Member Article

Dealing With Anxiety In The Workplace "Blackie" Style

Steve Black, also known as Blackie, is well known in the sporting world for his positive mind, fit body approach. More recently he has been using that knowledge to help businesses, individuals and community groups through his latest venture Protean Solutions.

Here he looks at dealing with anxiety in the workplace, particularly pertinent as many return to office-based positions after working from home.

“To deal with anxiety in any workplace you must acknowledge it as something that exists in the workforce. It is important staff know it is okay to not be okay, and that as an employer you have support in place. Often just that reassurance can be enough to hold back a bubbling anxiety inside some.

“The second most important way to stem anxiety in the workplace, reducing sickness levels, is to be able to spot the signs early in employees, and yourself.

“Many organisations are bringing in experts to work with teams on motivation, reduction of stress and better productiveness, and to actually spot where anxiety is likely to occur, in who and why. They then put strategies together to reduce risk and to support sufferers.

“Anxiety in the workplace shows itself in many guises. Most will look for those not coping, signs of depression, calling in sick regularly and not performing to their usual standard. However, there are other signs which are just as important and if not spotted, can lead to serious damage on mental health.

“Over the years of working with high profile achievers, I have come to realise that one of the most dangerous forms and signs of anxiety are from those who are hiding it, pushing through, working harder than ever and are actually performing amazingly.

“Surprised? So was I.

“This anxiety positively creates performance under pressure, but is a form of hypomania or mania. The sufferer uses it as an endorphin, as a prop to keep going and as a driver to achieve. Sounds like this is positive. But this kind of behaviour isn’t healthy, is short lived and can lead to a crash that is more detrimental, taking longer to recover from.

“Signs of hypomania / mania are talking faster than usual, over the top reactions / friendliness, over brightness, working long / strange hours, excess energy beyond the norm and shortness of breath / shallow breathing. It resembles a form a panic. They are probably first at their desk, last to leave, and sending messages or emails at strange times of night.

“These people are working on adrenaline caused by anxiety. They probably shake occasionally, their stomach is probably knotted tight, and they may also be thirsty due to irregular breathing.

“If this only lasts a few days whilst there is an immediate issue causing the anxiety then this mania can help performance. But if it’s a longer-term issue, as an employer you need to help.

“Another sign is OCD behaviour. Is someone displaying signs of repetitive behaviour that isn’t normal? OCD is triggered by anxiety so if someone appears to be acting out of character then there could be an issue. Other physical signs of anxiety is a change in appearance / dress sense, sweating, tiredness, not engaging and trouble concentrating.

“Make sure your HR department is prepared or bring in a consultant who can spot signs and deliver courses of action. The investment is worth it if you stem sick leave and have healthy staff who can enjoy their jobs.

“Anxiety, if lived with for too long, can cause social anxiety and ending up with team members on long-term sick. Offer solutions such as phased return to the office, or longer to work from home as they adjust to the changes. And of course, always be mindful that anxiety can lead to burn out.

“Once you have spotted it, acknowledged it and put processes in place, there are further actions you can do.

  • Ensure team members have someone other than their line manager to talk to.
  • Enforce good time management –to arrive on time and to leave on time (a time structure helps with anxiety).
  • Give access to support activities such as yoga, mindfulness and calming exercises.
  • Set honest deadlines for work and talk openly about the impact of those deadlines.
  • Reassure where you can.
  • Set out the office to offer lots of space. Anxiety is exacerbated by too many people in close confines (especially after a pandemic where we have been physically remote)
  • Have access to things like hand sanitisers, wipes, cleaning products.
  • Invest in an expert coming in to lift the mood and re-engage your team….
  • Ask sufferers how else you can help.

“Most of all, be kind to each other. Support and care and we will all thrive better. God bless you all!”

Blackie’s portfolio is impressive, with big names including Kevin Keegan, Rob Andrew, Jonny Wilkinson, Jonathan Edwards and Glen McCrory endorsing the former Newcastle Falcons and British Lions rugby coach. He now works with companies including Cascade Cash Management, The John McEnroe Academy and Fairstone to name a few.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Anna Toms .

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