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Knowing that workplace anxiety can have adverse effects on employee health and well-being as well as an organisation’s bottom line, what can we do to reduce the harmful effects?
It appears the answer can be as simple as listening to your staff and showing empathy.
According to a new study by the University of Toronto, the effects of anxiety on performance at work is closely related to the quality of relationships between employees, their bosses and their co-workers.
As a result, good relationships can help lessen the harmful effects of workplace anxiety.
Professors from the University of Toronto Scarborough and Rotman School of Management, Julie McCarthy and John Trougakos, and Bonnie Cheng from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, surveyed 267 Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers from across Canada.
They found that lower job performance has a direct link to the high levels of emotional exhaustion that is associated with workplace anxiety.
“It goes without saying that police officers work in high stress environments and, like all of us, they have a finite amount of resources they can draw on to cope with the demands of their job,” said McCarthy, also an expert on work-life integration.
She added that if these resources are depleted, high levels of workplace anxiety will lead to emotional exhaustion, ultimately affecting job performance.
McCarthy noted: “Supervisors and co-workers who are empathetic and provide emotional support by listening to their peers go a long way in fostering a positive work environment.”
These relations, she added, must be built on high levels of understanding and trust.
Another solution offered by the researchers was to introduce programmes that allow employees to recover, build resilience and develop strong social support networks at work.
McCarthy added: “Our hope is that this research will trigger conversations among other organisations about the debilitating effects of a stressed-out workplace and the importance of developing strategies to help workers cope with workplace anxiety.”