A new study of employees from 150 UK companies has found employee anxiety is on the rise, with more than half of employees having experienced “severe anxiety” as a direct impact of their work over the last 12 months.
Employees are seeing their prospective careers impacted. A little under two in five employees are actively avoiding leadership roles in company wide meetings (39%) or leading team meetings (31%) due to anxiety.
Nearly one in three (29%) would actively pass up a promotion opportunity to avoid anxiety related to public speaking or presenting. One in five employees (19%) cite anxiety as why they wouldn’t ask for a raise in a personal review meeting.
The data findings come as social and workplace anxiety have risen steadily over the last three years. Employees searching for symptom diagnosis online searching “social anxiety symptoms” have increased by 28% this year, compared to last year. This has increased by 39% since the turn of the decade.
More than four in five (84%) UK employees feel that their company’s support for employees suffering from anxiety is “insufficient”, as many call for improvements to be made. The data finds employees at companies that offer “sufficient” support for mental health are four times more effective at reducing severe anxiety in the workplace.
- 46% of employees call for their employers to offer greater flexibility around workloads and commitments.
- More than a quarter of UK workplaces haven’t an open culture around mental health – 28% of employees state they’re not comfortable raising issues with their manager or HR team.
- 18% of UK employers are failing to implement a mental health policy and standard practices, and clearly communicate this with employees.
Fintan O’Toole, Director and owner of The HR Dept South London, says:
“The workplace is not uniquely affected, and employees may well bring anxiety related to wider issues from their homes and community into the workplace. For example, MIND report that over half of those who said they’ve been negatively affected by the cost-of-living crisis say it’s made them more anxious.
“As with any health condition, if anxiety remains unrecognised and unsupported it may have a negative impact on performance, and consequently employees may not feel able to put themselves forward for new opportunities. Good performance management within a company including clear objective setting, review and appraisals will assist managers in getting the best out of all their employees, and identify where additional support would be useful.
“Training of managers raises awareness of mental health and can explain different working practices that management can use to offer support to colleagues. It can provide simple and effective tools that can be used on a daily basis for management to enhance both their own and their employees’ mental health.”
On anxiety caused by public speaking requirements in leadership roles, Tom McLaughlin, public speaking expert and Director at conference speaker agency JLA, says:
“Public speaking can be a daunting task. The importance of proper preparation and rehearsal cannot be overstated. With regular practice, you will naturally gain confidence in your speaking ability, and combat anxiety.
“As obvious as it may seem, don’t forget to breathe. Developing an awareness of your breathing calms your nerves, and understanding the physical changes you can make to affect your nervousness is vital in controlling your anxiety.
“You will also be infinitely more confident in your delivery when able to recall your speech from memory with ease, allowing you to focus on your delivery rather than remembering lines.”