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Workplace Social Anxiety – What It Is and How You Can Help

For many people, workplace social anxiety is a significant factor which affects their everyday lives. It is far more than just being ‘shy’ and can have a huge impact on an employee’s ability to work productively. Thanks to the increasing openness about mental health in the current social climate, employees are more able to discuss their social anxieties with up to 72% saying that stress and anxiety has a moderate effect on their day to day lives.

Employees with social anxiety disorders may be excellent at their job but may have specific struggles in areas such as public speaking, networking, talking to clients and forming relationships with colleagues. However, research into workplace anxiety has shown that:

  • 56% of employees say their anxiety affects their workplace performance
  • 51% say it affects the quality of their relationships with coworkers
  • 43% say it affects the quality of relationships with superiors

Worse still, this workplace stress is not left at work. Over 75% of employees who identified social anxiety in work said that this anxiety and stress carries over into their home life, with 70% saying it had a direct impact on their relationships with the spouses.

Whilst social anxiety may not limit an employee’s achievements, enabling an employee to feel more comfortable in the workplace can improve their job satisfaction and boost their confidence. Equally, and particularly in competitive roles such as sales, an employee’s anxiety may well be limiting their career advancement.

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The Effects Of Workplace Social Anxiety 

The effects of social anxiety disorders of employees may manifest itself in different ways:

  • Lower level impact may be increased sweating, avoiding eye contact, blushing or stuttering when speaking, having a pounding heart and feeling sick
  • High level impact may be experiencing panic attacks, an inability to sleep, and a high risk of other stress-related illnesses

These effects will impact your business in different ways. Employees may simply take longer to complete tasks due to their low self-esteem and confidence. They may require additional help and guidance day to day. They may take absence leave more often especially when they are particularly anxious about an event happening at work. They may be a turnover risk as they may perceive that they are not ‘coping’ with a job when in fact they are.

How Managers Can Help Employees Dealing With Workplace Social Anxiety

The measures you can put into place often depend on your business, your industry and on the size of your workforce. However, here are some ideas which you may feel would work:

  • Have clear and reasonable deadlines–Ensure that employees have a clear and achievable deadline for tasks so that they have a clear sense of what needs to be done and by when
  • Foster an inclusive and empathetic environment where staff can talk about their anxieties and don’t fear repercussions if they open up about their daily struggles. Consider appointing an ‘ally’ or a ‘buddy’ that employees know they can go and talk to about their concerns without reprisal or judgment
  • Have methods of help readily available to staff if they approach with their concerns. This could be referrals to specialists such as CBT coaches or other mental health professionals
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