- Have you ever been in a meeting where you could not find the words to speak up?
- Or have you avoided a challenge at work, such as going for a promotion?
- Or do you avoid socialising with colleagues because you fear being judged?
Perhaps such experiences, or the thought of them, have left you with your heart racing, hands sweating and an inability to focus.
Today there is an anxiety epidemic. According to large population-based surveys, up to 33 per cent of the population are affected by an anxiety disorder during their lifetime.
It can take different forms and be caused by a combination of factors such as life events and workplace stress.
Although it may be widespread and its impact debilitating, it doesn’t mean anxiety is easily recognised, understood or that people always get the help they need.
Cost of anxiety
Anxiety has a human and financial cost in the workplace.
Anxious employees may not perform as well or may miss deadlines because they do not feel secure in their job.
And research has found over 12 per cent of sickness absence days in the UK are attributed to mental health conditions, including anxiety. Reducing anxiety at work also helps avoid burnout, which was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an ‘occupational phenomenon’.
People spend a large proportion of their lives in work, so a safe and healthy environment is vital.
And early interventions to support employees’ mental health and reduce their need to take time off work are estimated to save businesses up to £8 billion annually.
Developing a culture where employees feel supported is good for everyone. It helps those concerned and is likely to boost motivation, productivity and retention all-round.
Support may take the form of training managers to recognise and respond to employees who are struggling with their mental health and creating a culture of open communication.
It may also include educating employees around anxiety so that they can recognise it if they experience it themselves or spot if a colleague may be going through it.
It helps to bring in a professional to teach healthy and effective coping strategies, as well as offering confidential support.
It starts with listening and understanding, then providing ongoing access to advice and best practices.
- Anxiety epidemic: https://www.who.int/news/item/02-03-2022-covid-19-pandemic-triggers-25-increase-in-prevalence-of-anxiety-and-depression-worldwide#:~:text=In%20the%20first%20year%20of,Health%20Organization%20(WHO)%20today.
- According to large population-based surveys, up to 33 per cent of the population are affected by an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610617/
- Causes and types of anxiety: https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/causes-anxiety
- The cost of anxiety and effect of early intervention: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/statistics/mental-health-work-statistics#:~:text=Evidence%20suggests%20that%2012.7%25%20of,attributed%20to%20mental%20health%20conditions.
- WHO research on mental health in the workplace: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-at-work