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September 3, 2021 Haeli Harris

How Employee Anxiety Affects Productivity (And How to Fix It)

Workplaces can be anxiety-inducing spaces for employees. With deadlines looming, office politics to manage, plus unforeseen issues arising such as COVID-19, there’s a lot to handle! Employee anxiety negatively impacts productivity. When your team is distracted by stress, they’re not able to function to their full capacity.

When employee anxiety and stress are handled appropriately, staff can get back to focusing on their work instead! 

employee assistance programs for stress and anxiety

Some managers believe that putting more pressure on their team can help increase productivity. While this may work for some people (and for a short period of time), for most people it only adds to stress and anxiety. 

When your staff is stressed or anxious, they’re likely not as focused on their work. Few people function well when experiencing anxiety, and productivity often drops dramatically, affecting the company’s bottom line. According to the American Institute on stress, 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful, and one-quarter listed their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives. 

Younger employees are even more anxious, with 48% of Millennials and Gen Z saying that they feel anxious or stressed most of the time.

So, how should your business begin to minimize stress levels? The workplaces that do it best know what employee anxiety looks like and how to support employees. Let us share a few ways to identify employee anxiety and how to help solve the issue! 

Ways Anxiety Can Show Up For Employees

Anxiety is a stress reaction. Anxiety is a persistent form of worry that can be very difficult to manage. It can lead to increased heart rate, chronic pain, depression, and fatigue.

Many employees will try to hide their feelings. Here are 3 of the most common ways anxiety may present itself among your workforce.

1. Employee absenteeism

Anxiety just isn’t good for your health. In addition to lowering immunity, anxiety can also keep employees from doing activities that would help boost their health. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and bad sleeping habits are all often symptoms of anxiety. If they are experiencing these symptoms, your staff will be calling out sick more frequently.

2. More mistakes

If your employees who are normally on top of their workload start missing deadlines, dropping the ball on assignments, or making small mistakes, they probably feel stressed or anxious. Do they complain about being overworked? When employees have more to do than they feel able to accomplish, their work (and mental health!) may begin to suffer. 

Overworking can lead to:

  • poor work-life balance
  • depression and anxiety
  • chronic pain
  • worsened sleep

Employees that are starting to make more mistakes and disconnect from work may be suffering from employee burnout. Thankfully, with the proper support, employees can bounce back (more on that later!).

3. Employee relationships are suffering

If your office culture seems to be going downhill, that can be a sign of employee anxiety. When employees are experiencing anxiety, they may cut themselves off from coworkers and loved ones, preferring to keep to themselves. Staff members experiencing anxiety may be less likely to share their opinion on projects, collaborate openly, or participate in culture-building activities.

Employee anxiety can also present itself as:

  • fatigue
  • presenteeism
  • irritability

Related Reading: 6 Signs Your Employees are Struggling with Mental Health

How to Improve Employee Anxiety

Here are 3 simple ways to create a work environment where your staff can be less anxious—whether your team is remote or in-person.

1. Provide mental health services

Start by instituting a mental health program! Providing a mental health program is one of the best things you can do for your employees’ mental health. Lost productivity from workplace anxiety costs employers $1 trillion per year, so it’s worth it to invest in a program that will help your team feel less anxious and more prepared to focus on their work.

Some companies offer mental health services specifically designed to address workplace anxiety and have therapists on staff that are very familiar with these issues. Trained professionals know how to support employees experiencing anxiety, and bringing them in is a great first step when prioritizing the mental health of your employees. 

EAPs and wellness programs are two common ways to bring these services to teams.

If you already have an EAP, make sure to ramp up your internal EAP promotion and educate employees on the mental health services you provide.

For more on finding the best EAP for your team, check out this guide to the EAP search process.

2. Support taking time off of work

Giving an adequate number of days off (paid or not) and understanding that employees have a life outside of work can also be a great way to make employees feel less anxious.

Breaks from work are crucial for clearing the mind and refilling energy reserves. Taking even just 10 to 15 minutes for yourself throughout the day to stretch, meditate, or walk outside can make a huge difference in your mental state.

It can be helpful to require these breaks so that your staff doesn’t feel guilty taking time for themselves (adding to their anxiety rather than alleviating it!). Midday breaks reduce stress and increase productivity.

Make sure leadership is setting the example by taking time off work themselves.

Be sure to support your working parents with flexible work options and PTO. Parents are especially prone to high levels of stress and anxiety.

3. Give feedback and communicate

Ensuring that your workplace focuses on constructive critique, growth, and positivity can make a huge difference in employees’ anxiety. One of our favorite ways to achieve this at Nivati is one-on-one meetings. One-on-ones are a great way to check in on employee mental health. Ask them how they are managing their anxiety, and ask how you can better support them.

One-on-ones are also a great time to communicate expectations. When employees know what is expected of them, their anxiety will drop.

During your meetings, make sure that problem-solving isn’t about blaming anyone but about finding solutions! Be sure to also talk about your employees’ accomplishments—small and large!

While each employee experiences anxiety differently, making these changes is sure to help! 

Haeli Harris

Haeli Harris, LMFT is the Lead Counselor at Nivati. She has been practicing as a Marriage and Family Therapist since 2014. Haeli has experience working as a therapist in private practice settings, residential facilities, outpatient treatment care, schools, and telehealth.

Licenses, Certifications & Memberships
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, UT & HI
Registered Yoga Teacher 200
Trauma Conscious Yoga (2021)
Clinical Member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

Bachelor's of Science Degree in Human Development and Family Studies, University of Utah
Master's of Arts Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, Northcentral University