Supporting people with anxiety at work

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in the UK. It is estimated that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem and one in six will be diagnosed with a disorder such as anxiety or depression.

Most people feel anxious from time to time, however, anxiety can become abnormal if it interferes with normal daily functioning. Anxiety can cause symptoms such as feeling fearful, tense but can also cause other unpleasant symptoms such as a fast heart rate, feeling sick, headaches, feeling shaky, fast breathing, dry mouth, difficulty in sleeping or panicky. Anxiety is normal in stressful situations but becomes abnormal if it is out of proportion to the situation, continues when the stressful situation has gone, or appears for no apparent reason when there is no stressful situation.

There are many different causes for anxiety and each individual may experience it differently. The cause may be related to personal issues, work issues or a combination of both. Regardless of the cause, the symptoms are likely to impact on an individual’s normal functioning, which can be both at home and at work. Work performance may be affected as the individual may have trouble with decision-making, complex thought processes and their work speed may be slower.

Many individuals with anxiety remain at work and may be undiagnosed. There are effective treatments available for anxiety, which include medication or talking therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), or a combination of both. Ideally, an employee should be encouraged to seek help through their GP to obtain a diagnosis and to discuss appropriate treatment options. Many people are able to function at work with anxiety, but may benefit from some temporary adjustments to their work until their symptoms are under control. Many individuals will be able to identify what would specifically help them at work, so having a conversation with them is the first step in helping them to manage their anxiety effectively at work.

Obtaining an occupational health assessment would also help identify adjustments that could be considered (such as reduced hours, reduced responsibilities, slightly later start time if sleep affected), provide you with advice on the likely consequences of the condition on the individual’s ability to perform their normal duties in the short and long-term, and advise on the organisation’s responsibilities if the anxiety is likely to be caused or aggravated by work factors. An occupational health nurse can also advise the employee on treatment options available and signpost them in the right direction.

If you would like to understand how anxiety may affect your employees and what can be done to minimise the impact on their work, pick up the phone to speak to one of our occupational health specialists for more information.

On March 29, 2015, posted in: Occupational Health Posts by