Things to remember when you're dealing with workplace anxiety
Workplace anxiety should be a concern for all employers. Feeling anxiety or worry with any activity is common, but it becomes a problem when it interferes with daily life.
Your employees may be dealing with workplace anxiety as an employer, and you'd never know. This affects their life, mental health and prevents them from carrying out their work responsibilities.
So, employers need to provide support where possible to help employees manage anxiety at work.
What is workplace anxiety?
Workplace anxiety is a persistent and overwhelming feeling of uneasiness, apprehension and worry about work.
In many cases, anxiety is chronic and uncontrollable, not limited to the present moment when employees feel anxious at work. If the feeling continues outside of work hours, it can negatively affect employees' performance, life, relationships, and attitudes toward work.
Anxiety is common in many workplaces, especially small businesses, where employees may be required to wear many hats.
Employers should be conscious and watch for staff who may be experiencing anxiety at work, as it can contribute to poor physical health and many other debilitating symptoms.
Recognizing workplace anxiety symptoms
It's normal for your employees to feel some general symptoms of anxiety about their job from time to time.
Symptoms can be as simple as sweaty palms before a performance review or a racing heart before a big presentation. Some employees may even have insomnia before starting a new job, which is normal and shouldn't cause alarm.
Symptoms of anxiety
Some of the symptoms to look out for are:
Impatience and aggressiveness
Taking too much time off
Less motivation and drive to complete tasks
Avoiding work events or meetings
Physical conditions like excessive sweating or frequent headaches
These are just a few symptoms. There is no exhaustive list, as the symptoms can differ from person to person and can be either physical or mental.
What causes workplace anxiety?
Many things can cause work anxiety, varying from employee to employee. It could be that an employee is generally an anxious person or may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Employees' mental health issues can also cause stress and anxiety, or maybe your business is causing them chronic stress. They may also be anxious because of job discrimination.
Some other common things that can cause your employees to feel anxious include:
Employees with financial difficulties can have higher levels of stress. Worrying about meeting their financial needs can put pressure on them, which will contribute to experiencing anxiety at work.
The anxiety from financial challenges can show up in many ways. Examples include decreased productivity or increased absenteeism.
The pressure to meet deadlines and the implications of missing a deadline can cause chronic stress. The pressure can cause them to focus only on work obligations and worry about job security.
Some employees may go as far as sacrificing their mental health to be sure they don't miss a deadline.
Interpersonal relationships are important to employees' mental health and productivity. Co-workers who exhibit challenging behaviors, such as being overly demanding or uncooperative, are bad for your business.
Coworkers like this can make work uncomfortable and increase work anxiety, making them dread coming to work.
It also creates an uncomfortable work environment, leading to decreased productivity.
Self-doubt or imposter syndrome
It's common for employees to feel uneasy or perform poorly when they feel like they don't deserve their job.
These anxious thoughts and feelings of self-doubt or imposter syndrome can create a significant psychological burden on employees.
Employees with imposter syndrome constantly question their skills and knowledge. This can lead to them feeling anxious with thoughts and feelings about losing their job.
Lack of training
If your employees aren't properly trained, it makes them anxious about completing their jobs. It can also negatively impact their performance at work. They may also struggle to get the necessary skills and knowledge to do their job.
This can lead to dissatisfaction and frustration in their professional life.
Taking part in meetings or office parties
Your employees may find participating in meetings or office parties stressful, leading to anxiety at work.
This is common with new employees who may feel they have nothing to contribute or have self-esteem issues. They may feel pressured to participate, and the fear of being judged can contribute to anxiety in these settings.
Different kinds of anxiety disorders may cause your employees to avoid situations like work or public speaking. If your employee suffers from an anxiety disorder, they have an irrational fear that isn't common for their age or situation.
These fears stop them from functioning normally and performing their job duties. Employees with anxiety disorders may also exhibit avoidance behaviors.
Toxic workplace culture
A toxic workplace culture promotes unhealthy habits or management styles. Dealing with a difficult boss or manager daily can cause anxiety attacks, depression, and low productivity.
The negative atmosphere, lack of support, and constant worry can contribute to a sense of unease and dissatisfaction among employees.
These feelings of stress and anxiety ultimately impact their overall health and professional performance.
Signs your business may be causing work-related anxiety
Besides possibly suffering from anxiety disorders or personal issues, your employees may feel fear because of a stressful work environment.
As an employer, you may unintentionally be creating a stressful environment.
An unfriendly work environment can contribute to job stress, work anxiety, and failure to complete work-related tasks.
Here are a few signs your business may be causing your employees to feel anxiety.
High voluntary turnover
When employees leave your business frequently, it might be a sign your business is causing them anxiety.
If your employees tend to quit within only a few months of having the job, consider it's having negative effects on their lives. Employees who enjoy what they do are less likely to quit.
