Anxiety In The Workplace – Supporting Your Work Mates
Does your alarm going off fill you with dread? Are you shaking with fear at the prospect of heading into the office or putting off going to sleep because it means the next day will start?
If you’re not, count yourself lucky because this is a reality for many Australians living with anxiety.
Mental health awareness has come a long way. But, many people are still suffering in silence. When someone breaks their leg or cuts their hand, we can physically see the pain and easily understand how it can affect their day-to-day life. But mental health and more specifically anxiety, is different. It operates under the surface, practically invisible to those around us.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 1 in 6 Australians suffer with an anxiety disorder. That’s roughly 3.3 million Australians out there coping with this mental illness.
Anxiety is rough. It leaves people exhausted, as the higher production of the stress hormone cortisol has a negative effect on the body.
It can cause:
- Intestinal problems such as constipation or nausea
- Weight gain
- Increased Blood pressure
- Low libido
- Lower immune system
- Interrupted sleep patterns
- Muscle pain / tension
How anxiety affects the workplace
Mental health in general affects the workplace negatively. Anxiety can be particularly harmful, causing communication issues, low productivity, and higher staff turnover.
Anxiety in the workforce can result in lower productivity and high absenteesim at work. Because anxiety has such a physical effect on the body as well as the mind, many people stop doing activities that could help to regulate their health. They are less likely to exercise, maintain a healthy diet, and keep a good sleep schedule.
All these factors result in lower productivity. It’s hard to be ‘on’ at work when you’re sleep deprived and feeling constantly stressed.
Poor Company Morale
When a staff member struggles with anxiety, it affects the whole team’s mood. We can sense this even if we don’t know they’ve got anxiety. We can see they aren’t communicating as much and maybe withdrawing at work.
People struggling with anxiety can often find it difficult to confront conflicts head on and so workplace communication can suffer. They might not feel comfortable coming forward to say they haven’t been able to finish a task on time or that they need time off.
Telltale Signs of Anxiety
Here’s how to spot if someone you work with might be suffering from anxiety.
They struggle to make a decision at work.
Where they might have previously been very confident in their work decisions, able to rattle off solutions to problems at the drop of a hat. They are suddenly struck by an inability to commit to decisions or work plans.
Maybe they used to be a bit of a social butterfly around the office, catching up for Friday nights or always ready to have a coffee and chat. Now they seem to be withdrawn and avoid making plans or initiating conversations.
Changes in appear
They have stopped dressing with confidence.
It’s a red flag for anxiety when a colleague who used to turn for work in freshly pressed clothes and take a certain amount of pride in their appearance starts to present as a little disheveled. Maybe they haven’t shaved a few times before work or they are not expressing themselves as much with fashion.
If someone is missing a lot of work and hasn’t been noticeably sick it could be anxiety that has caused them to take time off.
When a work colleague starts to show signs of agitation more often than usual and seems short-tempered, it could be the result of mounting anxieties.
How you can support a colleague with Anxiety
Anxiety affects so many Australians it is important to know how you can support someone struggling with anxiety at work.
Lead from the top down
Managers should have an open-door policy regarding mental health problems at work. Getting the leaders in the workplace to play an active role in how mental health is managed shows the company’s commitment to supporting staff who are struggling.
Companies should have sensitivity training for managers and staff around mental health, know the signs and have systems for support in place beginning with a policy of open communication.
Sometimes just having someone listen to the problem and sympathise can go a long way. Try to make yourself available to staff members who are struggling to discuss what is going on and how you can find solutions together.
Workplace counselling service
Implementing a confidential employee mental health counselling service really helps. Support your workers and give them the chance to work on their mental health with a professional. The cost of regularly seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist is very high and it can be a luxury some people cannot afford.
Making a service like this available shows your commitment to your workers and your support for them on their mental health journey.
Help them make a plan
If a colleague or employee is experiencing anxiety, they may feel overwhelmed by their work commitments. Work with them to create a plan that will help them get through everything in a timeframe that works for them.
Make them feel included
Even if a colleague has been turning down your invites to Friday night drinks or coffee hang outs for a while now, don’t stop inviting them along. This could make them feel like you’ve given up on them. Just continue to try and include and ask them what they may want to do instead of always leading the social get togethers.
Offer flexibility and time off
If a worker is struggling with anxiety, the workplace should do what they can to accommodate them. This includes the offer of a flexible work schedule, reduction in hours if possible or time off.
Maintain privacy and confidentiality
If a manager or another work colleague finds out someone is dealing with anxiety or any other mental health disorder this should be kept strictly confidential. It is up to that person to decide who they share this information with and when.
These are only a few of the many ways you can support your colleagues experiencing mental illness. At Asset College, we promote a positive workplace culture and support options for both staff and students. This includes strict policies on workplace bullying and discrimination.
Are you or do you know someone that is suffering from a mental illness?
Check out the links below.