Humanitarian and development employers have a critical role to play to render aid work more effective. However, the needs on the ground that seem so obvious to us are not always as apparent to our employers. Sometimes, it takes an extra nudge to demonstrate and convince our employers that change is needed.

Ways humanitarian and development employers could better support staff:

- Prioritize staff well-being. Show genuine care and concern for staff through compensatory time off, equal rights for bisexual partnerships, prioritization of couples and families in family duty stations, recognition of office and staff successes, recognition of staff who demonstrate work-life balance, activities and programs to encourage staff well-being inside and outside the office.
- Ensure policies on well-being aren't shelved but are vigorously implemented by all staff, top-down.
- Ensure Standard Operating Procedures are in place for a consistent response to traumatic/critical incidents.
- Prepare staff with adequate, in-person (simulated) trainings for potential traumatic/critical incidents.
- Provide all staff with accurate information on trauma, PTSD, and associated stigmas.
- Support staff both in the aftermath of a traumatic/critical incident and in the long-term as affected staff readjust to their lives and to their work.

Our work invariably takes us into precarious environments where traumatic/critical incidents are not uncommon. It is, therefore, not just an ethical responsibility of our employers to ensure our well-being, it is their legal responsibility.

That noted, however, it's important to understand that not all incidents are reported by offices. Aid agencies have a tendency to focus and report more regularly on large-scale incidents and those of which the international media has been informed. Invariably, statistics of crimes against aid workers will be lower if agencies do not report on them.

We are calling on humanitarian and development employers to take the following measures:

  • recognize the serious nature of traumatic/critical incidents
  • assume responsibility for preparing staff for security risks and potential traumatic/critical incidents, as psychological injury is known to decrease amongst staff who are prepared for such eventualities
  • develop critical incident Standard Operating Procedures
  • provide in-person training to staff members on security and trauma
  • support staff members when they are affected by such incidents, as research shows that individuals who are supported in the immediate aftermath of traumatic/critical incidents have a lower incidence of PTSD

  • Are you an aid worker? Send us your thoughts on ways you think employers could better support their staff.

    Are you an employer? We'd love to hear from you! Let us know best practices and lessons learned in the area of staff well-being and ways you believe employers can improve staff support and, in turn, the aid we provide those most in need.

    Are you neither an aid worker nor an employer, but you'd like to share your thoughts from your own experience? Share your feedback and thoughts.