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Accommodating For People With Anxiety In The Workplace

anxiety in the workplace

While mental health is an issue which have been somewhat of a taboo subject in the past, anxiety in the workplace is something which many employers are only beginning to learn about. Managing anxiety in the workplace is incredibly important as a business owner that you take the time to learn about disorders such as anxiety and what they mean to the people who suffer from them in the workplace. Even for people without anxiety, people in positions of authority in the workplace are responsible for the mental wellbeing that the job has upon an employee.

My past experiences of how not to manage anxiety in the workplace

For example in a previous job as a graphic designer, I had a manager who used to pick out a person at every meeting to take to task. It wasn’t constructive, it was divisive and everyone ended up on tenterhooks as a result. It was her way of manataining control over her workforce, but it caused great unhappiness and severe stress for everyone in the company.  In one meeting she screamed (literally) at me in front of my team, for an hour because her website was hacked and I discovered it. I’d been with the company less than a month. Because no one else in the past had realised the blame in her mind was me that caused it. I was simply a messenger. I ended up hyperventilating and having to leave work that day due to the episode. As it was a family company and she was the boss, instead of working with her HR manager to manage her anger, she fired the HR manager and I resigned.

Another example was a job that I look because I needed the money. It was less than I wasused to being paid (it seems that jobs for designers over 40 are thin on the ground as we are “too experienced”). The job was also a job that required no creativity and extreme attention to detail. It wasn’t suitable for me but I tried really hard to make it work, but I felt like a flamingo that someone was trying to use as an ATM card. I was desiginging terms and condition brochures, with one font and one colour – yes destroying my creative soul one bullet point at a time. Recognising at interview stage where a person is not right for the job is vital. I would have been bettter off to wait for something more suitable to come along. It caused me 10 months of anxiety and frustrated my boss and the clients were downright mean. I suffered silently for 10 months until I finally resigned.

Everyone has horror stories about a former boss causing anxiety in the workplace, so this article is to appeal to those people in positions of authority about nurturing and caring for employees, like you would of family members. Employees perform at their best when they are confident, calm and appreciated. Productivity is at its best when employees have ownership of their roles and feel safe emotionally.

Creative fields, such as design, attract the more sensitive souls, and people in the creative fields are more likely to suffer mental health issues and thus anxiety in the workplace.

What Is anxiety in the workplace ?

Most employees at some point in their careers will begin to suffer from stress of too much work and the pressure of a deadline. This can make many people start to exhibit the symptoms of anxiety- such as extreme fatigue and the avoidance of conversation with others; however, this does not mean they are anxiety sufferers.

People who suffer from anxiety can display a range of different symptoms which can affect their quality of life at the most basic level. People who suffer from this illness are often introverted and shy, they are not quick to make conversation. They may also be a little nervous around new people and struggle to ask questions if they are stuck on something. Employees with anxiety may feel stressed out much easier than others and will struggle to take on any extra workload than they have planned for. You must learn how to accommodate for this in your working environment.

Managing Those With anxiety in the workplace

anxiety in the workplace
anxiety in the workplace

First of all, you need to realise that mental illness is legitimate. It is not a ploy for them to get out of doing extra tasks and speaking to people, it is as real as having a broken leg.

Now that you have come to terms with the reality of anxiety, you can begin to make accommodations to manage it within the workplace. If you struggle knowing what to do, there are employee assistance programmes which can help your employees with their day-to-day working and manage their time better. However, there are still things you can do yourself:

Be Patient and Listen

Take some time out of your day to sit down with your employee and listen to what they have to say. It might be that being in an office with 6 other people is too much for them, and you can make the arrangements to have them work separately to make them more comfortable. Show genuine care and concern for people affected by this illness, and be patient when they struggle with certain tasks; it isn’t their fault.

Identify Patterns

When you think one of your employees may be struggling with anxiety in the workplace or other mental health issues, approach the subject softly. You may have noticed that they have started coming in a bit later than normal, or they are asking to work at home more often than normal. Ask if they are ok, and if there is anything you can do to help.

Give Them A Stable Routine

Once thing which can trigger many sufferers of anxiety in the workplace is a rapid changes in routine. People with anxiety take comfort in knowing what they are doing, and if you start introducing things they aren’t familiar with it can cause their stress levels to rocket. Have a meeting with them and sit down to discuss their routine, if you do ever need to add in changes, do it in small steps and test it out on them slowly. It may take time for them to adjust.

If you need help with an employee or are an employee, there are several useful resources:

Crisis Support

Emergency, police & ambulance
000 (24 Hrs)

Lifeline telephone counselling
13 11 14 (24 Hrs)

Suicide Call Back Service
1300 659 467 (24 Hrs)

Kids Helpline
1800 55 1800 (24 Hrs)



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