Building a Support System for Employees with Workplace Anxiety

What is Workplace Anxiety?

Workplace Anxiety is anxiety related to job role, environment or relationships. It is characterised by feelings of fear, worry and unease about their job or the workplace in general. Symptoms can appear as chest tightness, headaches, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, and difficulty sleeping. Psychologically, anxiety can cause difficulty concentrating, making decisions, difficulty forming relationships, and low self-esteem. This can lead to increased absenteeism and a decrease in productivity.  

Workplace Anxiety

Workplace Anxiety can be caused by several factors, from workloads, dynamics with colleagues or managers, lack of control, and environmental factors. It can also be caused by external factors, such as changes in the economic or political climate.  

It is important for employers to understand that workplace anxiety can significantly impact an employee’s quality of life. Employers must take anxiety seriously and provide adequate support for employees who are struggling. This can include providing resources such as counselling services, support groups, and mental health days. Additionally, employers should strive to create a supportive and inclusive environment, where employees feel safe and accepted. 

By understanding and recognising Workplace Anxiety, employers can support their employees and create a safe and healthy environment for everyone.  

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety in the Workplace

When attempting to identify the signs and symptoms of anxiety in the workplace, it is important to understand that everyone experiences anxiety differently. However, there are some common signs and symptoms that could indicate an employee may be experiencing anxiety.   

The most common signs of anxiety in the workplace include:   

  1. Feeling overwhelmed and/or easily frustrated  
  1. Poor concentration and/or difficulty focusing  
  1. Feeling tense, irritable, and/or jumpy  
  1. Avoiding certain tasks or conversations  
  1. Rapid breathing, sweating, and/or increased heart rate  
  1. Withdrawal from colleagues and/or social activities  
  1. Increased use of alcohol and/or other substances  
  1. Difficulty sleeping and/or sleeping too much  
  2. Low energy and/or fatigue

Mental health issues should be treated with the same concern as physical health issues. If you recognise any of the above symptoms in employees, it is important to approach this with kindness and compassion. By creating an open and supportive workplace environment, you can ensure that any employee struggling with anxiety feels comfortable seeking help. In offering to mental health support, such as counselling, you communicate that their wellbeing is a priority. 

By understanding the signs and symptoms of anxiety in the workplace and proactively supporting employees, you can create a healthier and more productive work environment.  

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How to Support Employees with Anxiety in the Workplace

When employees experience anxiety in the workplace, it can have a serious impact on their wellbeing as well as productivity. It is important therefore for employers to understand how to support employees with anxiety in the workplace. Below are some tips on how to do this:  

  1. Educate yourself and your staff about anxiety: Understanding anxiety and how it presents increases the likelihood that employees who have anxiety will be supported.  
  1. Create a safe space: Create a supportive environment where employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health and expressing any concerns they may have. Encourage your employees to talk openly about anxiety with compassion and acceptance, and normalise anxiety and fluctuations in mental health.
  1. Be flexible: Be flexible when it comes to the needs of your employees. This could include flexible working hours, or allowing employees to work from home if they need to. 
  1. Offer mental health resources: Make sure that your employees are aware of any mental health resources available to them, from policies to employee assistance programmes, counselling services and stress management courses. 
  1. Provide regular feedback: Providing regular feedback to employees can help to reduce anxiety, as it can help them to feel more valued and appreciated. 
  1. Encourage healthy habits: Encourage employees to maintain healthy habits such as getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising regularly. 
  1. Monitor workloads: Workplace anxiety can often be caused by high workloads and too much pressure. Make sure that you are monitoring workloads and encouraging employees to take regular breaks. 

Strategies for Building a Support System for Employees with Anxiety

Anxiety can be debilitating and can have a profound effect on an employee’s ability to function, and work. Having a support system in place can make significant difference in helping employees manage their anxiety and stay in the workplace. Here are some strategies for building a support system for employees with anxiety:   

  1. Open Communication: Encourage open communication between managers and employees. Encourage managers to be open about their own challenges and normalise this. Offer staff a variety of methods of expressing their thoughts, such as 1:1’s, anonymous surveys and focus groups. Make sure that alternative perspectives and emotions are accepted and respected, so that employees feel safe in their environment. Express interest in employees as individuals to build trusting relationships, so that they feel able to come to their managers with any concerns or issues they may have.
  1. Brief and Debrief: Offer the team opportunities to check in at the start and end of the week, or the shift. Offer the opportunity to reflect on the strengths of the team at hand and how this will help you as a team to overcome any challenges. Reflect on challenges that were overcome, on strengths and positives, as well as opportunities for improvement. This will help those with anxiety to feel valued and reassured. 
  1. Offer regular opportunities for reward and recognition: Those struggling with anxiety may seek reassurance, and regular staff recognition schemes can offer opportunities to feel validated and acknowledged, which may improve confidence and self-esteem.

