Complexity and uncertainty can make us anxious. The world we live in is increasingly both. Between a cost of living, political and economic uncertainty, strained public services, a climate emergency, and heightened worry about our future, no wonder our mental health is under strain. This is creeping into our work lives too.

According to official statistics released by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), stress, anxiety and depression account for 54 per cent of all work-related ill health cases.

The research shows that 17.1 million days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2022/23. This equated to an average of 19.6 days lost per case. (HSE, 2023)

Unfortunately, it’s not a UK specific issue. According to the World Economic Forum (WHF) in 2019, an estimated 275 million people worldwide suffer from anxiety related disorders.

That’s a staggering 4% of the global population, making it the number one mental health concern on earth even surpassing depression.

During and after the pandemic, companies started to prioritise mental health, partly driven by employees. This is more important than ever.

With employees increasingly likely to talk about their anxiety and other mental health challenges, how comfortable would your colleagues feel discussing this with you?

Here are three things you can do to increase the chances of your team opening up.

What can leaders do?

The most impactful leaders have the same thing in common: they support their people including supporting their wellbeing.

Here are three things you can do today to support colleagues who are suffering from anxiety.

1. Be vulnerable

Gone are the days when leaders battled to retain a bullet-proof, immovable image. The pandemic normalised openly discussing mental health challenges such as anxiety disorder.

However, for people to change their behaviour they need to feel that sharing their mental health struggles represents a cultural norm. Leaders hold the most powerful persuasion when it comes to role-modelling behaviours and torpedoing the stigma of talking about mental health struggles. This equates to leading from behind.

2. Be an example

Make sure your actions match your words.

Simply saying you support well-being and mental health is not enough. As a leader, show and share how you pro-actively develop your well-being.

Just as importantly, discuss your strategies for dealing with your own anxiety. Your authentic approach to setting personal boundaries and self-care will give your message meaning and encourage others.

3. Be proactive

Don’t assume your team members will come to you. Check in with them regularly.

At its worst, anxiety can crush productivity, performance, and engagement. However, the signs and suffering of anxiety disorders at work may not always be visible. Working remotely, internationally, and asynchronously means it can be harder than ever to pick up that someone is struggling.

How to avoid this?

Ask and listen. Go beyond the corporate and hollow dance of  “How are you?”. Instead, ask how you can support them and then listen like their mental health depended on it. You don’t have to have all of the answers or be solely responsible for alleviating their struggles. You may need to point them in the right direction of other colleagues or professional help.

Spend time understanding what support your organisation offers to colleagues who suffer from mental health problems.

Proactively and consistently checking in with employees will create norms that invite openness. Remember, employees’ experience of an organisation is often shaped by their manager. Being supportive is both business wise and compassionate.

The sad truth is that anxiety and other mental health issues are more common in our workplaces than ever before.

However, there’s hope. Through these three things, leaders can increase well-being and support employees who are struggling with anxiety.

For further details or to explore how we can support your organisation, please reach out to us at