Kate Walker Miles comments on the increasing levels of anxiety in the workplace and offers some practical tips to help us all overcome it.
Anxiety in the workplace affects almost all of us, and it can often dictate the quality of the work we are able to produce. For some it can be a daily, crippling challenge.
Anxiety has many physical manifestations – sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, cloudy thinking, dry mouth and palpitations. We can all probably think of a time when nerves have had a major negative impact on our ability to communicate. They can seem to take control of both our body and mind.
With workers facing longer working hours and increasing daily pressures, this kind of stress has never been more prevalent.
Recent research into the experiences of business people across the UK uncovered significant findings around the effects of anxiety about communicating at work. Workers report feeling anxious at least once a week (five times per month) in situations where their communications skills are put under the spotlight.
Even though anxiety has never been more prevalent in the workplace, it appears few businesses are taking steps to counter the problem.
These include interviews and performance reviews, presentations, challenging meetings and even work-related social occasions. This feeling can be contagious – 18% say that just listening to colleagues who are anxious about communicating makes them feel stressed themselves.
It’s easy to see how a culture of anxiety around communication can develop in a company.
Even though anxiety has never been more prevalent in the workplace, it appears few businesses are taking steps to counter the problem. Very few workers (13%) said that anxieties around communications are effectively resolved by the senior management team in their company.
Organisations work most effectively when everyone has a voice – and we need to give people the skills to make themselves heard. Managing nerves and their physical effects and releasing built-up tension enables us to access our best selves.
Once we have mastered these techniques, we can rely on them and draw on them on a daily basis, both in work and outside.
So, how can we overcome anxiety?
It’s astonishing how small shifts in the way you use your physicality and voice can diminish the effects of anxiety. Let’s start with the breath. Simply making changes to the way you breathe when communicating under pressure will make a significant difference to how well your message lands and how confident you feel.
Try breathing out slowly, fully emptying your lungs, then allow time for the next in-breath to completely flood your torso. You should soon feel more relaxed. Your voice will become richer and stronger and you will look calmer.
This allows the listener to relax and engage properly with what you are saying. The feelings of fight or flight evaporate: suddenly you can think and listen. Now real communication can start to happen. Hello self-confidence!
Communications training is a smart move for any business. Helping employees to build confidence and feel less stressed can transform a company’s culture, improving staff well-being, retention and productivity. Isn’t that the makings of a successful and happy workplace?
RADA Business’ research has been published in an online report called Beating workplace performance anxiety Workplace performance anxiety’ is defined as the nerves, uncertainty and fear that we may feel in workplace scenarios in which we are required to perform.
About the author
Kate Walker Miles is a tutor for RADA Business.