What Can Managers Do For Employees Struggling with Anxiety?
January 11, 2023
As a leader, you hold great power to positively impact your employees who may be dealing with anxiety. Are you leading through anxiety yourself?

Anxiety plagues over 40 million adults in the United States each year, and according to the American Institute of Stress, job stress costs upwards of $300 billion per year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity, and medical, legal, and insurance costs.

As a leader, you hold great power to positively impact your employees who may be dealing with anxiety. Are you leading through anxiety yourself? Harvard Business Review took on this topic specifically here. A managers’ primary role is to support employees; that includes supporting their mental health. The good news is, many of the skills that make you a good manager can also make you a manager who makes a great difference when your employees struggle with anxiety.

Build Connection: One-on-One Check-Ins Are Key

It might seem too simple to be effective, but a genuine “Are you doing okay?” can make a big impact. In a Mind Share Partners’ study with Qualtrics and SAP, almost 40% of employees reported no one at their company had asked them if they were doing okay. Those employees were 38% more likely to also report that their mental health had declined.

Becoming a trusted colleague to your direct-reports can in and of itself stimulate a decrease in anxiety. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, knowing that a trusted coworker accepts what you’re going through can be comforting and can reduce anticipatory anxiety about the possibility of a panic attack at work.

Model Healthy Behaviors

It’s not enough to tell your employees that you encourage them to set boundaries, or take what they need for self care; these behaviors must be modeled.

This can be accomplished in simple ways:

  • Share that you put your phone on Do-Not-Disturb at a certain time.
  • Put on your calendar that you log off for an hour at lunch to exercise.
  • Share that you are limiting your exposure to news or social media in an effort to care for your own mental health.
  • Utilize a sick day as a Mental Health Day, and share that with your team.

Through your own vulnerability, you show your team that you are also human, and are affected in the same ways they are by the circumstances in the world.

Be Consistent and Communicate Openly

Consistency and predictability can go a long way toward easing employees’ anxiety about work. When we know what is expected, we spend less mental energy trying to predict what’s coming – a behavior that directly triggers feelings of anxiety. Create regular cadences for meetings and feedback when possible. Then, communicate these norms clearly and regularly. The difference this makes is significant: employees who felt their managers were not good at communicating were 23% more likely to experience mental health decline over the course of the pandemic.

Talk About the Benefits Your Company Offers - Repeatedly

Many firms offer mental health resources ranging from subsidized therapy to mindfulness resources and health and wellness opportunities, but often employees are unaware, or forget about these options when under stress. For many, there also may be a degree of shame or stigma around utilizing these resources, so it’s critical that managers normalize the use of these benefits. Be aware that employees may feel uncertainty around disclosing mental health issues due to lack of awareness or understanding of the legal protections offered through the Americans with Disabilities Act. Mention the benefits in one-on-ones, via email to your entire team, and whenever feels appropriate in larger meetings.

Train your Managers and Advocate for Resources

According to the American Psychological Association, research shows that with as little as three hours of mental health awareness training, managers are more highly motivated to promote mental health in the workplace.

Addressing mental health and anxiety with employees can be intimidating, but there are many resources, and many small steps you can take to improve your teams’ quality of life and your own relationships with your team immensely.

Additional Resources:

Lauren Lyddon has helped people and organizations to tell their stories for more than a decade. Having tested her love of the creative through the pursuit of an MBA and undergraduate business degrees, she is a writer, editor, and lover of fiction in all its forms (especially theatre, well-written television, and novels). A West coast resident often operating on an East coast schedule, Lauren uses her business background and love of story to serve clients in writing, editing, PR, and more. You can visit her online at L2crtv.com.



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