Frequent disagreements and complaints
Anxious or stressed-out people tend to lash out and have disagreements with their co-workers. If your employees always complain about a particular co-worker or manager, your business may be causing anxiety.
Burned-out employees are stressed and feel overwhelmed by work. If your employees are often assigned high workloads, face tight deadlines, or don't get support from their managers, they might burnout.
They'll lack job satisfaction, have higher stress levels, and have less confidence in their job performance.
Does work anxiety and stress trigger an anxiety disorder?
It's important to note if your employees feel anxious at work. Not only will it affect their productivity and job performance, but it might also cause mental health issues which also affect their daily lives.
Unchecked job stress can lead to serious physical conditions, depression, insomnia, panic attacks and burnout.
Stress can also manifest in physical symptoms or behaviors. Your employee's anxiety can manifest as a physical illness like heart disease, high blood pressure, constant headaches and stomach issues.
As mentioned earlier, employees who feel anxious may become temperamental and difficult to work with.
They may also resort to coping by abusing alcohol or drugs. Workplace stress is an often-neglected area of mental health.
So, as an employer, it's important to encourage your staff to speak with a qualified professional if they need support coping.
9 Tips for helping your employees deal with anxiety at work
There are several ways you can help your staff and offer coping strategies as an employer to help your employees deal with anxiety.
Here are a few things you can add to your to-do list to make your workplace less stressful and help employees feel motivated again.
- Create a supportive environment
You should create an environment where employees can speak openly about their feelings without facing repercussions. Not all employees may feel comfortable doing this, especially if it hasn't worked for them in previous jobs.
Let employees know you're willing to provide reasonable accommodation or accommodations to support and help them overcome these issues.
- Be understanding
Sometimes employees may fail to perform their job well. In this instance, it helps to show understanding and support as an employer, so you don't add to their own stress levels and anxiety.
Have an open mind and let employees know it's okay and you're available to give them a helping hand.
Showing understanding with an anxious person can also help you get to the root cause of what's causing changes in their work performance. They may also be tackling other triggers like problems with a family member, close friend or lack of adequate sleep.
- Get educated on anxiety
Learning more about anxiety at work and its causes can help you better manage employees suffering from such challenges. Getting training gives you more than just knowledge on the subject.
Knowing you're taking active steps to improve can also have a positive effect. When you recognize these issues, it helps your employees feel and want to do better at their jobs. You can learn more about work anxiety from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
- Host social events
Having strong work relationships can make a job less overwhelming. Hosting events where your employees can socialize and get to know each other better helps make them feel less isolated.
Employees are more likely to speak up about issues affecting them if they are comfortable with each other. You can also use these events to check your employee's mental state and offer tips to help them manage work anxiety and re-enter the workplace, recharged and ready to do their best work.
- Offer access to resources
Make it known that your employee's mental health is important to your business and that resources are available to help when needed. When employees know they're supported, they're more likely to put more effort into their work and deliver better results.
Some of the resources you can offer include off days, mental health support in your benefits, and professional support from qualified experts. You can also offer access to professional help. Having educational resources readily available and encouraging your employees to use them can also be helpful.
- Implement inclusive policies
Having a mental health policy in your workplace is voluntary, but it goes a long way. Implement a set of guidelines and tools to help foster and maintain an inclusive work environment and contribute positively to employee growth.
- Encourage employees to use an Employee Assistance Program
Health Canada provides 24/7 mental health support through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Encourage your employees to use this helpful resource whenever they need help. This resource ensures employees can access assistance whenever they need help managing work-related stress.
The EAP has a variety of features that help them serve a diverse audience, like services for people with hearing impairments and bilingual services and their sessions are confidential. By actively encouraging employees to utilize the EAP, you are promoting a culture of well-being and demonstrating your commitment to supporting them.
- Offer flexible schedules
Sometimes an anxiety attack can feel overwhelming to the point where they feel unable to do anything. As an employer, you can offer flexible work schedules where an employee suffering an anxiety attack can work remotely or take the day off to get back into the right headspace. Knowing this option is available can also help employees feel more relaxed and reduce the chances of a panic attack.
- Partner with a mental health professional
Having professional help is beneficial when managing anxious employees when they spiral. This professional support will also help employees feel at ease and know their health is being prioritized.
A mental health professional is trained to assess and address the unique needs of workers experiencing anxiety, and provide them with coping strategies and tools to navigate challenging situations. By partnering with them, you can create a supportive and inclusive work environment that fosters mental well-being.
Get advice on dealing with workplace anxiety
We've established that when employees experience anxiety, it can negatively affect their life, productivity, and your profits. But, with the right guidance you can create a strong workplace culture where employees feel confident to approach you with their challenges.
Most employers may not know how to make reasonable accommodations to manage employees struggling with various challenges. That's where BrightHR's employment relations advice line, BrightAdvice come in. They're available during standard business hours to answer any questions you have about managing employees with workplace anxiety.