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December 16, 2020

How to Manage Workplace Anxiety

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Workplace Wellbeing

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Connor Holmes avatar

Connor Holmes

As the most prevalent mental health issue in the United States, anxiety affects 40 million adults annually, or about 18.1% of the U.S. population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

Anxiety-related conditions range from social anxiety to phobias to panic disorder. These conditions, untreated, can lead to ongoing or worsening symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, insomnia, extreme worry, shortness of breath, and more.

The good news is that anxiety is often treatable with the right mental health solutions. Managing anxiety in your workplace can help improve workplace wellness and reduce costly outcomes like absenteeism, turnover, lack of productivity, and even burnout.

6 tips for managing workplace anxiety

For employees, managing anxiety can be difficult and impact how they perform at work. Team members experiencing anxiety may have more trouble concentrating and unfounded fears about work-related failures. Finding ways to manage anxiety can help employees to be happier and more productive in their workplace and beyond.

Workplace anxiety tip #1: Recognize the root causes

To manage anxiety, you may need to first figure out if there are elements of your work environment that are making your anxiety worse—or even causing it. Do you have a toxic relationship with a manager? That can lead to increased levels of anxiety over time.

Other issues at work that may cause or worsen anxiety include working long hours, a lack of autonomy at work, and an overwhelming workload. Workplace harassment or bullying may also be affecting you.

Workplace anxiety tip #2: Ask for what you need

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compels companies to offer those with disabilities reasonable workplace accommodations. While anxiety does not always reach the severity of a disability, you should nonetheless be able to have a conversation with team leaders about your needs.

These accommodations may include adjusted job tasks, paid or unpaid leave for hospitalizations or periods of illness, flexible hours, and a supportive work environment with regular feedback.

Workplace anxiety tip #3: Avoid stigmas

Mental health stigmas cause us to feel like we are the cause of our own mental health struggles. They also cause us to judge others unfairly. In the workplace, this can cause us to avoid reporting issues to HR or seeking the necessary treatments.

Stigmas also perpetuate systemic barriers such as racism and bigotry. A 2018 National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) study showed that African Americans or Black Americans, Hispanic or Latino Americans, and those of multiracial backgrounds have lower rates of seeking treatment than whites.

Identify and avoid these stigmas when possible. Avoid perpetuating them among coworkers, and report workplace harassment or bullying when you witness or experience it.

Workplace anxiety tip #4: Support coworkers

While a coworker cannot take the place of a mental health professional, a supportive network of team members can go a long way in managing certain symptoms of anxiety. Coworkers can lend support by destigmatizing anxiety, as well as educating themselves to recognize anxiety in others. This helps you to avoid getting frustrated and blaming your coworkers when their anxiety impacts their work or social behaviors.

If you also suffer from anxiety, you can share with others  techniques that help you manage symptoms.

Workplace anxiety tip #5: Start small

Anxiety tends to make us feel overwhelmed, until everyday tasks suddenly seem insurmountable. More serious anxiety disorders may require interventions such as therapy or medication; however, there are some smaller steps you can take to managing daily stress.

Here are a few suggestions for managing daily anxiety:

  • Avoid limiting yourself and your daily activities.
  • Accept, rather than suppress, your anxiety.
  • Be mindful and pay attention to what’s going on when anxiety manifests.
  • When possible, push yourself to do things that make you anxious, such as socializing with coworkers.
  • Practice self-care and take breaks.

Workplace anxiety tip # 6: Seek treatment

Aside from the fact that anxiety-related conditions that can be serious or even disabling, anxiety and depression are often interlinked and fuel the symptoms of both.

Additionally, COVID-19 has increased workplace anxiety across the board.

Anxiety that is lasting and impacts your ability to function can be effectively treated with solutions such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or medications.

How organizations can reduce workplace anxiety

Anxiety costs businesses $4.1 billion in indirect workplace costs. It leads to lost productivity, increased absenteeism, and poorer job performance. But there are steps HR professionals and team leaders can take to manage workplace anxiety.

Educate: Both team leaders and employees should be trained to recognize and manage mental health issues such as anxiety in the workplace. Education can help destigmatize mental health in your office. Vocalize your support for those with anxiety and other conditions and make them aware of treatment options.

Adjust the way you manage: Certain management practices are known to increase anxiety in workers. Consider how you can achieve management goals such as: place less demand on each employee, give more autonomy over work tasks, and improve coworker support. Also, consider what workplace accommodations you can offer those with mental health conditions such as anxiety.

Be flexible: Those with anxiety may need accommodations, from permission to work from home to flexible work hours for therapy or medical appointments.

Spring Health helps employers offer modernized mental health solutions tailored to individual workers and their needs. Contact us to request a free demo and learn how Spring Health can help your company thrive.

About the Author

Connor Holmes avatar

Connor Holmes

Connor is a staff writer for Spring Health.