Traditional office spaces could be contributing to an increase in workplace anxiety, leading to millions of sick days a year – but adaptations to office environments could be key to helping. This is according to new research from Fora, London’s premium workspace provider.

Since the pandemic, hybrid working has become commonplace – nearly three in ten workers in the UK (28%) now work on a hybrid basis. However, among them, 80% report having experienced ‘workplace anxiety’ since the pandemic, when hybrid working first became commonplace.

This is having serious implications for UK businesses – 51% of hybrid workers have taken time off work as a result of stress or anxiety in the past year, missing an average of 6.1 days each. This equates to 28,650,000 missed days of work in the past 12 months1.

However, businesses could be missing cost-effective tricks to counter this. Indeed, more than six in ten respondents (61%) say something as simple as introducing more art into workplaces would enrich their working environment and reduce their anxiety.

What is impacting workplace anxiety? 

The research suggests that expectations of workspaces have changed; as workers have gotten used to a more inviting space whilst working at home during the pandemic many have struggled to readjust when in a typical office environment, which lacks the enrichment needed to encourage innovation, creativity and interaction amongst employees.

When asked about causes of workplace anxiety, 48% highlighted struggling with ‘noise and distractions’ whilst three in ten (29%) highlighted worries around being ‘constantly on show’. Workers are not only recognising anxiety in themselves – seven in ten hybrid workers (68%) say they have noticed an increase in workplace anxiety amongst their colleagues since the pandemic.

Leading workplace behaviour psychologist Dr. Craig Knight, who has studied work environments for over two decades, believes that January could be a particularly tough time for many hybrid workers when it comes to returning to work:

Employers should pay particular attention to their workforce come January. After the highs of the festive season, it can be a low time for many. And as staff have experienced an extended period away from the office in the comforts of their home, they could be more vulnerable to workplace anxiety during their return to work in the New Year.

Dr. Craig Knight, Leading workplace behaviour psychologist

What can businesses do to address workplace anxiety?  

Hybrid workers believe there are lots of things that could be adapted to make them feel more comfortable within offices which would make them less anxiety-inducing. Top of the list for workers is access to ‘wellness spaces’ within offices (40%). Meanwhile, 38% highlight having nice, modern facilities help them feel supported and 35% believe that mental health programmes in the workplace could help address the issue. Furthermore, 61% agreed that introducing more art into workplaces would make their office feel more inviting and reduce their anxiety.

Jennie Farmer, Chief Marketing Officer at Fora comments:

We know that workplace anxiety is a pressing issue in today’s professional landscape and these poll results serve as a reminder that our working environment needs to do more than offer a desk and chair – it needs to support our employees’ wellbeing.

Jennie Farmer, Chief Marketing Officer at Fora

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.