How to foster a positive work environment and reduce anxiety?

We all dream of working in a rewarding job, fulfilling and a successful career choice, but sadly, more often than not, work becomes synonymous with stress.  

As HR managers, business owners and CEOs, you all probably already know how vital employee happiness is for an organisation’s success. Anxious employees — restless, stressed, and unmotivated — are unhappy employees and, as a result, often begin to perform poorly, have little resilience, and the workplace starts to ooze toxicity. 

According to statistics, if an employee is happy, they’re willing to stay in their jobs 4x longer and commit 2x as much to them. They’re also 12% more productive.

Also Read: Productivity Tips For Managers And Employees In 2022

The quicker businesses realise this, the more prepared they will be to help employees deal with the everyday and unexpected pressures of work and the more enjoyable and productive the workplace is.  

In this article, we’ll explore employee anxiety and its effect on workplace culture and productivity. We’ll also look into how HR managers or business owners can proactively reduce stress at work and foster a positive environment.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety, in general, means to be in a state of nervousness about something when the outcome is uncertain. 

But what is workplace anxiety

Workplace anxiety involves feelings of stress, nervousness, uneasiness, and tension concerning activities within a workplace. These could range from job performance, interactions with co-workers, or even public speaking. 

The difficulty with fostering workplace happiness and reducing anxiety is that the causes and symptoms vary from person to person. It’s not a constant emotion, so it may occur all the time or be sporadic, making it difficult to notice and diagnose. 

It’s common knowledge these days that a happy workplace leads to higher employee satisfaction and productivity. On the flip side, both the physical and emotional consequences often have adverse side effects on their overall health and well-being both personally and professionally.

It’s why HR managers need to try and address it in its infancy. You want to provide clear avenues for your employees to relieve their anxiety positively. 

Signs of workplace anxiety

The first step is to notice the signs. 

A tell-tale indication that an employee is suffering from workplace anxiety is their hesitancy to work or be present in the workplace. They want nothing to do with the environment — including the work itself and the people within the business.

Physical signs:

  • Headaches
  • Low energy
  • Inexplicable fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Muscle aches

Emotional signs:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings and anger
  • Frustration and agitation
  • Aversion to social gatherings
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Forgetfulness
  • Failure to meet deadlines or taking too long to do things
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem

Workplace anxiety is common – around 40% of people report feeling stressed during a workday. 

One of the main things you can do to acknowledge the problem is understanding what’s happening and what’s really behind it. Considering many factors that cause workplace anxiety, this part can be challenging. But while it’s not a walk in the park, you should acknowledge it anyway.

Also Read: Goal Setting Software Guide For CIOs

Common causes of workplace anxiety:

  • Difficult working conditions – They’ve got too much on their plate. These may be unmanageable workload, unrealistic deadlines, or feeling confronted with vague job instructions.
  • Job uncertainty – They’re less productive and worry about making ends meet because they don’t know if they’re in a financially stable position. To avoid this, tell them how long you’re planning to keep them under your employment or present them with all their options.
  • Underpayment – Not providing enough compensation for your employees will make them question their value to the workplace. If you’re not willing to shoulder their essentials for living the life they know they deserve, they’ll look for employment that can make this happen for them.
  • Lack of trust and transparency – You don’t let your employees handle work you deem is important. This crushes their spirit — causing them to feel disheartened or apathetic towards work.

Define the current culture and the ideal culture you want

Before you can create a culture where employee happiness is championed, you sometimes have to recognise the environment as it currently is. This is especially true if you’re like most and haven’t previously sat down and actively decided what culture you want to cultivate.

Company culture will develop with or without active effort on your part. Still, if you aren’t at the helm of ship steering it, it could quickly become toxic and unproductive.

As a company owner or HR manager, your views on company culture may very well differ from the average employee. Why not try having constructive conversations with your employees from various departments to determine the workplace culture as they see it. 

Another good idea may be to run employee satisfaction surveys to measure your employee’s happiness and ask for their feedback.

If there are negative aspects to your current culture, make sure to acknowledge them. Accepting the weaknesses is one of the most powerful things you can do. It allows you to move quickly to eliminate them.

