Human Capital Management Blog

Strategies for HCM Professionals

5 tips for dealing with workplace anxiety

employee stressMore than a few human resources leaders out there are worried about employee retention and productivity. There are many reasons why, but chief among them is anxiety among the workforce. If employees are feeling overworked, abused or otherwise emotionally distraught, it can affect them both professionally and personally. In many cases, it will lead to them seeking work elsewhere.

HR Morning recently publicized this growing concern. The news source publicized some alarming survey data that shows the effects of workplace anxiety – in a recent Right Management poll, 83 percent of employees said they would be “looking to make a move” in 2014, and another 9 percent are busy networking because they’re “considering” finding something new. Of the 900-plus workers polled, only 5 percent were confident they would stay in their current positions.

Even among those who do want to stay at their jobs, there are economic factors eating away at their confidence. HR Morning also cited a Washington Post/Miller Center poll showing that 60 percent of workers are worried they will lose their jobs as a result of economic stagnation. In that same poll, 32 percent said they worry “a lot.”

Companies can’t magically solve this problem. There isn’t much they can do about external economic forces, and there’s only so much they can control about their employees’ mindset around the office. Still, HR departments can do their part to combat anxiety by managing human capital as fairly as possible.

“Good management is good management,” Kim Cameron, a business professor at the University of Michigan, told the Harvard Business Review blog. “Treating people well, helping them flourish, and unlocking potential are all good practices regardless of the environmental circumstances.”

While anxiety may always be a lingering issue, these five steps will certainly help.

Emphasizing larger purpose
If all people are thinking about is how to survive their exhausting daily grinds, burnout is inevitable. Employees need to be reminded that their work has a larger purpose. What legacy will they leave behind? Looking at a job with this greater perspective can be soothing.

Providing incentives
Employees will be more motivated to do good work if they’re given an indication that it really matters. To that end, incentives for job performance can help fuel workers to achieve more without feeling discouraged.

Focusing on individuals
Every corporate leader wants the whole team to achieve as much as possible, but workers want to feel like they matter as individuals. Supervisors need to emphasize that every team member matters. Their own opinions and feelings should be heard.

Remaining honest
When anxiety does become a problem, employees and their bosses need to be open and honest about what they think. If either side attempts to dodge or hide the truth, the problem will only fester and anxious feelings will increase.

Caring about emotions
Rational thoughts aren’t all that matter. Companies need to keep an eye on their employees’ emotional well-being as well. If a worker is feeling depressed, afraid or angry, it may be time to pull that person aside and address the problem.

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