Workplace Anxiety: The Signs and How To Overcome It

Workplace anxiety is a major concern for employers and employees alike. In 2020, the Health and Safety Executive reported that 828,000 workers were suffering from workplace-related stress, depression or anxiety. 

For employees, workplace anxiety restricts their ability to perform and means they may go off sick or quit their job altogether. For companies, an increase in colleague sickness days and a drop in productivity can impact both their bottom line and their workplace culture. 

So, how can you spot the signs of workplace anxiety and deal with its impacts effectively?


What is workplace anxiety? 

Feeling a level of stress at work, especially if you have impending deadlines, a big project or an upcoming meeting is normal. However, if you feel like the stress is constant and overwhelming, then you might be suffering from workplace anxiety

As well as being unable to relax or unwind, you might experience feelings such as: 

  • Feeling withdrawn from colleagues, friends and family. 
  • Constantly feeling overwhelmed by everyday tasks. 
  • Losing interest or feeling disengaged from work. 
  • Having trouble remembering, concentrating and sleeping. 
  • Being unable to relax at the end of the workday. 
  • Binge eating or drinking and undereating. 
  • Feeling tense, irritable or like you want to cry. 

If you start feeling more than one of these symptoms on a regular basis, then it’s essential that you get help as quickly as possible. 

How can you spot workplace anxiety in others?

Recognising workplace anxiety in your colleagues is just as important as spotting any symptoms of your own. By being aware of your coworkers and checking in with them on a regular basis, you can ensure they get the help they need and overcome anxiety before it becomes too serious. 

Colleagues suffering from workplace anxiety may: 

  • Display physical symptoms such as sweating, feeling sick or shaking. 
  • Take increasing numbers of sick days. 
  • Withdraw from social gatherings or occasions. 
  • Not perform as effectively or be as productive as usual. 
  • Seem irritable, angry or frustrated. 

If you spot any of these symptoms, sit down with the colleague concerned and have a proper open chat with them. Remember you’re there to listen and not judge, so let your colleague talk openly before asking any questions or offering support. 

When can you experience workplace anxiety?

Certain parts of the workday can leave you feeling particularly anxious. Although it’s normal to feel a level of stress in certain situations, those regularly experiencing anxiety in the following circumstances should seek help.

Going to work

If you can't face work due to anxiety on a regular basis, then this is a definite symptom of chronic workplace stress. Feeling anxiety before work may manifest itself in struggling to get out of bed, moments of panic or constant fear and worry. 

In meetings

Although some nerves before a big meeting are completely normal, if you’re already experiencing performance anxiety at work, then presentations, pitches or catch-ups can exacerbate these feelings. This can lead to you withdrawing from meetings, freezing up during a presentation or not contributing when you otherwise would have done. 

Seeing colleagues

Particularly if there’s a culture of office politics, then seeing other colleagues can cause high levels of anxiety. Whether you don’t see eye-to-eye on how to work or you’re experiencing office bullying, certain colleagues may trigger anxious feelings and make you unhappy at work. 

After a holiday or leave

If and when you get the chance to have a break, you may experience anxiety about going back to work after a vacation. Although a touch of the ‘back to work blues’ is fairly normal, feeling genuinely worried or unable to return, particularly if you’ve been on some form of leave, is when anxiety about returning to work becomes overwhelming. 

How to overcome anxiety at work? 

Many people who experience anxiety want to find a solution as quickly as possible. Although there are lots of treatments out there, each individual’s experience of workplace anxiety is different and will therefore require different approaches to overcome. 

You also might have lots of questions about different treatments, such as ‘does hypnotherapy work for anxiety?’ and ‘how does medication for anxiety work?’. The information below aims to answer your questions and help you to find the best treatment for your workplace anxiety. 

Focus on the basics

When you’re feeling anxious, personal care habits like eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and enough sleep can go out of the window. Sticking to a healthy daily routine will help you to feel more confident and positive, even if the hours spent at work are causing anxiety. 

Practise mindfulness 

Whether you use an app, go to a class or simply go for a walk without your headphones, regularly giving your brain some quiet time to digest, unwind and experience the present moment can help you to overcome feelings of anxiety or overwhelmedness. 

Access therapy

If feelings of anxiety are starting to affect your everyday life, then you might want to  consider accessing therapy. You can get in touch with your local NHS service to find out more about counselling, reach out to mental health charities or access private therapists. They’ll then be able to provide you with therapy that’s appropriate to your symptoms, from talking therapy to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). 

Consider medication 

Depending on the severity of your condition and the amount of time you’ll need to wait for therapy, GPs may recommend that you take some anti-anxiety medication. This can help to reduce the debilitating symptoms of anxiety so you can work through any challenges with a clear mind. 

Talk to your colleagues

Whether you feel the need to work from home for a while, need some support dealing with office politics or want to take a period of leave, communicating with colleagues you trust, particularly your manager, will help them to be more understanding and ensure you get the support you require. 

Workplace anxiety advice for employers

To keep your employees happy, productive and well, you need to create a positive, supportive culture that ensures your colleagues get the level of support they need. This includes: 

  • Educating your team on the symptoms of workplace anxiety and how to respond when they feel it themselves or recognise it in others. 
  • Establishing an Employee Assistance Programme to give your team independent, impartial support. 
  • Giving managers a toolkit or specialist training to give their colleagues the support they need. 
  • Consider having mental health champions at all levels of the business to ensure regular discussions about any challenges colleagues are facing. 

By having this support network in place, you can help your colleagues to overcome workplace anxiety before it impacts on their health, performance and overall productivity. In some cases, a hybrid working model might be what your employees need in order to manage their anxiety levels. Have a look at our virtual office and flexible plans.

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Your complete business toolkit

Rovva puts everything you need for your business in one place. From an accountancy helpline to a drop-in business lounge - we've got everything covered.