Anxiety is the theme for 2023 Mental Health Week, and this opens up the opportunity for organizations to address mental health concerns for their employees and stakeholders. Anxiety has a huge impact on employee productivity, engagement, and wellbeing in the workplace.
In this post, we will explore strategies that organizations can adopt to help their employees manage anxiety better, creating a conducive and supportive work environment.
Let’s begin with understanding what anxiety is and how it impacts individuals.
Anxiety, on its own, is not a negative emotion. It is the mind’s natural response to stress and perceived threats that helps to prepare or protect us from what is to come. However, it becomes a concern when it is excessive and impacts a person’s quality of life; this becomes an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can have different effects and show up as restlessness, rapid heartbeat, inability to focus, sleep disorders and excessive worry or fear.
Understanding Anxiety in the Workplace
When an employee has an anxiety disorder, the impact goes beyond their personal lives and gets to affect their professional lives also. This manifests in the workplace through:
- Decreased productivity as a result of impaired decision-making and inability to concentrate at work.
- Strained relationships from difficulties in communication, social interactions, and collaborating with colleagues.
- Absenteeism and presenteeism as they are not able to cope with the overwhelming anxiety and being at work or they could be physically present at work and not productive.
- Burnout from depleted energy and emotional exhaustion.
- Negative work environment due to negative social interactions between colleagues.
A combination of all these impacts the profitability of the organization as there will be lost manhours and decreased morale from employees to carry out their given functions.
Fostering a Supportive Culture to Manage Anxiety in the Workplace
When employees know that there is a support structure for them in the workplace, it is easier for them to manage their anxieties better. Here are some strategies to create a supportive environment:
- Normalize Mental Health Conversations: Provide opportunities for employees to share their experiences and create a safe space where they feel comfortable discussing their challenges without fear of judgment or negative consequences.
- Educate Employees: Conduct workshops, training sessions, or webinars to raise awareness about anxiety, its symptoms, and its impact.
- Lead by Example: Encourage leaders and managers to openly discuss their own experiences with anxiety and mental health challenges. This vulnerability can create a sense of trust and encourage employees to seek help when needed.
- Implement Mental Health Policies: Develop and communicate mental health policies that demonstrate the organization’s commitment to supporting employees’ mental well-being. These policies can include provisions for reasonable accommodations, flexible work arrangements, and access to mental health resources.
- Train Managers and Supervisors: Provide training to managers and supervisors on recognizing signs of anxiety, providing support, and fostering a supportive work environment. Equip them with communication skills and techniques to approach conversations about mental health with empathy and understanding.
- Establish Employee Resource Groups: Encourage the formation of employee resource groups or affinity groups that focus on mental health. These groups can provide a platform for individuals to connect, share experiences, and support one another.
- Promote Work-Life Balance: Encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance by setting realistic expectations, discouraging excessive overtime, and promoting the use of vacation time. Provide resources and initiatives that support self-care and stress management, such as mindfulness programs, wellness challenges, or access to fitness facilities. Viwell’s wellbeing workshops handle all of these for your employees.
- Foster Social Connections: Create opportunities for employees to connect and build social support networks. This can include team-building activities, social events, or regular check-ins to ensure employees feel connected and supported by their colleagues. Viwell offers team-building activities to help foster bonding and social interactions between employees.
- Regularly Seek Feedback: Create mechanisms for employees to provide feedback on the organization’s mental health initiatives and support systems. Actively listen to their suggestions and concerns and make adjustments as needed to continuously improve the supportive culture.
Enhancing Support Systems to Manage Anxiety in the Workplace
Enhancing support systems refers to improving and strengthening the existing structures, programs, and resources that are in place to provide assistance and help to individuals who may be experiencing challenges or difficulties. In the context of managing anxiety in the workplace, enhancing support systems involves taking steps to ensure that employees have access to the necessary support, resources, and accommodations to effectively cope with anxiety and maintain their mental well-being. Organizations could do this with:
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): Implement or enhance existing EAPs to provide confidential counselling services and resources specifically tailored to anxiety management. Communicate the availability and benefits of EAPs to employees and ensure easy access to these services. Viwell’s Digital Wellbeing Platform has tailored EAPs for your employees with access to a dashboard that helps with tracking and monitoring participation.
- Peer support networks: Facilitate support groups or buddy systems where employees can connect with peers who have experienced anxiety and share coping strategies or offer mutual support.
- Mental health resources: Curate and share a collection of reliable resources, such as self-help guides, mindfulness apps, or anxiety management workshops, to empower employees with tools for self-improvement.
- Flexible Work Arrangements: Offer flexible work arrangements that accommodate the needs of individuals with anxiety. This may include options for remote work, flexible hours, compressed workweeks, or job sharing. Flexibility allows employees to create a work environment that minimizes anxiety triggers and promotes their well-being.
- Accommodations and Workplace Adjustments: Work with employees on an individual basis to identify and implement reasonable accommodations or workplace adjustments that support their anxiety management. This may involve modifying workstations, adjusting workload or deadlines, providing noise-cancelling headphones, or allowing for regular breaks.
- Collaborate with Healthcare Providers: Develop relationships with mental health professionals or organizations that specialize in anxiety management. Collaborate with them to provide workshops, training sessions, or seminars for employees on anxiety coping techniques, stress reduction, and building resilience.
By acknowledging and addressing anxiety within the workplace, organizations give employees the impression that they are valued assets in the organization, and this in turn, brings out the best in the employee, providing a symbiotic win-win situation for both the organization and the employee. Mental Health Week serves as a reminder to prioritize mental health, ensuring that employees feel supported, valued, and equipped with the necessary tools to manage anxiety in the workplace.
Viwell has the tools and resources needed to ensure that employees’ overall wellbeing is prioritized and that they feel valued in the workplace with tailored solutions for your organization. Reach out and let’s talk about tailored solutions for your organization today.