By taking the time to build a supportive system for employees with anxiety, employers can create a positive and productive workplace environment.  

Benefits of Creating a Support System for Employees with Anxiety

Creating a support system for employees with anxiety can be hugely beneficial for the workplace. Not only can this create a more accepting and supportive environment for all, but reduce stress and anxiety levels across the board. Here are some of the benefits of creating a support system for employees with anxiety:  

  1. Improved Mental Health: A support system for employees with anxiety can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels, as well as promote better mental health. This can help to improve overall productivity and morale in the workplace, making it a better place to work. 
  1. Increased Productivity: When employees feel supported and have access to resources, they are more likely to be proactive in maintaining mental health and remain motivated. A supportive environment can help to reduce stress and anxiety, which can lead to higher levels of productivity. 
  1. Reduced Absenteeism: Anxiety can cause employees to take more time off, leading to reduced productivity and morale. A support system can help to reduce absenteeism, and keep employees in the workplace. 
  1. Increased Engagement: An environment where employees feel supported and safe can help to improve engagement levels. A supportive environment can encourage more open communication and collaboration, which can help to boost morale and productivity. 
  1. Improved Retention: When employees feel supported and valued, they are more likely to stay in the workplace and feel loyal to the company. A supportive workplace can help to reduce stress and anxiety, which can lead to improved retention rates. 

Practical Tips for Offering Support to Employees with Workplace Anxiety

Attend Training Tailored to Managers

Bespoke training for managers can equip you with the skills to support employees to discuss their feelings, challenges and successes without fear of judgement. During these meetings, managers should be patient, understanding and encouraging, and ensure that the employee feels supported and that their needs are heard and respected. Active listening skills and co-creating wellbeing plans can both be essential for this, and PMAC’s training can offer just that.  

Provide Access to Professional Mental Health Resources 

Free or discounted therapy sessions or counselling, access to online resources such as mental health apps or websites or signposting can all ensure your team access the support they deserve.   

Create a Culture of Understanding 

Creating a culture of understanding within the workplace is essential for employees with anxiety to thrive at work. This can be done by encouraging open dialogue around mental health, providing education on the issue and ensuring that employees feel safe to express their feelings and talk openly about their challenges.   

Encourage Breaks and Relaxation 

Encouraging breaks and relaxation is another way of supporting employees with workplace anxiety. Supporting employees to take regular breaks throughout the day can help to reduce stress levels and prevent overwhelm. This could also mean offering access to team relaxation activities such as yoga or mindfulness classes.  

Implement an Effective Stress Management Plan 

Stress management plans can be hugely beneficial for employees with workplace anxiety. It could include providing employees with access to mental health support services, introducing mental health days, or offering stress management training or workshops. By having an effective strategy in place, organisations can ensure that employees with anxiety are better supported and their needs are met.  

Resources for Supporting Employees with Workplace Anxiety

Here are some resources you can use to provide support to employees with workplace anxiety:  

  • Employee Assistance Programs – Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) provide employees with access to confidential, short-term counselling and support services for a variety of personal and work-related issues, including as work-related anxiety. Your company may already have an EAP in place, or you may need to arrange one. 
  • Mental Health First Aiders – Mental health first aiders are trained to recognise the signs of mental health issues, provide support and signpost employees to further help. Training mental health first aiders in the workplace can help to create a supportive environment for those struggling with anxiety. 
  • Employee Support Groups –  Support groups can provide a safe and supportive space for employees to talk about their issues and find ways to cope with anxiety. It’s important to ensure that support groups are well-facilitated and confidential. 
  • Online Resources – There are many online resources available to help employees manage workplace anxiety. These can range from mental health websites to online support groups. It’s important to ensure these resources are credible and up-to-date. 
  • Professional Mental Health Support – Professional mental health services can provide individualized support to employees who are struggling with anxiety. It’s important to ensure that the services you choose are qualified and experienced in supporting anxiety in the workplace. 
  • Regular Check-Ins – Regular check-ins with employees can help to identify any changes in mental health and provide a space for employees to discuss their anxieties. It’s important to ensure that these check-ins are conducted in a safe and supportive environment.

By providing these resources, you can create a supportive environment for employees with workplace anxiety and ensure they feel safe and valued. 

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If you need any guidance or assistance, we would be delighted to assist. 

We can help with;

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