How To Transform Your Anxious Team Into A Productive Workforce

Stress and work are synonymous with each other in today’s hectic work environments where meeting deadlines consistently is the norm.

For an employee, the daily routine of producing adequate output, learning new skills, and dealing with conflicts at work can take its toll on mental health.

If you’re thinking — “But my team seems in a sound physical and mental health. No one appears to be suffering from anxiety and depression”, you might be unaware of this underlying problem within your team.

A recent WHO-led study estimated that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity. Almost 40 million Americans, aged 18 years and older, suffer from an anxiety disorder.

Now, I am not at all saying that your workforce should be 100% free of stress and anxiety; that’s simply not possible. In fact, a certain amount of both these mental health conditions is normal at home as well as in the workplace.

However, persistent, excessive, and irrational anxiety can interfere with everyday functioning and kill your employees’ productivity, engagement, and morale if left undetected and unresolved.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress or danger. It is the reaction to situations perceived as stressful or dangerous and caused by a rush of adrenaline in your body to prepare you to deal with the potential threat.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders Include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold, sweaty, numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Sleep problems

How Workplace Stress and Anxiety Affects Employees at Work

Job stress and anxiety can affect employees in various ways at work, including:

  • Poor workplace performance
  • Maintaining good relationships with coworkers and peers
  • Low participation in organizational activities
  • Low quality of work
  • Higher employee turnover
  • Difficulty in resolving conflicts
  • Loss of motivation, low morale, poor coordination with team members

What Causes Anxiety Disorders

There is no one single reason that causes this medical condition. Many factors can combine together to trigger it, and sometimes it may seem to develop out of nowhere.

The common causes include family problems, trauma, alcohol or drug abuse, health problems, or genetic predispositions. Work-related factors include:

  • High workloads
  • Negative workplace environment
  • Conflict with coworkers
  • Presenteeism
  • Performance worries
  • A lack of autonomy

Workplace anxiety is growing and employers need to be proactive to address the problem. Employers can use the following proven tips to mitigate workplace-related issues and transform an anxious team into a unified, productive workforce.

You need to keep a close eye on the behavior of each and every member of your team to see if any of them is displaying symptoms that relate to underlying anxiety or stress. Early identification will allow you to start a conversation sooner and get moving with an action plan.

What kind of symptoms do you see? Is their anxiety severe or normal? Do they get uncomfortable in specific situations or while working with a specific coworker? These are some questions that you need to have clear-cut answers for before you can start working on finding an effective solution.

The employers should watch out for:

  • Drop in the performance
  • Increased sick leaves
  • Change in behavior
  • Isolating oneself from the rest of the team
  • Struggling to make decisions
  • Lack of participation in team meetings

Work environments have a big impact on overall behavior and mood of the people working in an office. Cluttered, disorganized spaces and negative attitudes from superiors or coworkers can contribute to an employee’s stress at work. You certainly don’t want your team to feel overwhelmed at work.

Employers and managers should promote a positive work environment where employees feel supported and welcomed. This purpose is best achieved by having a solid one-to-one relationship with people in the office.

Neat and clean office spaces, using polite and positive language, and displaying a positive attitude when interacting with employees can go a long way in making your team feel comfortable, respected, and supported.

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The shame and embarrassment associated with anxiety prevent many employees from sharing it with their superiors at the workplace. This mentality is not good in a work environment. Make your team know that your door is quite literally open to every employee, any time.

The open-door policy encourages open, flowing communication between the employers and their teams. This also helps build employee trust as well as promotes closer working relationships. Furthermore, open communication helps employers to understand the severity of the problem and take action accordingly.

Here are some useful tips to ensure the conversation between both parties runs smoothly:

  • Ensure there are no interruptions
  • Don’t pass judgments
  • Encourage employees to speak openly and pay attention
  • Focus on the solution — what can make the employee feel better?
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting to review the situation

Raconteur’s research found that 61% of employees have experienced mental health issues due to work-related factors. Excessive workload is one of the main reasons for causing stress and anxiety in employees, but using the latest work management tools can help bring this problem down.

Using top-rated team collaboration software like ProofHub, Asana, Basecamp, or Wrike can help teams to achieve more in less time. It’s easier to create and delegate tasks, keep track of the project progress, chat instantly, track time, manage schedules, etc.

Using a top-rated project management and collaboration tools can help teams to collaborate easier and smarter, save time and resources, and meet deadlines consistently.

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Remember, when your employee shares his or her mental health issues with you, it clearly means he/she has trusted you. Now it’s up to you to take all necessary steps to maintain employee confidentiality at all times.

You falter once and you lose your team’s trust, which is something no responsible employer wants. On the other hand, managing the situation with respect and discretion will surely strengthen your reputation as a compassionate and mindful leader.

This will further encourage other employees to feel comfortable approaching you with their personal issues, which is always a positive thing at the workplace.

After having a healthy conversation with your employees, you will have a clear picture of the mental health issues they’re facing. Without making assumptions, you can make a plan after discussing a few possible courses of action that can enable employees to perform to the best of their abilities.

An employer can also set clear expectations from their employees after creating a plan of action. Giving employees a clear picture of what is expected enables them to provide a measure of predictability and mitigate confusion.

Providing constructive feedback to employees with anxiety or depression can help employers manage their goals and expectations. This can be a tricky situation because reviews can also increase an employee’s anxiety levels.

Try to make reviews a positive experience for your employees; focus on the positive aspects of the employee’s performance while suggesting ways certain things can be improved upon.

Adopt an empathetic approach to weaknesses and offer them your full support to improve further.

Remember, even employers are anxiety-prone. It could affect any of us at any point in our lives, so treat your team with the same compassion and understanding as you’d like to receive yourself.

A motivated and happy workforce is the foundation of building a successful business. A leader’s support to his employees can raise their moral and overall well-being.

Take time to listen to what your employees have to say, and see what’s the best thing that could be done to improve their mental health condition. It can’t happen overnight; but putting honest efforts will definitely help you and your team win the race.

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Chief Marketing Officer@ProofHub. Featured writer on LinkedIn. Contributor at Elearning Industry, Dzone, Your Story and