Anxiety in the Workplace 

Anxiety in the workplace is becoming increasingly common, as shown by new research from the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). Rates of moderate to extreme anxiety and depression among employees have soared by 30.5% since records began in 2013. New data from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) also shows that, in 2017, around 526,000 workers in the UK suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety. In the same year, stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 40% of all work-related ill-health cases.

This is a huge, growing, problem for employers. How can you recognise the signs of anxiety in your employees? And how can you promote positive mental health in your workplace?

What is Anxiety?

Mind explains anxiety as  “what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future.  It is a natural human response, however prolonged feelings of anxiety have a negative impact on people’s thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.”

Anxiety in the workplace may be caused by issues such as workload, performance or conflict with colleagues. Other factors, outside the workplace, may include relationship, family or debt problems, which will also affect an employee’s performance at work and attendance levels.

How can I support my staff?

Look out for signs that an employee is suffering from anxiety. These can include:

  • taking more time off work
  • becoming more emotional or over-reacting to what others say
  • feeling negative, dwelling on negative experiences
  • starting to behave differently, feeling restless and not being able to concentrate.

If you believe that a member of staff may be feeling increasingly anxious at work, address these issues as early as possible. You, or the employee’s Manager, should have a conversation in a private place with the employee, ensuring that there are no interruptions.

Ask open questions to find out how the person is honestly feeling, allowing them a lot of time to answer and not pushing them for a response. Try to put yourself in the others person’s position and see things from their perspective to get them to open up to you about any worries or fears. It’s also useful to make arrangements for a follow up meeting to review the situation.

What next?

Staff with good mental health are more likely to perform well, have good attendance levels and be engaged in their work. Take steps to support the mental health of your staff and start creating a workplace where they feel able to communicate safely and easily with their manager can help to reduce the impact of mental ill health in your business.

This could include

  • identifying why you are committed to promoting positive mental health and what your objectives are
  • planning a range of activities and key messages to educate staff and managers and remove any stigma associated with mental ill health.
  • putting support processes in place for staff experiencing mental ill health, such as training managers in mental health and having named mental health champions in the workplace
  • creating a mental health policy and reviewing existing policies
  • ensuring that you and your senior managers champion mental health awareness and act as role models

Other ways you can support employees can be found on the Anxiety UK website.

If you need any help implementing these actions or have a problem with growing anxiety in workplace, contact me today to find out more


Why should employers use Occupational Health?

The benefits for both employer and employee of using Occupational Health (OH) can be substantial.

Health can both affect a person’s work and be affected by it. Whether this is adversely, such as high levels of absenteeism, stress or occupational illness; or beneficially through increased engagement, performance and wellbeing. The outcome of this can be significantly improved by making use of OH.

What is Occupational Health?

As the NHS states “Occupational health teams keep people well at work – physically and mentally. Occupational health services will help keep your employees healthy and safe whilst in work and manage any risks in the workplace that are likely to give rise to work-related ill health.”

Every year over 170 million days are lost to sickness absence, affecting  business. The longer people are off sick, the less likely they are to make a successful return to work. Research also shows that after six months absence from work, there is only a 50% chance of someone making a successful return.

OH focuses on the relationship between work and health, looking at both the patient/employee and the business. It is a specific speciality of medicine, found located within large businesses with responsibility for emergency care and training on site, or independent private clinics

When should you refer an employee?

As a manger you have a duty of care to support your employees and their wellbeing. This means ensuring the people under your supervision are not being made ill by work, or having a possible illness or condition affect their role.

You should considering referring an employee to OH when:

  • They have had several episodes of short-term absences
  • The employee has had a long term or continuous health related absence
  • There is concern that they may have work related health problems or that existing health problems are being intensified by work
  • They may have difficulties coping on return after being absent, such as following a serious illness or disability.
  • There may be an underlying health factor contributing to performance issues.

Are there any barriers to OH?

As a manager, you may feel uncomfortable referring an employee to OH. There may be budgetary restraints or a lack of knowledge around the employee’s health. You may also feel hesitant to invade their privacy, especially as health and the less recognisable conditions such as those regarding mental health are still seen as taboo topics.

However, the benefits of using Occupational Health to support you and your employee far outweigh any negative reactions. The use of OH improves not only the wellbeing of your employee but also the productivity of the company.

How does it work?

