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Managing anxiety in the workplace

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Anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear, nervousness or unease about something.

It may be caused by issues in the workplace, such as workload, performance or conflict with colleagues. Outside the workplace, factors such as relationship, family or debt problems can create anxiety.

 

Employees could take steps to manage these issues, by communicating with their managers and seeking help, where necessary.


Employers can also support their staff and look out for signs that an employee is suffering from anxiety. These could include:

  • taking more time off work
  • becoming more emotional or over-reacting to what others say
  • feeling negative, dwelling on negative experiences
  • starting to behave differently, feeling restless and not being able to concentrate.


Mind report that 1 in 6 workers are dealing with mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or stress. These conditions can stop people performing at their best.

Managers should be confident and trained in the skills they need to support staff who may be experiencing anxiety at work. Informal and formal conversations will help establish a rapport with members of staff as addressing issues early and maintaining good communications is crucial.

Managers should:

  • have a conversation in a private place
  • make sure there are no interruptions
  • be focused, get the information that will help achieve the goal of supporting a member of staff
  • ask open questions, for example "I was wondering how you are doing"
  • always allow the person time to answer
  • try to put yourself in the others person's position and see things from their perspective
  • make arrangements for a follow up meeting to review the situation.


Anxiety disorders

Mental health problems can affect anyone, the most common forms of mental ill health are anxiety, depression, phobic anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders.

Depending on the kind of problems an employee is having they may be given a diagnosis of a specific anxiety disorder, such as:

  • generalised anxiety disorder - if someone has felt anxious for a long time and often feel fearful, but are not anxious about anything in particular they might be diagnosed with a generalised anxiety disorder
     
  • panic disorder - experiencing panic disorder can mean that someone feels constantly afraid of having another panic attack and can't identify what triggers them
     
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder - this may be due to anxiety which leads to someone experiencing obsessions such as unwelcome thoughts, urges or doubts that repeatedly appear in someone's mind. Compulsions such as repetitive activities that people have to do
     
  • phobias - a phobia is an intense fear of something, anxiety may be triggered by a very specific situation or object.
     

Some forms of mental ill health may be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if they have "a substantial and long term, adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities". The Act makes it unlawful for an employer to treat a disabled person less favourably for a reason relating to their disability, without a justifiable reason. See our Disability discrimination page for more information.