According to a recent survey from The Conference Board, 51 percent of U.S. employees (out of more than 1,200) have reported negative mental health outcomes in recent years. With all the stress of this pandemic, the fear of economic uncertainty, and now the threat of a European war, it’s no surprise that many workers feel overwhelmed. So how do you prevent anxiety from ruining your work days and your team’s productivity? Let’s find out together.
Anxiety prevention measures
Anxiety has increased by 25 percent across the globe, the World Health Organization points out. With such a high impact, it can be hard to manage it even on the job, not only in our private lives. As my colleague investigated in her monthly edition of The Productivity Box, there is a strong connection between anxiety and work performance.
Mounting pressure and heightened emotions over the tense climate of this world may feel unavoidable. However, do not let it get in the way of your communication at work. Use these strategies to find support for your anxiety while still communicating effectively.
An estimated 7 in 10 employees feel burned out at work to some extent. A significant driver of this burnout is over-communication in the midst of constant change. The immediacy of virtual communication at any time—even after normal office hours—can cause digital exhaustion. According to Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index, since the onset of this pandemic:
- Weekly meetings have increased by 153 percent.
- The number of chats has increased by 32 percent.
- The average workday has increased by 46 minutes.
Such values can only add to feelings of anxiety.
To mitigate it, you need to set boundaries for yourself and your team. The goal is to keep the lines of communication flowing without overloading yourself or your co-workers with too much information.
Instead, try closing your computer at 6pm and keep it closed until 8am the next day. As a leader, you can encourage your employees to do this and follow role model the same behavior yourself. Leaders can also cut back on meetings, only keeping the ones that are absolutely necessary.
Check-in and process as a group
It can be helpful to talk about anxiety as a group. Unexpressed, overwhelming emotions can cause work performance and collaboration to decline, suggests Frontiers in Psychology. Holding space for the reality of those emotions can boost morale, satisfaction, and overall productivity.
While it’s not practical to devote the entire workday to these conversations, you can set aside 10 minutes before the weekly team meeting to check in and process what feels heavy. This allows everyone to share empathy, connect on a deeper level, and get the anxiety off their chest.
This opportunity to be vulnerable as a group in a safe environment can increase trust levels, strengthen connections, and nurture camaraderie. When employees don’t feel obligated to constantly suppress their emotions at work, they can release those burdens, anxieties, or distractions competing for their attention. This will produce the mental clarity to collaborate and communicate effectively with their teammates.
Ask employees how you can actively support them
Empathetic, active listening is one of the most vital communication skills to hone in the workplace. Ask your team members how you can support and empower them to thrive in the midst of these anxious, uncertain times. What are their specific needs or challenges?
For example, maybe one team member has been feeling extra anxiety around deadlines. Knowing this allows you to work together to find a way to alleviate that pressure. Maybe another team member is exhausted from balancing work responsibilities with childcare commitments. Having this piece of information enables you to work out a flexible schedule that supports them more effectively.
If you’re nervous, as a leader, to ask employees about such topics, know that you should not. Qualtrics found that 41 percent of employees want to be asked this question. And only 39 percent feel supported by their manager. What’s more, those who don’t feel supported are 48 percent more likely to be anxious or worried on the job.
Stop anxiety from derailing teamwork
It’s an undeniably stressful time to be alive on this planet, making these strategies more important than ever.
Be intentional, transparent, and accessible without overloading your team with information or compromising boundaries. Build authentic connections and camaraderie and offer support whenever you can.
These proactive measures may be what your employees need to feel less anxious and maintain effective communication in the workplace.
Together, everyone can help themselves and also each other.