Managing anxiety in the workplace

Published Jan 29, 2024

Nerves and anxiety affect employees of all levels within an organisation especially when tackling something challenging or new. Where anxiety continues for an extended period it can drain confidence, demotivate and lower productivity amongst team members.

Employees experiencing anxiety may display behaviours including heightened emotions, quick tempers or suspicion of others (such as overreacting to comments from colleagues or managers).

Anxiety can also trigger a physical reaction including fatigue, increased heartbeat, muscle aches or shallow breathing.

Research in 2023 found that the five top causes of anxiety in UK workplaces were:

  1. Performance reviews (50%)
  2. Starting new projects (39%)
  3. Client meetings (31%)
  4. Internal meetings (29%)
  5. Answering calls (28%)

Performance reviews was the most significant cause because employees who expect negative feedback can overthink the situation which then leads to tension in the meeting.

Similar concerns can arise in other face-to-face meetings often triggered by uncertainty around what employees are expected to bring to a discussion. More regular reviews will build familiarity with the appraisal process and clear meeting agendas sent in advance of meetings can reduce anxiety by helping employees to be prepared.

What other steps can employers take to help employees manage anxiety and nerves?

The are a number of tips to you can share with your team to help them keep feelings of anxiety at bay.

  1. Plan ahead – Make time to plan your day and week so you have clarity on the tasks that you need to complete. A plan will give you a sense of control and ease anxiety.
  2. Break tasks down into “bite size” chunks - By breaking the bigger tasks down into smaller actions you can systematically complete each one without feeling overwhelmed by having to complete the bigger project. Ticking each one off as it gets completed will boost confidence.
  3. Set realistic deadlines – Set deadlines that you are comfortable with and make colleagues aware of the steps you need to complete so they understand your timelines.
  4. Do ask for help – When workloads become too much or you need support on a task or project ask for support. Your manager should appreciate the request as it is in their interests to get the tasks completed as well.
  5. Take care of yourself – Take regular breaks, try to get the sleep you need, eat healthily and make time for exercise.
  6. Get outside - Experience nature whenever you can and without headphones. Even a 20 minute lunch time walk will help you appreciate seasons, hear bird song and get recharged.