Woman working at a desk in an office space, looking stressed with her hands in her hair.
Image: © amnaj/Stock.adobe.com

How anxiety can affect employees’ performance in the workplace

10 Sep 2021

A little bit of stress can be normal in the workplace, but anxiety is a different matter and should be taken seriously. Confiding in colleagues can help.

In the workplace, people suffering with anxiety may be ashamed to admit what they are going through. Nervousness can be seen as a weakness, while anxious emotions are thought to negatively impact a worker’s productivity and general performance.

However, the fact is, many of us will experience some level of anxiety at work in our lifetimes. It is nothing to be ashamed of – it merely indicates you are not a robot. Often, we are anxious because we care too much about our performance at work, and not because we don’t care.

Sometimes nerves can be beneficial. But when our mental health is affected and our performance slips notably, we may need to seek help.

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To find out more about the links between work and worry, business services company ZenBusiness surveyed 1,004 US workers on the subject.

Each person completed a workplace anxiety scale, which scored their responses. Scores ranged from zero to 100, with a score of over 50 indicating high anxiety and scores below 50 indicating lower levels of anxiety.

First of all, the survey asked workers about their stress levels in the context of where they worked and how long they had held their current position for.

Anxiety levels were highest among newer employees. People who had been with their company for four years or less had the highest average workplace anxiety, while those with more than 10 years under their belt reported the least.

People who worked at small companies with 19 employees or fewer and at large companies with more than 500 staff members reported less anxiety than others.

While the survey took place before the mass shift to remote working, people who worked from home 100pc of the time reported slightly higher anxiety levels than others who worked on-site or remotely on occasion. This could be attributed to in-person communication having a calming effect on people’s nerves at work.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey found that anxiety affected workers’ productivity levels. Around 97pc of people who identified as having low anxiety levels said they were productive at work, while only 86pc of those who said they have anxiety reported being productive.

Anxiety can be quite debilitating and can impact people’s confidence levels in the workplace. Half said the impact of anxiety on work performance was negative and the majority of respondents (68.4pc) said it did not help them be a good employee.

Infographic: ZenBusiness.

Infographic: ZenBusiness

Infographic: ZenBusiness.

Infographic: ZenBusiness

Infographic: ZenBusiness.

Infographic: ZenBusiness

So, how can workers manage and deal with their concerns at work? A good relationship with their boss helps, according to this survey. Employees who said they felt close to their boss at work reported less instances of anxiety compared to those who felt distant.

Not many respondents (less than 10pc) said they were extremely comfortable with confiding in their boss about their anxiety, while around a third said they were not at all comfortable.

It seems respondents found it easier to confide in fellow co-workers, with 62pc saying they were at least somewhat comfortable at the thought of telling a colleague about their workplace worries.

Infographic: ZenBusiness.

Infographic: ZenBusiness

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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