Workplace mental health: 5 ways to tackle social anxiety

social anxiety in the workplace

Social anxiety disorder – also known as social phobia – has become increasingly prevalent as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with socialising and being around coworkers in the workplace feeling less familiar to everyone.

The world is slowly reopening and while we are excited to get back to normal life, a big percentage of the population is starting to feel apprehensive about returning to their social lives.

With almost half of UK adults (48%) reporting that their well-being was affected by the pandemic, it’s no surprise there was apprehension about re-entering the workplace in a post-Covid-19 world.

Many of us have been in a new situation where we have felt uncomfortable or anxious. Common situations that people tend to struggle with include: meeting new people, dating, speaking in public, entering rooms and making eye contact.

For most, anxiety is overcome and tackled head-on, but for some, it all becomes too much, and the stress this situation causes leads to meetings and plans being cancelled and the person affected becoming more socially recluse.

Five tips on how employers can reduce social anxiety in the workplace.

Advise employees on breathing techniques;

Usually, if someone is feeling anxious or overwhelmed, their breathing tends to speed up and become shallow. Breathing this way can make them feel dizzy or lightheaded, worsening the issue. To regain control of their breathing, sit down in a comfortable position and try to relax the shoulders. Get them to place one hand on their stomach and one hand on their chest and breathe in through their nose for four seconds. Ask them to hold their breath in for two seconds and slowly release for six seconds. Repeat this until breathing has returned to normal.

Train the workforce to use their senses to calm down

Divert attention to their surroundings and away from what is causing anxiety is a great way to let the adrenaline rush pass.

Give employees coping mechanisms such as: focusing on their five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Go through each sense and identify five different things within your environment. This will distract employees from feeling anxious by directing their thoughts elsewhere.

Preparation is key

New social situations can be extremely daunting, especially when meeting new people. A good technique to reduce social anxiety and stress levels in the workplace is to allow time to plan ahead for these social situations. It’s common for employees to worry about awkward silences when interacting with someone for the first time so arriving prepared is a great way to fill those spaces. Make sure that those faced with these situations are prepared, so they feel at ease when the time comes.

Baby steps

When society returns to normal, don’t pressure employees to return to their old work habits pre-March 2020. Focus on encouraging everyone to be present in a conversation. Make eye contact and ask questions to regain confidence. Most importantly, be patient.

Talk to someone

If an employee is struggling with social anxiety disorder and these methods are not helping, it may be necessary to seek professional help. Engaging in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy during difficult times will help them recognise signs of anxiety and give employers personalised advice on tackling these feelings.

While we continue to navigate through the pandemic, CBT therapists can provide Remote Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions via telephone or digital channels. SilverCloud – Onebright’s online therapy programme – was designed to give clients access to flexible cognitive behavioural therapy, which is useful to help employees through mild to moderate mental health issues like anxiety, low mood, or financial and work-related stress.

At Onebright, our goal is to help employers know where they need support and encourage their employees to stop dismissing signs of depression, reach out for support and get back to feeling like themselves within the workplace.

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