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Managing employee anxiety in the workplace

By Rachel Clift, Health & Wellbeing Director at Ben

Anxiety is one of the top reasons why people contact Ben for support and we are seeing an increase in calls about mental health issues each year. With that in mind, and with the festive season just around the corner, we’re focusing on supporting people during this busy time which can be more challenging for those experiencing mental health issues, such as anxiety.

As a first step, line managers should take time to really get to know the people they manage, not only does this show they care, but it also helps identify what motivates them and what supports them to work at their best. Investing in this also helps managers identify when someone is struggling or if they’re just not themselves.

Here are some top tips if you think someone in your team is struggling with mental health issues such as anxiety:

  • Take the time
    Choose a time when you have the time to listen, properly and arrange to sit down and speak to them one-to-one, make it clear that they have done nothing wrong and ask if everything is OK. Use this informal chat as a chance to find out more about how things are going presently. Don’t be afraid to let them know you’ve noticed that they aren’t quite themselves.

  • Has their work deteriorated?
    If their work has deteriorated, mention that you have seen a change in their work and ask if they need any support or if there’s anything they would like to discuss. If it’s not their work, but their mood, you could say you’ve noticed a change in them or their behaviour. It might even be their behaviour towards others.

  • Effective listening
    Listen, keep appropriate eye contact, use movements (like nods of the head) and facial expressions to acknowledge you have heard them and understand their issues. Be sympathetic and understanding and, from their answers, think about how you can help them in the workplace. Summarising and paraphrasing is a really good way to acknowledge your understanding of what they are telling you to ensure they feel heard.

  • Focus on workplace support
    Focus the conversation on how you can support them at work (e.g. reducing workload, compassionate leave) and avoid becoming directly involved. Take a solution focused approach, a more coaching led style to support the individual to think about how they might be able to resolve an issue or identify potential coping strategies.

  • Catch up regularly
    Arrange regular catch-ups so you can review their work and the support you provide to them if needed. This doesn’t always need to be face to face and shouldn’t smother them either. Getting the balance right between too much and too little contact is key.

  • Let them know about Ben
    Let them know that they can contact Ben’s free and confidential helpline and online chat for further support and advice at ben.org.uk.

  • Other resources
    We also have a number of resources available about mental health that employers can provide to their employees. Visit ben.org.uk/mentalhealth.

Creating a ‘mental health friendly’ workplace
Employers have an important role in creating enhanced mental health awareness across their entire workforce, including among line managers, to ensure that anyone struggling with their mental health is managed and supported appropriately.

  • Be the change you want to see
    Leaders should ‘be the change they want to see’ in their company and key stakeholders across any organisation should be engaged at all levels to truly make a difference. Lead by example at all times, showing trust, respect, tolerance and understanding towards others.

  • An inclusive culture
    Focus on developing an inclusive culture of empathy and openness where employees feel supported to seek help when they need to from management and colleagues.

  • Offer flexible working patterns
    By law, an employee can now request flexible working and they can submit one request per year. Flexible working has been shown to increase productivity and efficiency as well as support employee wellbeing.

  • Provide training
    Provide the right training for managers and supervisors so that they can better understand and are aware of the support available to them. Ben offers mental health training to automotive industry companies, to help them support their people.

  • Engage with staff and colleagues
    Leaders should make themselves accessible to employees. People are more likely to speak up about problems if they feel you’re approachable.

  • The workplace mood
    Try to keep tabs on the mood in your workplace. Is morale positive or negative? Can anything be done to improve it? Keep an eye on employee turnover, sickness absence and complaints as an increase in these areas could be signs of mental health issues in your workforce.

  • Manageable and achievable workloads
    Ensure that staff targets and workload are manageable and achievable. Stress caused by excessive pressure can have a negative effect on mental health. It can also result in high turnover, reduced productivity and an increase in human error.

  • Mental health awareness
    it’s important to have a good level of mental health awareness and understanding embedded within organisations. Some organisations are even appointing mental health first aiders. It’s key to get a level of awareness across your organisation and for managers to know what to do if one of their team is struggling with issues like anxiety or depression.

Work with us
Anyone who works, or has ever worked, in the UK automotive industry has access to Ben’s free and confidential support. We’re here for you and your people. We can support you as an employer, work with your HR team as well as directly supporting your employees. We can deliver mental health training to management teams and employees.

Find out more about how we can help you support your people at www.ben.org.uk/ben4business.



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