Understanding anxiety in the workplace
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We recently talked about understanding anxiety and how it impacts people. In the workplace it’s important to understand that someone struggling with anxiety may not be displaying any clear signs. What could happen, is they may be experiencing symptoms that result in short term absence, or they may be struggling with concentration or other aspects of their day-to-day roles.

As an employer, it’s really important that you keep your eyes open for this and consider whether or not they may need some reasonable adjustments and support.

So, what can you do as a small business to provide support to an employee who may be suffering from an anxiety condition, and why is it important?

Why small businesses need to care about anxiety in the workplace?

In a small business, it’s vital that everyone plays their part in its everyday running and success. We already know that sickness absence or performance concerns can have a huge negative impact on this. As we discussed in our first blog, anyone can be affected by a mental health condition, and while some people may not need any workplace adjustments or support, others may need support to help them manage their condition in the workplace.

What you can do to help support your employees?

As an employer you do have a duty of care to your employees that includes safeguarding both their physical and mental wellbeing.  This means it’s important to consider ways that you can promote wellbeing amongst your people – including support managing levels of anxiety.


One of the first places to start is to try and ensure that your people feel they can talk openly to their manager or other colleagues, if they are experiencing any mental health conditions. As a society we are far more open about mental health than we used to be, but some may still feel less secure about talking about their mental health than their physical health. In our latest blog we offered a list of tips for managing anxiety which might be helpful.

Other ways to help could be by making sure that there are healthy options available if you are providing any snacks, or encouraging people to take their full lunch breaks and to get outside for a walk (when the weather allows). You could encourage people to talk about their wellbeing when you have 1 to 1’s with them – and not just limit conversations to work-related tasks and issues.

Sometimes just saying what is on someone’s mind can help reduce anxiety if something is worrying them.

Employee Assistance Programmes

It is worth considering whether you could offer an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). EAPs aren’t just for large organisations either – there are many companies who provide these for smaller businesses.

Typically, they include advice lines to help people with any typical, domestic, legal, and consumer issues, and many also offer 1 to 1 counselling sessions and advice on wellbeing and managing anxiety in the workplace, and at home. Some EAPs also offer financial wellbeing advice and guidance on managing debt, which could prove particularly useful during the cost of living crisis.

EAPs can offer a very useful resource to people and provide someone outside of the line management for them to talk to. It’s not unusual for people to feel more comfortable reaching out to an EAP provider, because they are confidential and the advice isn’t shared with the employer. You can click here as a starting point for searching for a provider.

Mental Health First Aiders

Depending on the size of your business and your resources you may also wish to consider training someone to be a Mental Health First Aider. This is a similar concept to the physical first aiders that you may already have. There is usually a two day training course, or it may be spread over shorter sessions. The person trained is then able to provide a listening ear and to sign post people who are struggling with their mental health, to organisations that will be able to provide them with professional help and assistance.

This can help to raise awareness among your team that you want to support wellbeing in your workplace, and to help remove any stigma from talking about mental health conditions. The Mental Health Foundation England has lots of information about training and offers various online courses.

Line Manager Training

It is also a good idea to consider whether managers in your business are confident at spotting the signs of anxiety and other mental health conditions. It’s important that they are prepared to talk to their team about their mental health, and able to discuss whether there are any adjustments that can be made to support anyone who is in need.

The Mental Health UK organisation have produced a useful guide to assist you with having conversations about mental health. This is something that could benefit the managers in your business.

Reasonable Adjustments

Depending on the individual case, a person living with anxiety may fall within the definition of Disability under the Equality Act 2010. This means that you would have a legal requirement to consider any reasonable workplace adjustments. It will be important to discuss these with your employee, as every one will have individual needs, but typical adjustments for someone with a mental health condition could be helping with workload prioritisation, having breaks when required, or offering a mentor or buddy to help them during their working day. ACAS has recently published a guide containing some suggestion reasonable adjustments for mental health which you may also consider.

We recommend seeking advice from one of our HR experts if you are trying to support someone with their mental health in the workplace. We can help you to understand reasonable adjustments you can put in place. Get in touch on 0333 014 3888 or email info@citrushr.com.

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