A new study of employees from 150 UK companies has found employee anxiety is on the rise, with more than half of employees having experienced ‘severe anxiety‘ as a direct impact of their work over the last 12 months.

  • Nearly one in three (29%) would actively pass up a promotion opportunity to avoid anxiety related to public speaking or presenting.
  • One in five employees (19%) cite anxiety as why they wouldn’t ask for a raise in a personal review meeting.
  • Almost two in five employees are actively avoiding leadership roles in company wide meetings (39%) or leading team meetings (31%) due to anxiety.

Employees are seeing their prospective careers impacted. The data findings come as social and workplace anxiety have risen steadily over the last three years. Employees searching for symptom diagnosis online searching ‘social anxiety symptoms’ have increased by 28% this year, compared to last year. This has increased by 39% since the turn of the decade.

Tom McLaughlin, public speaking expert and Director at conference speaker agency JLA, says:

Public speaking can be a daunting task. The importance of proper preparation and rehearsal cannot be overstated. As obvious as it may seem, don’t forget to breathe. Developing an awareness of your breathing calms your nerves, and understanding the physical changes you can make to affect your nervousness is vital in controlling your anxiety.

Tom McLaughlin, public speaking expert

How can companies support employees suffering with anxiety?

More than four in five (84%) UK employees feel that their company’s support for employees suffering from anxiety is ‘insufficient’, as many call for improvements to be made. The data finds employees at companies that offer ‘sufficient’ support for mental health are four times more effective at reducing severe anxiety in the workplace.

  • 46% of employees call for their employers to offer greater flexibility around workloads and commitments
  • More than a quarter of UK workplaces haven’t an open culture around mental health — 28% of employees state they’re not comfortable raising issues with my manager or HR team
  • 18% of UK employers are failing to implement a mental health policy and standard practices, and clearly communicate this with employees

Fintan O’Toole, Director and owner of The HR Dept South London, says:

As with any health condition, if anxiety remains unrecognised and unsupported it may have a negative impact on performance and consequently employees may not feel able to put themselves forward for new opportunities. Good performance management within a company including clear objective setting, review and appraisals will assist in getting the best out of all their employees and identify where additional support would be useful.

By taking action employers can help create a more engaged, healthy workforce, boost productivity and save money. Employers have reported improvements in productivity, retention of staff and a reduction in sickness absence when tackling work-related stress.

Fintan O’Toole, Director and owner of The HR Dept South London

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.