Sunday, October 31, 2021

Anxiety at workplace

Anxiety & Stress at workplace

Last week one of my friends collapsed while he was visiting a customer for inspection. His colleagues rushed him to the hospital. Doctor said that this was because of anxiety. 

Anxiety is the inevitable part of professional life. Highly demanding jobs are creating stress at work. Pandemic and work from home has added another dimension into the stress. Long working hours and increased screen time, wrong postures are creating issues. Anxiety in the workplace is at an all-time high and is rising in professionals. Anxiety in young talent is the bigger issue for organizations. As per one of the research, there has been a 67% rise in the number of employees who reported they feel anxiety at work over the past two years. Employees are leaving jobs not only for monetary gain but also to explore the things which they have not explored in the past. However, one of the reasons is stress and anxiety. Employees are feeling that they are not taken care of enough. 

In spite of having this all, employees are not willing to discuss the anxiety at the workplace because they feel that employers and managers may  take it negatively impacting their performance and career. 

Stress is defined as a biological reaction when changes occur, to which the body responds physically, mentally, or emotionally. Anxiety involves the body and the mind and can be serious enough to qualify as a mental disorder when allowed to become chronic. The fundamental difference between stress and anxiety is stress is typically short lived and event-based where anxiety is a sustained sense of stress, fear, or worry that can interfere with life when left unaddressed.

Positive side of the stress

Psychologists are in the opinion that optimum stress is required. Positive side of stress is called “eustress” (Dr. Hans Selye). When focused on the positive, stress enhances motivation, builds resilience and encourages growth, promotes belonging among peers and is part of a meaningful life (It is the challenge that creates the moments of accomplishment and feeling of self-worth)

As leaders, we need to recognize and appreciate that a certain degree of anxiety is essential for driving performance. The goal for leaders is not to eliminate anxiety but rather manage the degree of anxiety a workforce feels. 

When challenges and high demand are inversely proportional to the confidence and competence, the chances of anxiety are more.  When confidence is low and challenges are high, then anxiety is the outcome. 

Emotional intelligence and empathy are the antinode for stress and anxiety. To address anxiety in the workplace and transform anxiety into performance, leaders need to demonstrate empathy. It is actually quite easy to do. All it takes is to ask, “How do you feel, and what do you need?”; actively listen to what they say, and then act upon it. Transforming anxiety into performance starts with caring enough to ask the question. 

One of the consultancy firms (the culture think tank) which extensively works in the area of stress, anxiety and wellness, explains three Dimensions of Anxiety:

  • Security is the sense of confidence employees have in their position within the workplace and their ability to accomplish their assigned responsibilities
  • Understanding is the sense of confidence employees have in knowing what is going on within the organization and how their duties support the organization
  • Acceptance is the sense of belonging employees have within the organization 

Understanding and addressing anxiety in the workplace is not complicated nor difficult to manage. Managers need to be trained on how to respond to the above dimensions of anxiety. 

Organizations need to come up with key metrics to measure the stress and anxiety at the workplace. Health and wellness initiatives has to be considered as a one of the people agenda focusing on Physical, Psychological, Social and Proper Employee Assistance Programme. 

Managing anxiety is not something leaders need to actively address everyday; but it is something they need to address frequently. However, asking employees “how do you feel and what do you need?,” once a year during the employee engagement survey or performance appraisal is not a good idea to actively manage anxiety in the workplace.

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organizations, current or past) 

Author's book are available on AmazonFlipkartPothi and BookGanga. Income from books is used for social cause. 

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