Work anxiety is real and can significantly affect performance. It can be experienced by all employees, regardless if they are predisposed to anxiety or not. Its effect can really wear down a person, and hurt their productivity. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to manage stress levels in the workplace, and effective measures can be applied at both individual and organizational levels.
People experience anxiety quite often, yet it’s usually overlooked. According to a survey by the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, the key areas that workplace anxiety affects the most are – performance, quality of work, and cross-team relationships. The causes for these can range from long hours and heavy workloads to unclear expectations, ineffective communication, and the inability to see the bigger picture. Moreover, if left unmanaged this feeling of fear and unease can have dire consequences that can greatly interfere with the growth of a business.
The workplace should provide a supportive environment that encourages individuals to perform at their best. It should be a safe space where one can concentrate, process information, work on their projects and complete them with utmost success. It should motivate team members to learn, collaborate and grow professionally. However, when anxiety creeps in, it can be quite difficult to accomplish the aforementioned.
So, in this article, we’ll share more information about what workplace anxiety is and what you can do to manage it successfully. We’ll shed light on how it affects both employees and the business as a whole and in what ways. But most importantly, we’ll give you tips on how to overcome it with the help of technology.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
What Is Workplace Anxiety?
Anxiety is the extreme feeling of unease, worry, and tension you feel when faced with stressful situations. It can be completely normal, even ordinary.
Just like students can be jittery before a test, or an athlete can experience a cocktail of adrenaline-fueling emotions before a competition, your employees may feel anxious when meeting an important deadline, sitting at a meeting with a supervisor, presenting or launching a new project.
However, if the feeling of distress becomes all-consuming and your employees’ work suffers, it’s a sign of a much larger problem.
Feeling anxious is certainly unpleasant, maybe even a little annoying, but as The Medical Futurist mentions, it can also be handy in some cases. It’s our body’s natural reaction to changes in our environment, triggering our fight-or-flight mode. Which mode will be activated depends on both situational and personal criteria.
In their research, Cheng and McCarthy have found that workplace anxiety has a dispositional and circumstantial nature. This means that people who experience anxiety in their life, in general, are more likely to view new situations as threatening. While others may feel different levels of agitation depending on the situation they have to face.
For example, when procrastinators experience anxiety, they go into fight mode – i.e., they concentrate more so they can finish their projects on time. However, when a strict planner experiences anxiety, they might go into flight mode or completely freeze up.
You have to be able to distinguish how different members of your team respond to stressful situations. Generally, you should differentiate between anxiety and stress. The latter is usually short-lived, while the former can have long-term consequences and wear your people down. So, if you want to keep productivity and motivation high, you shouldn’t leave it unmanaged.
Common Work Areas that Cause Anxiety
To treat a problem you need to first find its root cause. There are plenty of reasons why a person experiences anxiety. When it comes to work-related stressors, however, there are a few things that stand out.
- Heavy workloads – Simultaneously working on and managing multiple assignments or large projects can make employees feel overworked and even burnt out.
- Long working hours – Even if your team is made up of over-achievers who work overtime voluntarily, there will come a time when that takes a toll on them.
- Meeting deadlines – Especially if projects are too often “due yesterday” or have an unrealistic deadline.
- Conflicting performance expectations – Clashing demands and ineffective training can not only make a project feel unmanageable, but it can make every day at work a struggle.
- Difficulty in communication – When employees cannot communicate with one another or with managers effectively, the frustration can turn into severe stress.
- Ineffective feedback – With a lack of adequate feedback, your team may feel nervous about the quality of their work and might become fearful of losing their jobs if managers are dissatisfied. What is more, this can slow down their progress, resulting in even more tension.
- Lack of control over individual tasks – Too much micromanagement can make your team feel like you have no trust in them.
- Inability to see their value – If your employees aren’t aware of their role in the profitability and growth of your business, they may feel like they have no purpose.
Companies can implement various tools and techniques to offset the negative effects of anxiety and create an efficient and supportive environment. From boosting work culture to adopting better project management practices, they can offer assistance in overcoming daily challenges.
There are several ways in which technology can support this process and improve the mental health of your team members. Read on to find what they are.
1. Improve Project Scheduling and Coordinating
Regardless of the size of your company, chances are you have multiple active projects, so to ensure everything runs smoothly, you have to be able to manage them effectively. You need a solution that can help you schedule and coordinate projects better. Technology that can help is project management software, like Asana, Toggl, or Teamwork.
