HR Management & Compliance

3 Strategies to Ameliorate Workplace Anxiety

These are anxious times. A slow and unevenly shared economic recovery has engendered widespread feelings of anger and despair. Hard work doesn’t seem to bring success anymore. The business world appears harsher than ever. Automation and artificial intelligence, once figments of our imagination, now appear to be a real threat to a wide swath of workers, especially when they’re driving around the Valley of the Sun with an autonomous vehicle in the next lane.

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Electoral politics, the democratic process that united us as a nation, now seems to be dividing us instead. Rather than merely disagreeing over the methods that will advance our shared values, we now are dubious of our fellow citizens’ motives and ascribe animus to those on the other side of controversial issues. There’s great distrust of the institutions woven into our daily lives, be it the government, the judicial system, the media, or the tech giants on which we have come to depend.

Those are the generalized stressors bearing down on your employees before they cross the threshold of your workplace each day. The success of your business and your ability to retain the talent you have and reap the benefits of your investment in recruiting and training depend on whether working for you is a stress additive or a successful coping strategy. Here are three ways to ease anxiety in the modern workplace.

#1: Mobilize for Movement

When we go for a walk, our hearts pump faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to our muscles but to all of our organsincluding our brains. Many experiments have shown that during or after exercise, even if it’s only mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Because we don’t have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander, which is precisely the kind of mental state that studies have linked to innovative ideas and strokes of insight.

For sedentary employees, nothing ratchets up anxiety like sitting in one place, hunched over a computer all day. Encourage your managers to have walking meetings with employees. Allow employees to get up from their desks and take short walks throughout the day. Not only will their stress levels go down, but their innovation and creativity are likely to go up.

#2: Encourage Education

Companies must have compliance and skill training that suits their business. Employees want even more. Invite employees to identify their individual training needs, and encourage them to research and seek out external training resources specific to those needs.

When an employee identifies an educational opportunity and justifies it as something that will improve her job performance now or in the future, give her the time and financial support to pursue it. Make sure she reports back on whether the training met her expectations. Then follow up six months or a year later to find out whether she believes the training was beneficial to her job performance.

HR devotes significant time to culling through the many training resources available in the marketplace today and deciding which ones are the best fit for your business. There are no better guinea pigs for gauging the value of those offerings than your own employees. Allowing them to conduct training experiments will make them feel empowered and honored for being the job experts they are.

#3: Articulate Achievable Goals and Celebrate Their Attainment

Managers should set clear, specific measurable goals for the employees they supervise. If employees have clear goals, they don’t have to guess about what their priorities should be and how they should manage their time. With definitive goals, employees can have peace of mind because they know what they need to focus on and why.

Recognize and reward employees who meet the goals you set. After all, nothing will foster success in your business more than having every employee succeed in accomplishing the business goals you set for them.

Bottom Line

In these times of high anxiety, employers that structure employees’ work to ease stress and foster productivity are sure to be a step ahead of the competition.

Dinita L. James is a Partner in the Gonzalez Law, LLC law firm in Tempe, Arizona and is an Editor for the Arizona Employment Law Letter. She can be reached at or 480-565-6400.