Health and wellness of employees at the workplace has been an area of focus for some time, but with the COVID-19 crisis, the emotional challenges employees are facing have increased manifold. Over the last year, the pandemic has elevated stress and anxiety levels among both employers and employees.
The implications have been not only on one's mental health and wellbeing, but also on one's engagement at work. Having anxiety at workplace may affect performance and productivity, quality and engagement at work, working relationships with colleagues and supervisors.
Everyone experiences and exhibits anxiety and depression differently, but there are certain signs which might be early indicators of work anxiety. These include :
- Noticeable change in concentration and motivation levels.
- Inability to make decisions, difficulty concentrating or focusing.
- Mood changes while interactions with colleagues.
- Taking more time off than usual.
- Social withdrawal.
- Avoiding taking up new roles/tasks.
- Lowered tolerance to work stress and feedback.
- Fear of not performing at par with expectations.
Employer's role in managing Employees' anxiety
Despite the prevalence of mental health issues, there is still a stigma attached to them. There are several ways employers can be more supportive and forthcoming to address such concerns while keeping the confidentiality intact.
Offer Expert Support
As an employer, it is imperative to create culture of acceptance and awareness about anxiety issues in the workplace. Talks on effective stress management, Work life balance, events, programs, initiatives on the importance of mental health. Employers can offer health support services like tele-counselling with Psychologists, talks by Medical Experts, interactive and mindfulness workshops on Yoga & Meditation. It is equally important to ensure employees know about the benefits available and how to utilize them.
Normalize Anxiety issues
Leadership should be encouraged to openly support mental health issues at workplace and help inclusion in company culture narrative. Consider small shifts like Happy hours and Break-out sessions, No Meeting days, Healthcare leaves, encourage frequent breaks among others.
Ensure an Open-door Policy
An Open-door policy helps ensure a friendly, communicative, and welcoming work culture. It also helps build employee trust and promote closer working relationships. A culture supporting mental health will encourage more employees to open up, feel comfortable to talk about their struggles and enable employers to proactively address concerns and mitigate at the start itself.
Employers should ensure all necessary steps to maintain confidentiality once they become aware of an employee's mental health issues. Such precautionary measures help increase the employee's trust in the employer and feel supported and comfortable to open up further.
Flexibility in working style
As an employer, it is important to keep reassuring your employees that expectations will shift and they will get requisite support to manage new way of working. Employers may look at introducing flexible work timings, Hybrid working models, Work from home policy, which would eventually help mitigate work stress.