Three Steps to Reduce Workplace Anxiety

With tight deadlines, a pile of paperwork and emails coming in faster than they can be answered, many people are familiar with the day-to-day stressors of working in an office. Anxiety in the workplace is a growing issue. Luckily, there are some simple things that can be done to make your office a safe place to discuss and address mental health concerns.

“Mental health is part of our whole health,” registered Toronto-based psychologist, Natasha Williams said, “and a lot of times what we do is focus so much on our physical health that we tend to negate our mental health.”

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, nearly 70% of Canadian employees are concerned about the psychological health and safety of their workplace, while 14% don’t think theirs is healthy or safe at all.

“Our mental health—especially anxiety, depression—can lead to reduced productivity and absenteeism,” Williams explained. “It’s really important that we actually take a look at the mental health and well-being of our employees.”

The federal government says 30% of disability claims involve mental health problems and illness.

So what can you do to help reduce workplace anxiety? Here are a few simple ways to improve the mental health of your workplace.

Reduce Stigma

Workplace stress can make already existing mental health issues worse, but Williams says many people don’t feel comfortable disclosing those stressors. Sometimes people hesitate to open up about their mental health because they’re afraid of facing negative reactions. If employees don’t feel psychologically safe, Williams explains, it becomes difficult for them to say, “Hey, I have a mental health issue and I need assistance.”

Employees need to feel like a workplace is a safe place to discuss mental health and any personal struggles they’re facing. An employee needs to feel comfortable before they’ll disclose any issues or reach out for help.

Educate

A significant way to reduce stigma in your office is to learn about the signs and symptoms of mental health and mental illness and the resources available when people need help. Williams recommends hosting lunch and learns or bringing experts in to talk with employees and managers about these topics on a regular basis. 

Learning about the signs and symptoms and where to get help can address some of the misinformation that exists about what mental health looks like. Bringing in someone consistently to talk about mental health and educate the workplace will also keep that conversation going so nothing is swept under the rug.

“The more you’re able to be open and have that conversation, the less stigma you’ll have and the more comfortable you’ll feel to talk about whatever it is you’re struggling with.”

Identify and Address Stressors

Often in the workplace, people become anxious because they’re overwhelmed with their workload or deadlines. While these can be easy for a person to identify, there needs to be open discussion about the options available to employees when they’re feeling stressed by these types of things. 

Employers can take proactive steps to address this by considering options like mental health days, reducing workloads or allowing flexible schedules. 

“It’s being able to have those dialogues in a safe and comfortable manner so that the employer and the employee have a win-win situation.”

Ultimately, creating a workplace environment where open conversations are encouraged and support is readily available benefits everyone involved.

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VOLUME 24 | ISSUE 1