Project management tools can help the members of different teams stay in touch, allocate tasks, monitor the progress made, and plan each stage of the whole process in a way that is predictable, accurate, and profitable.
This helps improve teamwork and accountability while reducing scheduling uncertainty and confusion. It also enables colleagues to reach out to one another when in need of assistance, thus helping anxious team members feel connected.
However, improving the efficiency of project scheduling and coordinating is just the beginning. Next, you need to streamline your processes to remove errors and delays.
2. Streamline Complex Processes
By streamlining your processes with the help of technology, you can improve productivity, make operations go smoother, and manage work anxiety within your teams. This will help you remove unnecessary activities that might be slowing down your employees so you can help them prioritize their efforts and focus on the tasks that matter more first.
Process streamlining can be used in many different areas, and you can use workflow management software, like ProcessSt or SaaSBPM, to help you achieve this. From improving communications, management, accounting, sales, and more, you can allocate tasks automatically so everyone is in the loop when changes happen.
This will help reduce mistakes and confusion. Employees will connect easily when they need assistance, whether it’s about a given task or related to well-being.
3. Track the Well-being of Employees
Whatever approach you take to manage anxiety in the workplace, looking after your employees’ well-being will always play an important role.
By utilizing human resource software, you can help your managers and HR professionals offer better support and improve the overall work experience in your company. Thus allowing them to tailor processes and schedules around employee needs and requests.
Additionally, with such technology, HR teams can have a better understanding of how other teams work and employees feel. It can help with training, onboarding, and encouraging staff to speak up when they feel nervous.
Having this information will allow managers to find gaps in employee performance and come up with ideas on how to bridge them. One way to start is with individual accountability and allowing employees more control over their schedules.
4. Give Employees Control Over Their Schedules
Anxious employees can feel overwhelmed when they have to be responsible for too many projects and assignments at the same time. This is, especially true if they have performance-related or decision-making anxiety. They might even have “analysis paralysis”, a condition that makes them over-analyze and overthink every task on their to-do list.
If your team members find it difficult to set priorities, it might be useful for them if you could break down the process into smaller chunks. You can then allocate separate time frames for each one and allow your employees to schedule their responsibilities in a way that works for them. They will be able to focus on one thing at a time and move on to the next one after they’ve completed it.
According to Harvard Business Review, this is a great way for your organization to boost productivity and even innovative thinking. When a person switches between tasks, they increase the time it takes to finish their primary project by 25%.
Try testing different productivity tools and techniques. Something you can do to help with that is to encourage your team members to devote their focus strictly to a single task for a set period of time, and then take a break and renew their energy. For instance, you can use your workflow management tool to create smaller tasks that your employees can check off. This will help them feel in charge of their daily duties and when they have to submit their project.
Accountable employees are also responsible and transparent, hence why our final tip for fighting anxiety in the workplace is to make cross-team communications quick, easy, and straightforward.
5. Make Communication Easy
The effectiveness of your company’s communication systems plays an important role in ensuring everything works smoothly. Technology can significantly improve accessibility and availability, allowing your employees to have an instant connection with each other and address frustrations on time.
With tools like Slack, Google Hangouts, or Microsoft Teams, you create collaborative channels where people can easily discuss matters on different projects and topics. According to Yahoo!Finance, instant messaging can improve collaboration, engagement, and productivity, making them quite useful for battling anxiety, especially when it’s communications-related.
Instant messaging tools provide a good balance between formal and informal communication. Emails are often perceived as a more formal way of communicating. Anxious employees can become stressed out when replying to them and fear to misunderstand the message or being misunderstood themselves.
With a messaging tool, however, this friction is removed. Instead, employees are encouraged to share insights without the need to copy multiple team members into emails or attend a live meeting.
Additionally, a very nice feature messaging tools have is the ability to set a daily status. In addition to notifying when a person is in a meeting or on a break, this allows employees to communicate their current emotional state so they can let others know when they’ve become overwhelmed, need some help, or even some space.
Workplace anxiety is a serious problem that can sometimes be overlooked. This is why it’s important to understand what can cause it and how it can affect your employees. It’s a difficult issue to combat completely, but with the help of the right technology, you can win many of the battles.
When you use the right tools you can improve your employees’ well-being as well as the productivity of your organization as a whole. Key areas that most often need your attention include scheduling of projects, division of assignments, task autonomy, and open communication.