Identifying Stress and Anxiety in the Workplace

Identifying Stress and Anxiety in the Workplace ‘Start the Conversation’

The causes of stress and anxiety can be very complex. They can start at home or at work, with either being the trigger for the problem. More than ever, companies have a responsibility to act and support employees to prevent situations getting worse.

One in six people in the UK experience mental health problems and failing to identify issues within the company can lead to long term absenteeism, or at the extreme suicide (nearly 6,000 occurred in the UK in 2017*).

We all want our staff to feel safe and calm at work and it is vital to have the ability to identify someone in the team who is struggling with stress and anxiety. A large proportion of our time is spent at work, yet too often line managers and peers do not recognise their own colleagues’ symptoms.

As a result, individuals struggle on, without the help and support they need. This must change.

Poignantly, I know that several of my clients wouldn’t have needed to seek a professional help, if they had the opportunity to speak to someone in their workplace at an earlier stage. It’s about starting the conversation – with the right person, who is trained to assist. So many managers who want to help, simply don’t have the necessary tools required.

All too often, they say the wrong thing and can even make the situation worse.

For this reason, the team at CBT Suffolk have been developing a mental health campaign called ‘Start the Conversation’ which involves training for line managers and supervisory staff.

So, what are the signs to look out for in the workplace?

Here are a few:

•  Extreme mood swings, excessive worrying or fear, appearing very high or very low.

•  Uncharacteristic mistakes, fatigue, lack of motivation or poor timekeeping.

•  Low self-esteem, interrupting conversations, taking on too much.

•  Behavioural changes which are unexplained.

In the early stages of stress and anxiety, people often worry about seeking help, fearing discrimination. In fact, the Equality Act 2006 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1996 means that people with mental health problems are protected and entitled to reasonable adjustments to adapt their work. Flexible working, allowing working from home and excusing the employee from situations of stress can help, but sometimes it’s just about listening and empathising.

The ‘Start the Conversation’ campaign aims to highlight clearly who in the company has had the relevant basic training. Rather than a cold, uncaring response, staff can be assured they will receive the support they need. We all get tired and overwhelmed when things don’t go to plan, but having someone to give the right help is vital and, without doubt, ‘it’s good to talk’.

Companies need to approach mental health proactively and those wanting to help employees ‘Start the Conversation’ should get in touch with CBT Suffolk who will guide the relevant managers through the process.

Garry Barnett is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) specialist and works for companies and individuals in both Suffolk and Norfolk. Contact Garry on T: 07850 124561 or E:
FB: CBTSuffolk

*Office for National Statistics (2017). Suicides in the UK. Available at:

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