Everybody carries some degree of stress and anxiety relating to their work. It is a natural response of the human body when it encounters situations that put us under pressure like a new job or working with a new team. This is known as the fight or flight response and it is an automatic protective reaction to threatening situations in our lives.
Normally, we learn to self-regulate our stress responses and feel calm and under control once the pressure subsides.
But when stress continues for a long time or occurs very often, it develops into anxiety – when feelings of stress fail to stop or decrease.
Workplace anxiety goes beyond the body’s natural stress response and can be triggered by a range of factors.
"Workplace anxiety is a serious concern not only for employee health and well-beingbut also for an organization's bottom-line," says John Trougakos, an expert on organizational behaviour and co-author of a study that found workplace anxiety can lead to lower job performance.
Workplace anxiety can have an adverse effect on employees resulting in lower job satisfaction, lack of focus and the inability to work productively.
So how can you reduce workplace anxiety so that your employees can feel safe and stress-free?
Develop healthy policies
Develop policies and procedures which tackle issues like health and wellbeing, bullying and harassment, employee isolation and addresses topics relating to workplace health and safety. This sets the culture for the workplace and establishes the guidelines needed to ensure that your employees are supported.
Workplace health and wellness programs
Establish health and wellness programs that work well for your business. These programs offer many benefitsto your employees and to the organisation. Such programs support stress management and positive psychology and provide opportunities for workers to incorporate interventions for work-life balance and optimum health.
Establishing open lines of communication between employees and upper management is a great way of alleviating stress in the workplace. By being open about your plans and decisions, employees know where they stand. They also know you are approachable and can reach out to you when they want to discuss any concerns. This creates a stronger bond in the organisation and a healthy work culture that employees thrive in.
Change work conditions
By changing the working conditions you can create an environment in which employees flourish. This can start with modern ergonomic office furniture to providing refreshments and including plants in the office landscape. Create a recreation space for employees to take a team break when needed or a place where they can connect and relax with other co-workers.
Reduce workload so that employees are not stressed and overwhelmed. Help them cope with their responsibilities by being realistic about their workload. Allow employees the time to take a break from work so that they can re-group and feel refreshed when they get back to their desks.
Develop flexible working conditions so that employees can manage their own time and take care of other responsibilities such as taking care of their children. This develops good workplace morale, reduces stress in employees and helps them manage work-life conflicts better.
Reduce employee conflict:
Develop team-building activities to foster cooperation amongst employees. This will reduce conflict and stresses and improve productivity. Establish proper forums for conflict resolution, offer workplace counselling and create fun events and workshops that establish greater bonding between employees.
Offer training and resources:
Organizations can help employees manage their anxiety and stress by developing training programs that will increase employee confidence. Offer tools and resources so that employees can perform well at work and equip them with strategies to manage their anxiety.
Lead by example
Lastly, it’s important that you lead by example, Show your employees how to manage stress, take a break from work time and again, and participate in team-building activities. Encourage your staff to be physically active by incorporating such activities in your day. Participate in health and wellness programs for your own health and wellbeing and this will encourage your employees to do the same.