It is Mental Health Awareness week (15th – 21 May 2023)
Anxiety at work?
Whether you are a small business or a large corporation, the law requires all employers to prevent work related stress to support good mental health in the workplace.
Anxiety is how we perceive stress. It is characterised by excessive, uncontrollable worry and physical symptoms like headaches, dizziness, churning stomach, pins and needles, fast breathing or panic attacks. Trying to learn effective stress responses is a beneficial way to reduce these types of symptoms.
Workplace anxiety can involve feeling nervous, apprehensive, tense or stressed about work and can cause individuals to worry about a range of issues such as job performance, making mistakes, financial wellbeing, and relationships with colleagues. If not addressed, this can also lead to concerns for the individual outside work including poor sleep, physical symptoms described above and can impact personal relationships.
Anxiety in the workplace is often caused by heavy workloads, poor management, long working hours, a lack of autonomy and difficult relationships with team members.
It has a cost beyond the impact on the individual. The Heath and Safety Executive found that stress, anxiety and depression account for more than half of all work-related sickness absence. It may also contribute to presenteeism, which could affect productivity. Those experiencing anxiety may also be more likely to leave their job.
Being able to recognise the signs that a colleague may be experiencing anxiety will enable you to have a conversation with them sooner and start providing support.
- Increased sick leave.
- Decline in performance.
- Struggling to make decisions.
- Withdrawn and isolated from team members.
- Poor concentration.
- Increased irritability.
Getting to know your team will make it easier for you to spot these signs and change behaviours.
‘The unknown’ is a common cause of anxiety for everyone in the workplace, and many who experience anxiety are fearful of opening up to their manager about how they are feeling. By holding regular face to face meetings with colleagues and being open and clear in your communication, you can help to develop trusting relationships where team members feel safe to be honest about their concerns.
Make sure all conversations with anyone about their mental health are held in a private and comfortable space and always be mindful of their wellbeing. Use these catch ups to explore issues that may be anxiety inducing such as workload, meeting expectations and performance.
Ask colleagues what may be contributing to their anxiety both in one-to-one sessions and across your business by using anonymous internal surveys. Once you understand what may be contributing to their feelings of anxiety, take steps to reduce their impact.
Give staff control and autonomy about how they perform their work and empower them to work in a way that suits them, manage their workload and meet expectations. This also help improve motivation and engagement.
If you are supporting a colleague experiencing anxiety, work with them to build a plan of what you expect of them, remove uncertainty or expectations that may increase anxiety. Be thoughtful about when to approach issues.
Create a warm, friendly environment where people feel they belong and are understood. This builds trust and closer working relationships where people are more likely to share worries.
Prevent anxiety and stress at work to support good mental health. Think of this:
Start a conversation – the first step towards preventing work related stress and supporting good mental health.
The signs of stress in individuals and in teams.
Action points and solutions should be agreed together between employees and workers.
Monitor and review the actions you have taken, or not taken in some cases.
Make it ROUTINE
Ask how people are and check-in on mental health and stress. Let us make talking about how people are feeling…normal.