You must inform the employee if and when you believe a referral to OH is necessary. You will need their consent, but the OH service can deal with this. The OH will then arrange a confidential assessment of the employee’s health, wellbeing, suitability for their role and other factors.

You will then be sent a report including the following, depending on circumstances:

  • whether there is a health or wellbeing issue which may affect the employee’s attendance or performance at work.
  • how it may affect their attendance or performance, including time needed for appointments, when they will be ready to return to work.
  • recommendations on measures that may assist them on their return to work
  • recommendations on alternative duties or adjustments by agreement with management if they are unable to perform their usual role
  • If the Equality Act may apply and if reasonable adjustments are required.

If you would like further information on the role and benefits of OH, contact me today



Alcoholism in the Workplace

How does your business handle alcoholism in the workplace? It’s a sensitive subject, but something that that employers are increasingly approaching us to assist with.

Do you know the steps for dealing an employee who may have problems with alcohol, or indeed another addiction? You should have a process in place that works with the employee to recognise that there is a problem, and put steps in place to rectify it.

Why is alcoholism in the workplace a problem?

According to HSE, alcohol is estimated to cause 3-5% of all absences from work. This equates to about 8 to 14 million lost working days – something your business can’t afford to ignore. As well as possibly losing you productivity and money, there is also a real risk from an employee doing their job under the influence. As HSE states, “Alcohol consumption may result in reduced work performance, damaged customer relations, and resentment among employees who have to ‘carry’ colleagues whose work declines because of their drinking.”

How do you know if it is a problem?

This is the most important element – at what point is someone’s possible alcohol addiction a problem to your business rather than an issue for their individual health? You need to set out, as a business, at what point and in what circumstances you will treat an employee’s drinking as a matter for discipline rather than a health problem.

Communication and the training of staff is an important factor here. You must let your workforce know your company policy on alcohol and other substances. Train your managers to recognise signs of alcoholism, general information about alcohol and health and what to do if they believe an employee’s personal situation is impacting on workplace.

What should you do if you believe an employee has an alcohol problem?

Once you become aware of the issue, you must keep accurate and confidential records of instances of where poor performance has caused a problem. You will also need to talk to the worker formally as early as possible.

Concentrate on the instances of poor performance that have been identified, and ask your employee the reasons for poor performance. You could question whether it could be due to a health problem, without specifically mentioning alcohol or drugs. If appropriate, now is the time to discuss your alcohol and drugs policy and the help available inside or outside of your organisation.

You can then agree future action and arrange regular meetings to monitor progress.

If you need further support with alcoholism in the workplace, talk to us today (contact page)

How many sick days do your staff take each year?

Ever thought about how many days your staff are absent from your business through illness every year? You might think it’s only a couple for most of your staff, but actually the average figure, per staff member, is 6.9 days.

These seven days absence a year, per employee, needs careful management. It also doesn’t include other types of leave – annual leave, maternity or paternity leave and special leave. Does your business have plans in place to deal with all these different types of absence? How much is it costing your business? And what about unauthorised leave? Perhaps you have a member of staff that appears to be unwell for a lot longer than average? Learning how to deal with absence management is an essential part of HR, as these days off through absence actually costs UK businesses up to £116 billion each year.

How do you manage your staff absence?

Every employee will be unwell occasionally. Most of the time, these are genuine, unavoidable occurrences. However, you need to have a plan in place to manage them. You need to know why your staff are off, whether it is short-term or long-term, and if this is a regular pattern. Some short-term absences are repeated over the long term, whether this is an illness or injury, or perhaps stress or a mental health issue. The more you know about it, the more you can plan ahead and cover any absences with your existing team, or by finding temporary cover externally.

Short-term absences

These can usually be dealt with internally. One or two days without an employee means that their workload can wait for their return, with more pressing matters being handled by a member of your team.

If these episodes of short-term absences being to be repeated, or you can see a pattern, it may be worth discussing this with your employee to find out if there are any underlying reasons and if you can provide any support to help them overcome this.

Long-term absences

If you know that the period of absence will be long-term, you may want to consider hiring a temporary worker. Long-term absences may also require supporting the employee as they return to work. This may include occupational health, communication with their GP or the Fit to Work Scheme.

Unauthorised absences

If you are faced with unauthorised or unexplained absences from a member of staff these will have to be managed. A disciplinary/dismissal case may have raised with the employee.

To find out more about managing staff absence, contact HR That Helps today.




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