Mental Health Awareness Week – How to support employees with anxiety in the workplace

Lizzie Buxton

Written By Lizzie Buxton

16th May 2023

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Mental Health Awareness Week, from the 15th to 21st of May, is an annual event that helps to bring people together to highlight the importance of positive mental health. With a recent study by the Office for National Statistics highlighting that over 1/3 of women and just under 1/3 of men suffer from high levels of anxiety, this year’s theme of ‘anxiety’ aims to create open conversation, provide ideas of how to deal with anxiety symptoms and remove the stigma surrounding mental health.

There are many external factors which contribute to an increased level of anxiety, including the cost of living crisis, but a study by Raconteur found that work plays a large role in negatively impacting 61% of employee’s mental health.

It’s essential for employers, line managers, and HR professionals to have a precise understanding of how to provide adequate support to individuals dealing with anxiety disorders. However, understanding the condition and offering the appropriate assistance can be incredibly challenging if such issues haven’t been personally experienced – and even then, everyone’s experience is unique.

So, here are 6 tips to get started with supporting employees who are suffering with their mental health, and specifically anxiety.

  1. Spot the signs

There is an abundance of signs, some obvious and some not, that may suggest an employee is experiencing anxiety. It’s important for people managers to recognise these indicators and be vigilant towards identifying any indication of declining mental health, as early action enables prompt discussions and a proactive approach to addressing stressors.

Recognising a problem is the first step towards helping your employee to reduce their anxiety, integrate them back into their team if they have isolated themselves, and encourage them to reach their full potential again.

Importantly, every employee’s signs can differ, so if you notice any change in your employee’s normal attitude or behaviour, that may be the very first indication.

Signs to watch out for include:

  • Increased sick leave
  • Drop in performance
  • Struggling to make decisions
  • Changes in social habits, like taking breaks
  1. Adopt an open-door policy

An open-door policy means being approachable to any conversation that an employee may need, at any time. This contributes to cultivating a supportive, welcoming, and open workplace culture. Adopting this approach not only fosters open communication but it encourages trust and closer working relationships. Employees experiencing anxiety may find this particularly useful as it alleviates their concerns and assures them that support is available whenever they need it. When employees openly express their worries or stresses instead of internalising them, they are less likely to become overwhelmed.

  1. Be flexible

Anxiety has the potential to impact one’s daily life, including tasks related to work. If an employee’s anxiety is affecting their ability to perform their daily work, it’s the responsibility of the employer to make reasonable accommodations for them, as required by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, to the extent that it is practical to do so. An employer being flexible to assist an employee’s recovery can go a long way. Even small adjustments, like temporarily changing their working hours or allowing them to work remotely for a period, can have a significant positive impact. It is also important to support them if they need to amend their schedules to attend therapy or counselling sessions.

  1. Encourage conversation

Effective communication plays a key role when it comes to assisting your employee in mitigating their anxiety and helping them to get better. Once aware of the problem, time should be allocated in a private, relaxed setting to have a conversation, with the aim of gaining a better understanding of how an employee may be struggling and what steps need to be taken to help. This initial discussion will provide the foundation for collaboratively creating an action plan and determining the most appropriate next steps. Moving forward, scheduling regular one-on-one meetings to touch base, ensuring the plan is still appropriate and monitoring progress, will allow the employee to know that they still have support.

It’s also important to signpost other support that is available in the business or through any Employee Assistance Program (ERP) in case they would prefer to discuss issues with someone who isn’t their line manager. Mental Health First Aiders are an essential part of a modern workforce and can offer the first line of support for anyone in crisis or suffering from declining mental health. Our Mental Health First Aid training provides managers with the knowledge and skills to be able to support employees as a first point of call, and with the recent Mental Health First Aid bill going through Parliament, organisations need to get ahead of the curve.

  1. Provide training

Training managers in supporting employee’s mental health is crucial for creating a supportive and inclusive work environment. Those equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills can recognise signs of mental health issues, provide appropriate resources and referrals, and foster a culture that encourages open communication. By understanding the importance of mental wellbeing and implementing strategies to support their team members, trained managers can contribute to enhanced productivity, reduced absenteeism, and increased job satisfaction amongst employees.

Training your employees in mental health and wellbeing doesn’t have to be difficult, here at AdviserPlus we offer Mental Health First Aid Training which provides knowledge and skills to support a person experiencing poor mental health. This training gives you the chance to learn new skills, update your knowledge of mental health support and practice applying the Mental Health First Aid action plan. Once completed, you have access to three years of MHFAider® support and benefits through the app which also provides conversation logging, signposting, and 24/7 text support.

  1. Champion a mental health-friendly culture

The foundation of your organisation is built on its culture, which influences how you address mental health concerns amongst employees. Prioritising employee wellbeing by creating a positive and thriving environment should be the first step towards providing adequate support to your people. By promoting a culture that values mental health, you not only create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their struggles with you, but you can also reduce the risk of work-related issues from causing mental health problems in the first place.

With negative mental health and wellbeing increasing year on year, the emphasis put on employers to provide support in the workplace is ever-increasing. Having mechanisms in place ready for if an employee experiences anxiety or any other wellbeing issues is important as it needs to be addressed immediately. To ensure your business provides employees with the correct and continuous support, you remain ahead of the curve and always in-the-know, get in touch to see how we can support you.

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