Five ways to reduce Vicarious Trauma while working at home

When I heard that most Social Workers and Child Protections workers were being encouraged to work from home as much as possible, my mind automatically went to Vicarious Trauma and how the change to how we work might impact on how we experience Vicarious Trauma. 

Vicarious Trauma (VT) is defined as indirect exposure to trauma through the stories of trauma survivors and traumatic material. This exposure to trauma can change our worldview  and can even lead to workers experiencing similar traumatic responses that our clients may experience. 

Our homes are often the places we can be ourselves, be free from work and therefore revive ready for the work week. We have to be careful about introducing our work into our home and the trauma experiences that might come with it. So now more than ever it is important to put some strategies in place to ensure that we can keep work and home separate. 

Five ways to reduce vicarious trauma while working at home include: 

  1. Have a designated work space

When working from home you need to be mindful that you can introduce trauma to your home environment. For example, if you take a difficult work call while sitting at your dining room table you might be reminded of that moment every time you walk past the table.  You want to make sure that as much as possible you have a designated space for your work, and be strict with yourself that you only take work calls or do work in that particular space. Having a designated space also means that when you are not working, that you won’t constantly see your work phone or laptop and be tempted to check your emails. Remember that even just having your work phone out will remind you of work every time you look at it!

  1. Stay connected

One of the most important things about being in the office are the social connections and informal ability to debrief and talk about the families/ children that you are working with. When working from home find ways to connect with your work colleagues through phone and video chats.  Also I encourage you to advocate for what you need from your supervisor, don’t let supervision slip by the wayside- now more than ever is the time to have regular and frequent supervision.  

  1. Decrease your exposure to trauma 

The best way to decrease symptoms of VT is to decrease your exposure to trauma. Now bear with me, this is not impossible when you work in the Social Work/ Child Protection field! 

Some ways that you can do this include: 

  • Making sure you take your breaks
  • Avoid working long hours, or when you do take your time in lieu at a later date
  • Take regular annual leave 
  • Attend training or use some of your work time for professional development to read articles etc. 

Just because you are working from home, doesn’t mean these things can’t still happen!

  1. Have an end of work ritual to ensure you ‘leave work at work’

Often when we leave the office it involves rituals, like switching off your computer, debriefing with work colleagues and listening to music on the way home. But when working at home there is nothing that signals that you have ended your day. Find your new rituals, mine include; putting my laptop away in a drawer and going for a walk.

  1. Keep up with your selfcare

Self care is important in reducing symptoms of vicarious trauma. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you should let these things slip. Keep up that mindfulness, journaling and Professional Supervision- these things are important no matter what is going on around us. 

Comment below and let me know what other things you do to reduce Vicarious Trauma while working at home.

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  1. Cheryl Hassan says:

    This blog is critical to be shared across all sectors for individuals working in any type of service. It has been overlooked by many who have never been exposed to any massive crisis. A global pandemic was theoretical for some and totally unexpected by the majority of humanity.
    Use of play, and all forms of art, music, dance, painting, creating of any type helps to process that which feels unspeakable.

    1. Liz Andrew-Brake says:

      Thanks Cheryl, yes I agree it is being overlooked! I have been enjoying some art and reading to help me. I hope you are getting a chance to look after yourself

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