Dealing with anxiety in the workplace

Dealing with anxiety in the workplace


Day-to-day life can be challenging.

When things get tough, people get ill. Both physically and mentally.

Unfortunately for one hairdresser in the UK, her struggle with mental illness lead to her employer sacking her.

The unnamed woman was diagnosed with anxiety in April 2017. When she told the salon owner she’d been advised to take some time off work, she was met with the reply that the salon “didn’t do” sick days.

After returning to work, she was labelled a liability by her boss, claiming her “head was all over the place”. Not long after she was told to pack up and leave.

After arguing the unlawful sacking in court, the apprentice hairdresser was awarded £6,312.

These days, more people than ever are being diagnosed with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

According to ‘No Panic’, a charity that deals specifically with people who suffer from Panic Attacks and anxiety disorders, in 2013 alone there 8.2 million cases of anxiety. The charity mind state that 1 in 6 workers are dealing with mental health problems which could stop people from performing at their best.

In UK law, mental health is treated as a disability, which makes it a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. Therefore, from a legal perspective, a productivity perspective and for the health of any company, it’s important that mental health is treated correctly. Here’s how:

  • Reduce stress levels in the office – Remove as best you can any stress indicators that may be lurking in your offices. This one is simple but can be very easily overlooked.
  • Ensure employees take measures to manage stress levels – Communicate how important it is that your staff manage their stress levels and be flexible in helping them do so. If they have certain methods, allow them time off to do so.
  • Give your employees some distractions – Work should be fun. Having activities such as classes or workshops in which staff can relieve tension and forget about the stresses of home and work-life, even for a short amount of time, can really benefit the health of your employees.

For tips on how to destress yourself and others, check out these 20 tips from the Huffington Post.

For the legal side of things, its really important you brush up your knowledge on dismissals and mental illness.

Personnel today have some really helpful advice on the legal aspect of things that you can find here.

Alternatively, it might be worth brushing up your knowledge with a CIPD qualification. DPG offer a range of programmes that could broaden your knowledge and adaptability when it comes to dealing with a range of issues like this. You can find there here.

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Sam Houlton

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  • I found this very helpful and informative as there have been times when I have felt quite stressed out by people not doing their job well and sometimes at the fact that a person has not answered an important email I have sent to them. I sometimes tell myself to calm down but I do agree that walking away from the screen does help, taking a walk around the office and venting to a colleague really does help. 


    • We've all been there Karlene, the workplace can be the most stressful place in our lives! I think the key to managing all the nags and stresses that try and attack you throughout the day is to micromanage each one and there's absolutely no harm in leaving your desk or office for a short spell! After all, if you're stressed, you're not working your best and your employer should understand this!

      • I'm grateful for this dicussion....

        Stress is there for a reason.... our body telling us to do something different....take a moment.... re-think....adjust. Of course we all get stressed, but if these signs are presenting themselves regularly, it very much is time to act.

        The problem is when you ignore these signs. And boy is it a big problem.  I've been in a place in two points in my life, one at a very young early-twenties and one later in life, where I have burned out by ignoring these signs.  And that.... is a stage far too far.

        Burnout isn't the fun holiday that people might think it is where you kick back, relax and chill out. *On a side note, surprisingly, some people think that's how it is ! I'm generally quite forgiving of them though.  They're potentially just one of the lucky ones that isn't one of the 1 in 4 people that suffer from mental health difficulties each year or know someone that has or does.

        Instead, burnout places you firmly and squarely on a path of ill health. In my case it was a diagnosis of anxiety, depression and a whole catalouge of physical conditions that I don't care to share right now. Multiple medial appointments, tests, treatment, counselling and medication. Once you reach that stage, there's much time, hard work and pain to go through to recover. On both these occasions, things got so bad that emergency medical attention was needed both different reasons at points within these episodes.

        So I'm a huge fan of tips that help people manage stress levels. Yes, employers have a massive duty of care to help us with this stuff. We also owe it to ourselves to manage our own stress levels. Learning how to do that is continous personal development with no finish line.

        Appreciate the tips Sam. These are good preventative tips and strategies to make sure we don't hit rock bottom. There's only one of each of us after all isn't there?

        • Cheers Ady, really appreciate the reply! It's comforting to know we're not alone in this issue, in fact, we're in the majority. I think mental health should play a bigger role in the whole Health and Safety of any organisation, it might not be as easy to spot as a broken arm, but that doesn't mean it isn't as painful or torturous! 

          • I once suffered multiple broken ribs in a nasty road traffic accident.  I found it easier to recover from that than the first episode of burnout! You're right, it's hard to 'get it' when you can't 'see it'...

            Having said that I wonder how much we can actually see that we don't realise.

            Our daughter inspired me with this. I asked her one day if she would find it easy to spot when someone she knew was struggling with mental health. Surprisingly, she told me that she thought it was. When I asked her how, she told me that when you are close to people, you get to know them well. You get to learn how their character is and what they're usually like. From that, it's then easier to spot when something is wrong, or something is different. It reminded me of a campaign about 'being in your mates corner'.

            In my case, my typical positive can do attitude had turned into negativity. My humour had turned into sarcasm. My high level of performance had slipped into incompetence. My memory had been shot and my focus was no more. My enthusiasm had turned into dread and my physical appearence was qutie different.

            Has that incompetent miserable person decided to get up one day and be like that, or is it the signs that they have moved too far down a path and have steppted onto one of the biggest battlegrounds they'll ever step onto?

            Part of this about helping ourselves out. Much of this is about looking out for others.

            How well do we know people in their 'normal' place? How might that look different if something was 'wrong'? How can we support others?


            • Your daughter is obviously very smart and has grown up in a good environment if she can understand such a tricky situation so well!

              That's also a really interesting campaign that you've linked to. It's all about removing the stigma and being there when people need it, as both colleagues or employers as well as friends or family.

              I agree in that sense, we must absolutely look out for our neighbours. But we also mustn't forget to look out for ourselves and seek help whenever needed, don't put it off!

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