge and experiences, and to build organisational resources needed to offer appropriate support to survivors.

Hence, a two-stage approach will be adopted to offer new insights on childhood trauma effects in the workplace. The first stage involves individual interviews to offer survivors the space to express current experiences in the workplace. The second stage involves the delivery of knowledge-into-practice exchange collaborations with key stakeholders.

The project’s proposed approach has multiple benefits, such as advancing the inclusion and wellbeing agenda from an organisational perspective and developing essential ‘knowledge’ such as toolkits and a guide handbook in order to support future organisational activities in the future. Early detection, support of post-trauma reactions and effective work practices are key for effective support mechanisms.

This project is the initial process to assess current experiences and support offered in organisations with the scope to continue exploring long-term effects of organisational support through an exploratory, quantitative research in the future. If you are interested to take part in the project either in the first or second stage, please email the principle investigator Dr Stefanos Nachmias

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    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2019 in the Guardian University Awards. The award was based on performance and improvement in the Guardian University Guide, retention of students from low-participation areas and attainment of BME students.

    NTU was also the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2017, and The Times and Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience.

    The university has been rated Gold in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework – the highest ranking available.

    It is one of the largest UK universities. With over 37,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University injects £1.6bn into the UK economy. It has been the largest recruiter of UK undergraduates in each of the last four years. With an international student population of more than 6,000 and an NTU community representing around 160 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook.

    The university is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable NTU to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was awarded University of the Year in the UK Social Mobility Awards 2019.

Published on 9 August 2021
  • Category: Press office; Research; Nottingham Business School