Introducing a New FC2 Project: Helping Workers Cope with Trauma

Employee mental health should be on every employer’s radar. Psychological trauma can have long-lasting and incapacitating effects. A lot of research over the last two decades has improved our understanding of how trauma impacts children’s development. We now know how to create an environment for these children to succeed in school. We know far less about how to create such an environment in the workplace for adults who have been through traumatic events. Thanks to a generous grant from the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, the Federal City Council is launching the Trauma-Informed Workplace Project (TIWP) to do this cutting-edge research.

The idea for this project was borne out of conversations with leaders from the District’s hospitality and construction industries. Many of their employees struggle on the job, coping with past trauma.

Nationally, as many as one-third of all employees may have experienced trauma that impacts their performance at work. A much larger percentage of DC residents who work in relatively low-wage employment have experienced high rates of trauma. ​Trauma can come in many forms, including adverse childhood experiences, community violence, toxic stress from poverty-related experiences, battle-trauma among veterans or trauma experienced while incarcerated for returning citizens. They may struggle in employment settings building relationships with colleagues and customers, learning new skills, doing task management or showing up for work on-time.

Small changes to the workplace and training for all employees may go a long way toward improving the retention and effectiveness of employees who have experienced trauma. Businesses will strengthen their customer service and employee capacity. Employees will be happier and healthier.

We can build on innovations and ideas being piloted across the country, but a new program may need to be piloted in the District.

The TIWP will be housed at the Federal City Council. Megan Oakley, who has extensive experience working in violence prevention and community safety, has been engaged to conduct the research. A Trustee-led Advisory Group will also guide the project with Tom Gallagher (E&G Property Services), Judith Sandalow (Children’s Law Center) and Mieka Wick (Marriott Foundation).

There will be opportunities for Trustees to get involved in the project. Stay tuned for more information or, if you would like to learn more, please email Becky Strauss at