Anxiety in the workplace

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Did you know that mental health problems and anxiety cost employers in the UK £30 billion a year?

This massive cost to businesses is mainly due to lack of productivity, absences etc. This poses the serious questions as to why organisations aren’t doing more to help staff that may be suffering.

When it all comes down to it, the answer is actually rather straightforward – the majority of people struggle to discuss mental health in general, let alone in the workplace, as it can be perceived to be too personal or too complicated.

Anxiety is slowly becoming more and more prevalent within workplaces and it is something that employers do need to take into consideration with all employees as the effects could have a detrimental effect on the business as a whole if not taken seriously or managed correctly.

Anxiety is generally defined as a feeling of worry, fear, nervousness or unease.

The causation of this may vary but it includes workplace issues such as the workload, performance or conflict with colleagues. There are also personnel issues that could trigger it such as relationship issues, family or debt problems – which in turn the employee may unintentionally bring into the workplace affecting their work.

As an employer, you can support your staff and look out for signs that an employee may well be suffering from anxiety due to varying issues within the work place. Things to look out for include:

  • Feeling negative.
  • Becoming more emotional or overreacting to what other colleagues may say.
  • Frequent absences from work.
  • Change in behaviour.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Restlessness.

Consider giving your managers training and information on issues such as anxiety,  this will help them support staff that may become affected by anxiety at work (or any type of mental illness – stress, depression, etc). Training, good communication and an open door policy will help employees feel that they can come to their superiors and talk about their issues without feeling like it isn’t going to be taken seriously.

There are several things that managers can do when discussing concerns over an employee’s health:

  • Have any conversation in a private place, away from possible prying eyes.
  • Make sure there will be no interruptions.
  • Ask open questions.
  • See things from the employee’s perspective.

Remember that illnesses such as anxiety rarely conform to the typical stereotypes and stigma surrounding them. People suffering from anxiety could still be positive and happy on the outside.

Anxiety can affect anyone and there are a few different kinds that an employee may be diagnosed with. These are:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder: This is diagnosed when a person has felt anxious for a long time. This leaves them feeling fearful quite often, not because one thing in particular, it could be a culmination of things.
  • Panic Disorder: This is generally when a person feels constantly afraid of having a panic attack but there are no specific triggers identified.
  • OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder): This is usually triggered by anxiety and this leads to someone feeling, thinking or doing something obsessively.
  • Phobias: This is defined as an intense fear of something, such as a specific situation (meetings at work for example), that can trigger the person’s anxiety.

The key point to assisting employees with anxiety is good communication and creating a supportive inclusive environment.

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