June 14, 2022

Spotting Anxious Coworkers

Let’s talk about workplace anxiety.

Nabih Haidar

Let’s talk about workplace anxiety.

The grand return to in-person work isn’t necessarily a reason for celebration for everyone. While some may be looking forward to this return with great enthusiasm, what about those who feel anxious?

Warning Signs

With the return to offices well underway, it’s important to remember that some people may interact differently with their surroundings and their colleagues. Long periods of isolation during the pandemic may have caused some to take a step back within themselves, and they may have difficulties interacting with those around them.

Despite suffering, employees seldom seek help by fear of it having repercussions on their job or their employment status. So, how can we spot an anxious coworker?

Feelings of depression and anxiety can take many forms, and mental health concerns are often misinterpreted in the workplace. Different people are affected differently by mental health concerns, however it is possible to identify potential warnings signs, such as:

  • Sad, anxious, or void mood
  • Changes in appearance (pre vs. post pandemic)
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Agitation or irritability
  • Difficulties concentrating on tasks
  • Difficulties making decisions

Keeping these warning signs in mind, it becomes easier to pick up on the latent or implicit nuances that may indicate that a colleague is struggling with their mental health.

Changing times, shifting people

Needless to say that an event such as a global pandemic may have had detrimental effects on people’s mental health, be it through a personal or professional lens. Minimal contact with others prior to returning to work may cause feelings of estrangement, detachment or apparent aloofness when eventually returning to in-person work.

Long periods of isolation can also lead to deterioration in social skills. This is particularly relevant for those who were already struggling with social inhibitors such as language disorders. For instance, changes in a person’s speech, mannerisms, or general presence may be a sign of distress; calling for appropriate actions to be taken by their colleagues.

Isolation can impair an individual’s cognitive processes. In the context of a return to work, it is important to consider the subtle influences caused by loneliness during long periods of isolation.

Loneliness can have detrimental effects on individuals. Social isolation can exacerbate mental health concerns, especially in individuals who are susceptible to depression and anxiety, making loneliness an intermediary that can further trigger mental health concerns.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

When navigating the return to work, it remains imperative for colleagues to view each other as people first who may have had a turbulent journey along the pandemic.

Negative Company Cultures

According to the World Health Organization, a negative work environment can have many consequences on the well-being and productivity of employees. Negative work environments lead to physical and mental health problems, absenteeism and lost productivity.

So, how can managers and employees work together to create a positive and engaging environment?

Leaders can implement administrative measures that promote employee health and wellness; such as training teams to identify potential warning signs and offer help, or referring teammates to support programs. Managers can include employees in the organization’s decision-making processes, creating an inclusive workplace where employees feel valued and respected.

Recognizing and rewarding employee contributions plays a substantial role in creating a positive workspace. With positive recognition and positive reinforcement, employees can find solace at work and the recognition of their contributions incentivizes them to perform further.

Furthermore, the wellness of employees translates to a general sense of organizational wellness. In fact, a study conducted by the World Health Organization estimates that every dollar invested in mental health issues potentially returns four dollars in terms of higher productivity and improved health.

Companies that show concern for the well-being of its members result in increased productivity and revenue growth, highlighting the ROI of positive mental health.

What goes around, comes around

Applying best-practices internally with your teams helps in an array of ways; be it in terms of engagement, productivity, results, and even recruitment.

Employees will replicate the effort that the company puts towards them in the form of added engagement and heightened productivity, which ultimately plays a leading role in sales, growth, and revenues. An engaged team is a productive team, and employees will often give their best to a company that cares for their welfare.

Furthermore, organizations that engage best-practices internally will find their recruitment needs met quicker and easily. This is due to a positive employer’s brand, which becomes synonymous with helping their employees thrive in both their professional and personal lives.

Photo by Huy Chien Tran from Pexels

Jobseekers will want to be part of a team that promotes employee well-being, and to be part of a positive company that cares for its members. This elevated brand perception ultimately plays a role in your recruitment efforts, as a positive employer brand can be your best recruitment tool.

So, whether through increased engagement, elevated productivity, a competitive employer brand positioning, or even easier recruitment efforts down the line; investing in your team’s wellness will inevitably be reciprocated for the company’s sake.

Parting Thoughts

Both managers and employees play a role in ensuring an environment which promotes the wellbeing of their peers. Employees can adapt their interactions and conversations, as managers can implement policies and practices to help those in need.

When your organization cares for its employees it benefits in an array of ways; be it through an increase in employee engagement and productivity, increases in sales and revenues, or reaping the benefits of a positive employer branding.

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