Anxiety & Depression In The Workplace

We all experience certain stresses when it comes to going into work. No matter what salary you’re on, or how much you enjoy your job, there will be, or there has been a time for most of us who worry about an aspect of their job. Personally- I work in a very fast paced, KPI orientated role which whilst it has helped me grow as a young 20’s adult, certainly has come with its struggles.

The problem that can arise, especially for those who suffer with anxiety disorder, depression, or any mental health issue that affects their day to day life is when their symptoms begin to manifest in, or about work. Sure- as I say before, we all deal with our own problems in the workplace- but how does this work when you begin to have an anxiety attack that you must suppress dealing with customers, or when you miss 3 days of work without calling your boss, because you simply can’t be bothered anymore?

Image result for depression in the workplace
Source: Quest.co.za

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder, which comes in forms of “catastrophising”, thinking in “black and white” terms, and severe overthinking. A few years ago, whilst I was attending university and working part time retail/customer service assistant jobs alongside this, I was also dealing with bouts of depression.

When I think back to my university days and the jobs I worked whilst I was there, sure- I was a good employee in the perspective of my employers, my colleagues and my customers, but reflecting back on it, there were a lot of warning signs. I regularly put myself down, I didn’t care about problems that arose (though I did put on a front in this regard), I was always tired, and I just wasn’t enthusiastic about what I was doing. If I just had one of these traits, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but having these thoughts all the time made my work life during this period well, not great.

The thing about this too was I was in a position where I could have just handed in my notice, but I was also terrified that I would “once again fail myself and the people around me”. I realise now that I should have put my mental health first, and given myself the time to recover from whatever it was I was dealing with- but if there’s one thing my depressive episodes didn’t take from me, it was my stubbornness.

Image result for anxiety in the workplace
Source: NAMI

Moving to the present time and me now being in the recruitment sector, I’m very glad that I’m in a workplace where as colleagues, we are encouraged to talk to each other about how we feel, and if we feel overwhelmed- it is a safe space to express this in a way that isn’t going to be judged. Despite this though, I do have my bad days with my anxiety. Sometimes I do get such thoughts as “No one wants to hear what you have to say”, and “You’re not good enough to be here”. This is despite the fact that on my better days that I do my absolute best, and I am passionate about giving my 100%. In fact- I would go as far to say I’m actually proud of myself for getting to where I am today. I am self-sufficient, I have a good relationship with the people I speak to everyday, and I am always learning something new, either about myself, or about the job I’m doing.

This isn’t the case for many people, and there are many issues nowadays where workplaces don’t understand, or care for their employers feelings. There is a lot of pressure for our politicians and workplaces to gain a much better understanding of mental health issues, and how they can better improve the communication between management and their staff. These are a couple of suggestions I can personally think of for this:

  1. Keep in regular contact with your staff. It’s easy to forget about the staff who are more introverted, or have a prior history of constantly asking for reassurance, but simply asking whether they’re okay, and perhaps asking them what they’ve being doing is super helpful give both you, and the employer perspective on what is going on around them.
  2. Ensure your staff that you are available to speak to, without judgement. Have an “open door” policy so if a member of staff wants to speak to you, you allocate some of your time to have a 1:1 conversation with them.
  3. Respect if your member of staff doesn’t want to talk about how they’re feeling. Although we want to encourage staff to talk, if someone is looking down, but they don’t want to talk about their feelings, remind them of your “open door” policy, at least you’re extending your olive branch to them.
  4. If someone needs a day off holiday or sick due to stress and anxiety, don’t pressure them into staying at work. They might not give you the best reason, but if you give your trust to your employer that they aren’t taking advantage of you for instance, your relationship with them will be better for it.

Going into the professional world is scary, even for the toughest cookies. Many argue that the working environment isn’t even suited to the human species- and it can be daunting for those people who are worried about financial stability, or even job security. This is why we need to talk about mental health in the workplace as a common topic.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments below.

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