As Mental Health Awareness Week approaches (15th-21st May 2023), we turn our attention to this year’s theme of anxiety and explore how employers can support employees who may be struggling with this condition in the workplace.
In the UK, over 8 million people are living with an anxiety disorder, which is just over 1 in 10 of us. [Source: Mental Health UK].
Anxiety is a common mental health condition that affects many people in the workplace. It can manifest feelings of nervousness, fear or worry that can significantly affect an employee’s work performance, and in severe cases, can lead to absenteeism.
Research carried out for our Health at Work report found that 72% of employees have experienced feelings of anxiety, whether related to health, work, job security, finances or relationships. We look at the symptoms of anxiety, what triggers anxiety at work and offer some practical steps to support an employee suffering with anxiety.
What is anxiety?
Most people experience some form of anxiety, especially during stressful events or changes that can impact a person’s life creating feelings of worry or fear.
Anxiety is a natural human response that becomes present when we feel we are under threat or are in danger. However, if persistent feelings of anxiety interfere with daily life and activities, it may indicate an anxiety disorder.
Many people recover from anxiety given that they are provided with the appropriate support and treatment, making it crucial for employers to be well-informed and understand the symptoms and effects of anxiety disorders.
Signs and symptoms
Everyone experiences anxiety differently, so spotting the signs and symptoms in others can be challenging as symptoms may vary from person to person, but it is important to recognise when an employee or colleague may be struggling with this condition.
Here are some common symptoms:
- Rapid breathing
- Pounding heart
- Panic attacks
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating
- Low mood
Signs of anxiety within the workplace include:
- Changes in productivity
- Absences or not being punctual
- Appearing withdrawn
- Low moral
Many triggers of anxiety are outside of an individual’s control, making it challenging to manage. However, work-related factors also play a role in contributing to anxiety, which is not surprising given that people spend a significant portion of their lives at work. Typically, the average person spends approximately 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, so it’s important to be aware of these work-related triggers and take steps to address them.
Some workplace related triggers include:
- High workload
- Job security
- Performance pressure
- Poor management and lack of communication
- Work-life balance
- Office politics
- Change and uncertainty in the workplace
Six supportive steps
Even though you may not be able to provide direct treatment to an employee with anxiety, there are several ways in which you can take the pressure off individuals to prevent making their condition worse.
Here are six practical steps you can take to create a supportive workspace:
- Educate Yourself: The first step in supporting employees with anxiety is to educate yourself about the condition. Having a general understanding around what anxiety is and how it affects individuals can help in creating a supportive workplace. Encourage your managers and colleagues to take up mental health training programmes to enhance your knowledge and learn new skills.
- Open Door Policy: Introducing an open-door creates a welcoming, workplace culture to encourage employees to communicate openly with their line managers. Adopting an open-door policy will make employees with anxiety and other mental health issues feel heard and supported, overall preventing the worsening of their condition.
- Flexible Working: Consider offering flexible working arrangements to accommodate employees who require support, such as flexible hours or the option to work from home, which can greatly benefit employees with anxiety. This allows the individual to have control over their work environment and can reduce their stress levels.
- Employee Assistance Programme (EAP): Offer your employees access to an EAP for mental health support and resources. If an employee is struggling to cope with their anxiety, provide them with counselling via the EAP to help them learn coping methods.
- Managing Workloads: It’s important to ensure workloads are realistic and manageable. Not only will this prevent panic and burnout, but helps your team prioritise tasks efficiently and will improve the general wellbeing of your people.
- Communication is Key: Encourage openness and communicate regularly. By doing so, you’re demonstrating that you’re actively willing to listen and support where you can with any issues they may be struggling with. Booking in 1-2-1s is a great way to regularly check in and monitor performance.
How can PAM Wellbeing help?
Our extensive mental health services have shown a reduction in anxiety and depression levels through proven, evidence-based methods. We provide assistance in managing and supporting employees who are struggling with anxiety in the following ways:
Manager Training: Educate managers how to proactively manage mental health in the workplace, and how to best support individuals struggling with anxiety to make employees feel more supported.
Staff Training: Staff Training: Enable your employees to improve their soft skills and expand their knowledge and understanding of various mental health topics, including anxiety by offering them training sessions conducted by our specialist team.
Psychological Services: Access to professional counsellors through management referrals for proactive services such as well-checks and professional support conversations. Sessions help employees to manage their symptoms and develop coping strategies.
Employee Assistance Programme (EAP): Round-the-clock access to professional counsellors, health, legal and financial experts. Including digital access to expert health and wellbeing resources and CBT training.
Mental Health Webinars: Increase your employees’ awareness of their mental health and wellbeing and how they can proactively look after themselves by learning techniques to manage work and life pressures.
Workplace Mediation: Aims to provide a solution for those involved in disputes by promoting mutually beneficial outcomes, restoring relationships through innovative methods, and reducing stress and anxiety with the support of mental health experts.
To set up a private consultation to discuss the opportunities for boosting the mental health of your workforce, please email email@example.com or call 01925 596244.