How Employee Anxiety Affects Productivity (And How to Fix It) - exhausted mom sitting at desk while kids play in background

How Employee Anxiety Affects Productivity (And How to Fix It)

Haeli Harris
July 19, 2022
September 14, 2022

Workplaces can be anxiety-inducing spaces for employees. There’s a lot to handle with deadlines looming, office politics to manage, and unforeseen issues such as COVID-19. Employee anxiety affects work by decreasing productivity and damaging company culture. When your team is distracted by stress, they cannot function at their total capacity.

When employee anxiety and stress are handled appropriately, staff can get back to focusing on their work instead!

employee assistance programs for stress and anxiety

Some managers believe that putting more pressure on their team can help increase productivity. While this may work for some people (and for a short period), it only adds to stress and anxiety for most.

When your staff is stressed or anxious, they’re likely not as focused on their work. Few people function well when experiencing anxiety, and productivity often drops dramatically, affecting the company’s bottom line. According to the American Institute on stress, 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful, and one-quarter listed their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives.

Younger employees are even more anxious, with 48% of Millennials and Gen Z saying they feel anxious or stressed most of the time.

So, how should your business begin to minimize stress levels? The workplaces that do it best know what employee anxiety looks like, how anxiety affects work, and how to support employees.

Read on for a few ways to identify employee anxiety and how to help solve the issue.

Ways Anxiety Can Show Up For Employees

Anxiety is a stress reaction. Anxiety is a persistent form of worry that can be very difficult to manage. It can lead to increased heart rate, chronic pain, depression, and fatigue.

Many employees will try to hide their feelings. Here are 3 of the most common ways anxiety may present itself in your workforce.

1. Employee Absenteeism

Anxiety is hard on the mind and body. In addition to lowering immunity, anxiety can also keep employees from doing activities that would help boost their health. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and bad sleeping habits are all often symptoms of anxiety. If they are experiencing these symptoms, your staff will likely be calling out sick more frequently (or not working at their best when they are on the job).

2. More Mistakes

If your employees who are normally on top of their workload start missing deadlines, dropping the ball on assignments, or making small mistakes, they probably feel stressed or anxious. Do they complain about being overworked? When employees have more to do than they feel able to accomplish, their work (and overall health) may begin to suffer.

Overworking can lead to:

  • poor work-life balance
  • depression and anxiety
  • chronic pain
  • worsened sleep

Employees that are starting to make more mistakes and disconnect from work may be suffering from employee burnout. Thankfully, with the proper support, employees can bounce back (more on that later!).

3. Employee Relationships are Suffering

A clear indicator of how anxiety affects work is the health of employee relationships and staff community. If your office culture seems to be going downhill, that can be a sign of employee anxiety. When employees are experiencing anxiety, they may cut themselves off from coworkers and loved ones, preferring to keep to themselves. Staff members experiencing anxiety may be less likely to share their opinion on projects, collaborate openly, or participate in culture-building activities.

Employee anxiety can also present itself as:

  • fatigue
  • presenteeism
  • irritability

Related: 6 Signs Your Employees are Struggling with Mental Health

How to Improve Employee Anxiety

Here are 3 simple ways to create a work environment where your staff can be less anxious—whether your team is remote or in-person.

1. Provide Mental Health Services

Start by instituting a mental health program. Providing a mental health program is one of the best things you can do for your employees’ mental health. Lost productivity from workplace anxiety costs employers $1 trillion per year, so it’s worth investing in a program that will help your team feel less anxious and more prepared to focus on their work.

Some companies offer mental health services specifically designed to address workplace anxiety and have therapists on staff that are very familiar with these issues. Trained professionals know how to support employees experiencing anxiety, and bringing them in is a significant first step when prioritizing the mental health of your employees.

EAPs and wellness or mental health programs are common ways to bring these services to teams.

If you already have an EAP and/or mental health program, make sure to ramp up your internal promotion and educate employees on the mental health services you provide.

Related: How to Measure the ROI of Your Mental Health Program

2. Support Taking Time Off Work

Giving an adequate number of days off (paid or not) and understanding that employees have a life outside of work can also be a great way to make employees feel less anxious.

Breaks from work are crucial for clearing the mind and refilling energy reserves. Taking even just 10 to 15 minutes for yourself throughout the day to stretch, meditate, or walk outside can make a huge difference in your mental state.

It can be helpful to require these breaks so that your staff doesn’t feel guilty about taking time for themselves. Midday breaks reduce stress and increase productivity.

Make sure leadership is setting the example by taking time off work themselves.

Be sure to support your working parents with flexible work options and PTO. Parents are especially prone to high levels of stress and anxiety.

3. Give Feedback and Communicate

Ensuring your workplace focuses on constructive feedback, growth, connection, clear communication, realistic workloads, and positivity can reduce employee anxiety. One of our favorite ways to achieve this at Nivati is one-on-one meetings. One-on-ones are a great way to check in on employee mental health. Ask them how they are managing their anxiety, and ask how you can better support them while making sure they are not feeling overwhelmed by their work.

One-on-ones are also a great time to communicate expectations. When employees know what is expected of them, their anxiety will drop.

During your meetings, make sure that problem-solving isn’t about blaming anyone but about finding solutions. Be sure to also talk about your employees’ accomplishments as well and express your gratitude.

While each employee experiences anxiety differently, making these changes will help!

Download the Download The Mental Health Toolkit to learn about mental health in the workplace—what it is, why it matters, and how you can start supporting employee mental health.


By participating in/reading the service/website/blog/email series on this website, you acknowledge that this is a personal website/blog and is for informational purposes and should not be seen as mental health care advice. You should consult with a licensed professional before you rely on this website/blog’s information. All things written on this website should not be seen as therapy treatment and should not take the place of therapy or any other health care or mental health advice. Always seek the advice of a mental health care professional or physician. The content on this blog is not meant to and does not substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Haeli Harris
Haeli Harris
Haeli Harris, LMFT is the Director of Clinical Operations at Nivati. She has been practicing as a Marriage and Family Therapist since 2014. Haeli has experience working as a therapist in private practice settings, residential facilities, outpatient treatment care, schools, and telehealth.