The anxiety and employee wellbeing time bomb ticks for many employers
Anxiety is a major employee wellbeing issue which affects over eight million people in the UK (as much as a quarter of the workforce). For many of those people it’s a condition which affects their ability to perform at work. Addressing and managing extreme anxiety is vital in preventing major HR problems in the workplace.
We should be clear that when we’re talking about anxiety, we’re talking about a condition which can be genuinely debilitating, not just an uncomfortable sensation around new people, or natural mild stress about work delivery.
Not only does serious anxiety affect an employee’s ability to do their work, anxiety might even cause them to damage their career prospects by turning down promotions and opportunities which would exacerbate their anxiety.
Stress from anxiety can also come from issues outside of work like family problems, illness, or finances, but for many people their anxiety isn’t caused by these kind of circumstantial factors; it’s a persistent condition they live with or created through panic disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias or depression.
The consequences of severe anxiety
Ultimately, unmanaged anxiety can generate severe problems for staff and dire consequences for the employee and their organisation:
- Absences pile up as combating constant anxiety becomes too much for individuals to cope with.
- Physical problems develop; as many as 70% of GP visits originate in stress related conditions.
- Productivity nosedives as employees spend their time at work dealing with stress.
- Negativity spirals and multiplies, feeding endlessly upon itself.
- Avoidance sets in as employees avoid dealing with anxiety and stress-creating situations.
Your nightmare situation is one which is all too real for many employers. Severely anxious employees hide their anxiety, which builds stress and begins to affect their performance. After their productivity dives, your business’ relationship with clients are damaged by poor work quality, resulting in more stress, which leads to absences.
The overwhelming stress and anxiety cause an employee to take prolonged breaks or leave their job entirely, having taken the most damaging route possible for dealing with extreme anxiety.
Clearly, it’s in the interest of employers to address anxiety.
What employers need to do
Make it clear mental health isn’t a stigma and make sure employees have safe avenues to bring up issues they’re experiencing. This makes it less likely they’ll hide their issues from an employer.
Get employees in touch with help
You’re not in any position to treat or manage severe anxiety, so it’s vital you make sure employees are able to get the support they need from qualified professionals. If this can be achieved through your employee benefits all the better, but at least make sure you accommodate time out of the office to meet with qualified professionals.
Set realistic targets and goals with delivery schedules
A great way of managing work-related stress is to make sure work doesn’t ever appear overwhelming or unmanageable. Set realistic delivery schedules and regularly communicate with staff to make sure the schedule is manageable.
Recognition matters for all employees, not just ones dealing with anxiety, but recognising success is vital for helping to manage anxiety at work. Make sure positive achievements don’t go unnoticed when employees are anxious about their work.