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How To Deal With Anxiety In The Workplace

Anxiety disorders are a common part of life for many people across the country. The website Anxiety UK reports that one in six adults were found, in one study, to have experienced some form of neurotic health issue in the week leading up to the survey. Commonly, these issues were anxiety or depression.

Anxiety UK also highlights a number of other statistics that show the scale of the situation.  It states that more than a tenth of people will suffer from a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ in their life, 13 per cent will develop a phobia and 40 per cent of disability worldwide is a result of depression and anxiety. It cites a World Health Organisation report which found the impact of such issues was 50 per cent more serious than common physical conditions such as angina, asthma and diabetes.

The scale suggests that most businesses will have to consider how they cope with anxiety in their workplace at some stage. But what can employers, employees and team members do to ease this? Here are some things to consider:

Understand what anxiety is

Most people probably feel anxious at some point in their lives. It’s a natural reaction in the lead up to a job interview (see our advice on interviews here), big exam or operation, for example. In extreme cases, though, it can affect people on a more day-to-day basis. To others this can seem like an ‘out of proportion’ reaction to their situation, but anxiety can amplify the way someone feels about their situation and affect their health. It’s important for employers to remember that people aren’t over reacting, that anxiety is a very real problem.

This can cause a whole host of related conditions such as shortness of breath, trouble sleeping, irritability and sickness.

Some people suffering from this may have ‘generalised anxiety disorder’. Read this post from the NHS for information on what causes this condition.

Workplace culture

One of the potential triggers for the feeling of anxiety is stress. While a business cannot eradicate someone’s propensity to feel anxious, it can control this element to an extent. The culture and atmosphere of a business can help to remove some of the stress involved in the world of work. The following factors create a positive, atmosphere:

*Communication – You don’t want people to bottle up their feelings, this will make it worse. If line managers have a regular and open dialogue with their team – preferably on a one-to-one basis in a private room – then you can ensure issues are aired and problems talked through.

*Effective HR – A good human resources team and policy should be more about the ‘human’ than the ‘resources’. Software programs, such as that from CIPHR, can handle the paperwork side of HR, freeing up staff to be able to identify issues and act. Treating anxiety as you would any condition, being aware of any needs of individuals within your organisation, and handling their condition in a sensitive and discreet manner.

*Highlight the positives – Not everything about work is positive, clearly, but some things are. Individual and team successes within a workplace should be celebrated, highlighted and rewarded. Too often there is a focus on the negatives at work, as these need to be resolved and fixed, but the good things need to be talked about too. That way you won’t foster an environment where people are encouraged to dwell on the bad things.

*Office environment – You don’t have to be a mini Google office, but little additions such as music, chill out areas or other perks can help people feel a little bit happier about their working day.

All of these alone will not ‘cure’ anxiety. This is a serious condition that affects a lot of people. They will, however, help to ensure your workplace doesn’t exacerbate the issue and is mindful and caring towards those who suffer from it.

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