Living at the dawn of the second decade of the 21st century may be a pretty challenging experience. That’s because of the complexity that affects the modern lifestyle. It can also be dreadful.
Workplace anxiety is a quite striking symptom of such an unpleasant experience and one that has major consequences on both individuals and organisations
It could be a paradox. Here’s why:
Though workplace anxiety is a term we all understand (when we hear about it), it is not considered a disorder.
Nevertheless, it is present all-over both the developed and developing world.
Evidence coming from the US (1) suggests that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the country. They affect 40 million adults in the United States aged 18 and older every year. That’s 18.1% of the population.
Similarly, studies of anxiety disorders have revealed that globally 1 in 13 people suffer from anxiety (2). The numbers are striking.
Can Anxiety Cause You to Miss Work?
There are several risk factors, including genetics, personality, brain chemistry, life experience, and personality, which play a crucial role in the development of anxiety disorders.
Anxiety can have devastating effects on workplaces. Such an effect is missing work.
A study conducted in the UK by the Mental Health Foundation found that 12.7% of all sickness absence (3) days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.
As far as the US is concerned, according to the 2019 study (4) “Strong Minds At Work” conducted by insurance company Unum, mental illness is one of the top causes of worker disability in the U.S., with 62% of missed workdays attributed to mental health conditions.
What is Workplace Anxiety?
Since workplace anxiety is not considered an “official” disorder, there is not a scientific definition of the term. We can conceive it either as the stress caused by work that leads to anxiety or as the impact of an anxiety disorder at work.
A survey conducted by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America showed that while only 9% of individuals in the US are living with a diagnosed anxiety disorder, an impressive 40% experience ongoing stress or anxiety in their daily lives.
Since this is a very serious subject, it is significant to point out the common symptoms of anxiety because it is highly probable that they will occur in cases of workplace anxiety:
- Exaggerated startle reaction
- Feeling jittery
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Feeling like there’s a lump in your throat
- Shaking or trembling
- Dry mouth
- Excessive or irrational worrying
- A pounding/racing heart
Most, if not all, the above symptoms could also be due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. There could also be indications of work anxiety by the behaviour in the workplace.
Overreacting to situations on the job, focusing excessively on its negative aspects, not being able to concentrate, and failing to meet deadlines could be such indications.
Maintaining a healthy workplace and the bullying effect
Working in a healthy workplace can be a great factor in preventing workplace anxiety symptoms.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO),
a healthy workplace (5) can be described as one where workers and managers actively contribute to the working environment by promoting and protecting the health, safety, and well-being of all employees.
An academic report from 2014 suggests that interventions should take a 3-pronged approach:
Protect mental health by reducing work-related risk factors.
Promote mental health by developing the positive aspects of work and the strengths of employees.
Address mental health problems regardless of the cause
Furthermore, all necessary action shall be taken to prevent bullying and psychological harassment in workplaces.
These are causes of work-related stress that are frequently reported and could influence the mental health of workers negatively.
They are also associated with both psychological and physical problems and can harm family and social interactions.
How to Stop Being Anxious at Work?
What could we do to overcome being anxious at work? First, seek assistance from an expert.
Getting the right diagnosis is essential for receiving the right cure. However, workplace anxiety is a feeling most of us have felt in our lives.
To prevent a frequent repetition of anxiety symptoms in workplaces, there are strategies that all workers could incorporate.
Firstly, being aware of what causes workplace anxiety is crucial for finding ways to eliminate it. It could be the look of a messy desk, the fear of being late, or the bad manners of a colleague.
Since you have identified the actual reasons that initiate the feeling of anxiety, you could use corresponding strategies:
Arrange your desk, fix your watch to show 15 minutes ahead, and draw a line on the accepted behaviour you are willing to tolerate. These could be respective successful reactions to the problems mentioned above.
Finding an activity that could release your stress could also be positive for overcoming workplace anxiety. Jogging or swimming are excellent stress-release activities with many positive aspects.
It is not accidental that many people with a strong mentality begin their days taking a light running session or diving in a swimming pool. Find which activity makes you feel complete and embrace it.
Setting realistic and achievable goals could also be a great means to get more confident and diminish any possibility of experiencing workplace anxiety.
Avoiding accepting a project that is impossible to complete in the proposed deadline or proposing a different deadline yourself could be extremely useful, although it may sound a bit risky.
Know your limits, and if you try to expand them, do it gradually.
Dealing with workplace anxiety is indeed a major issue in the current world, as it could affect the general well-being of individuals.
It is also an issue that affects the economy. World Health Organization has announced that the estimated cost that depression and anxiety produce to the global economy is US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
Taking workplace anxiety under serious consideration and acting collectively shall be a major goal of all societies.