Also Read: The Ultimate Guide To Effective Employee Surveys

Tips for designing effective employee satisfaction surveys:

  • Use open-ended questions – They can help employees share more information than close-ended questions. They allow a respondent to explain points and be thorough.
  • Communicate the importance of the surveys – Explain what the surveys are about, what you want them to accomplish, and why you’re using them. Also, tell employees how grateful you’ll be if they choose to participate in them.
  • Show their effectiveness – Present the survey results to everyone in the workplace and take actionable steps immediately. It shows employees that the surveys are taken seriously, encouraging participants to participate the next time around.
  • Normalise – Conduct these surveys regularly and make employees feel normal about participating in them.

Once you’ve defined your current culture, leap into what you think is the ideal positive workplace culture. Is it one where there are substantial communication channels between employees and higher management? Is it a culture where you promote interaction outside of work hours? What that ideation is, it’s up to you. The important thing is, you communicate this to everyone in the workplace.

Increase employee engagement

The key to a successful and anxiety-free workplace is employee engagement, with everyday stress being inevitable, finding ways to engage employees will help foster loyalty and commitment to their work. 

It shouldn’t be surprising that you should consider the changing needs of employees. Their needs change throughout their tenure, and you should account for this. The success of an engagement activity does not always hinge on the amount of money you are willing to spend on it. Success hinges on regular and consistent actions.

Tips to increase employee engagement:

  • Recognise good work – Inform employees every time they’ve done a great job to let them know they’re not taken for granted. And as necessary, offer them rewards and promote them to well-deserved ranks.
  • Prioritise open communication – Regularly provide feedback about their work and tell them they’re free to voice their concerns. 
  • Give importance to their wellness – Promote their physical and mental well-being. You can provide employees gym and fitness centre memberships, free healthy meals, or opportunities to talk to therapists.
  • Allow time to recharge – Encourage them to establish a work/life balance. Give them paid time off, schedule team bonding activities, and plan corporate retreats. 
Also Read: Do These Eight Things To Improve Employee Engagement

Use mechanisms to improve productivity

Workplace culture is not just about changing the behaviour of your workforce; it is about creating mechanisms and structures within the workplace to facilitate positive behaviour. 

Here are tips to improve workplace productivity:

  • Create a hybrid or flexible workplace environment – Employees work better and faster when placed in pleasant environments. This leads to increased productivity because they can work more freely and comfortably.
  • Take advantage of automation tools – Project management apps, time trackers, and note-taking programs are some excellent examples. They streamline an employee’s workflow, reduce unnecessary work and result in them spending more time on the essential and fulfilling tasks. 
  • Improve communication channels – Assess how you communicate with everyone in your team and determine where to improve. Some of the actions you can take are to avoid micromanaging and cut down the time during meetings.
  • Set an incentive program – If assignments come with significant bonuses, employees may view them as more valuable. As a result, they’ll prioritise these tasks and strengthen their commitment to them.

Pressure and stress aren’t always negative things. As long as it’s placed in healthy amounts, pressure can help employees. The tactics of automation tools, flexible work environments or feedback surveys aren’t about eradicating stress and anxiety from the workplace. Instead, it’s about facilitating the right kind of pressure you want to put on your employees. 

Stress and pressures in the workplace should align with the tasks they can bear. If you subject them to pressure they find unbearable, it’ll lead to workplace anxiety, decreased productivity.

Final Thoughts

Your employees are vital to the workplace. They’re the ones who keep the work going.

That’s why it’s crucial that you don’t set them aside. If employees feel that you have their backs, you can count on them to make sure they have your back, too.

Want to know how Engagedly can help you foster a positive work environment? Request a demo today. 

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Guest blog contribution by Kayleigh Berry

Kayleigh berry engagedly guest blogger

Kayleigh Berry is an SEO marketer at Paperform. Her strong history in Psychology, Entrepreneurship, and Creativity, combined with her 100 miles per hour personality, keeps her up to date with all the latest trends in the new and changing digital marketing industry. Outside of work, you’ll find Kayleigh surfing or training her Australian Shepherd. 

LinkedIn: Kayleigh Berry