Every one of your employees will become stressed and anxious at times, but it shouldn’t be a constant detriment. Some people could be struggling but afraid to seek help, so it might be on your business leaders to recognize who is going through a challenging couple of weeks versus who is constantly weighed down by job expectations or other problems.
Knowing how to recognize signs of anxiety in the latter case is important, especially if you value your employees’ work and want to help them do their best. Cutting down on high stress levels around the office will also help improve your workforce’s retention and overall health, so it’s a worthy cause for leadership to rally around. Start by being aware of the most common reasons for increased stress and anxiety, along with possible solutions:
- Work performance. Employees showing clear signs of anxiety may do lower-quality work, miss deadlines or take more sick days. It’s sometimes appropriate to have a conversation with the employee to determine how to help them improve. If you have an employee wellness program, make sure you’re clear about what resources are available.
- Promotion or change in job expectations. If an employee seems reluctant to accept a promotion or if you notice pushback regarding new job duties, be direct. You need to be sure the person is comfortable with the new expectations. If you’re offering a new position or responsibilities, that means you value that employee’s work, and you want to continue to support them.
- Job security. Some employees will be anxious about job security no matter what you do. Again, communication is key here. Rumors can bring productivity to a standstill, affecting the entire office atmosphere. Combat this by being open and honest. Acknowledge the anxiety, and do what you can to validate those feelings. Even difficult news can be understood if it’s presented with compassion and empathy.
- Workload increase. If you increase employees’ workloads or deadlines, they may not respond well. Before changing things, talk to them and make it clear you’re still there to support them. Enforce whatever break and overtime policies you have. Expect your workers to knuckle down, but keep a close eye on them to gauge whether they need extra help.
How You Can Help
If you can’t determine a specific work-related problem behind a particular employee’s stress level, then it’s possible the cause is out of your hands. Employees have their own personal lives, with myriad reasons for stress and anxiety that they might bring to work with them. In that case, you can offer these solutions to simply give them an outlet:
- Employee assistance programs. Many companies offer an employee assistance program as a supplementary benefit to provide employees with guidance and resources. Post information about the program on bulletin boards and include it in communications about benefits.
- Quiet areas. If possible, set aside office space where your employees can go for quiet time. Allow them to take reasonable breaks so they can catch their breath and clear their head. The room should be designated differently than the break room, and privacy and discretion should be emphasized.
Detecting stress and anxiety in your workforce requires a familiarity with your employees and a sensitivity to office morale. Your management staff should be proactive in identifying stress and have the resources on hand to address it appropriately. It makes a big difference in helping your employees work at their best.
Mary Parsons is retired from a 30-year career in the insurance industry. She worked in the claims department of a major insurance carrier as a claims adjuster, manager and a member of a catastrophe team. Since her retirement, she has developed a career as a freelance writer. As an insurance professional, she has been a contributor to several insurance websites.