Work anxiety: signs, symptoms and how to manage it

woman thinking about different things only shows that work anxiety is real

In the 1930s, John Maynard Keynes predicted we’d all be working 15 hours or less per week by now. That prediction was largely driven by technology. Instead, we’ve gone in the other direction.

There is an increase globally in workplace anxiety, despite our technological advances which promised the elimination of repetitive, stress-inducing tasks.

So what is causing so many anxiety symptoms is the workplace? And how can we reduce job anxiety? Plus, learn about the link between your motivations and work preferences and how they relate to your job satisfaction.

Table of contents
What is work anxiety?
What is causing work-related anxiety?
What is the intersection point between work anxiety and increased remote work?
How to manage work anxiety
What is a good job for someone with anxiety?
What should managers know about workplace anxiety?
How can managers reduce workplace anxiety?
How can Human Resources and leadership help reduce workplace anxiety?
Support employees with anxiety - or yourself

What is work anxiety?

Work anxiety is when you have feelings of stress, anxiety, and frustration about your job.

What is causing work-related anxiety?

Work anxiety is caused by various key factors such as globalization, technology, increasing workloads, and the psychological and social aspects of work.

1. Globalization: Thanks to technology, organizations have an increased client base across different time zones. While this solves many challenges and offers additional opportunities, with clients and staff in different time zones, it contributes to work-related anxiety

2. Technological Advancements: Tech enables the handling of more complex and time-consuming tasks, leading to higher levels of anxiety at work.

3. Increasing workloads: A few years ago, Groupon commissioned a study about work stress. It found that 20% of respondents worked 10+ hours a day, 50% said the workload was preventing them from work-life balance, and yet 53% said that, despite how much they were working, they still had significant financial concerns.

4. Work-Reward Misalignment: As in the example above, work-related anxiety arises when the amount of work doesn't align with the rewards obtained, leading to feelings of dissatisfaction and stress.

6. Loneliness of Remote Work: There are many benefits for employees who work remotely - and there can also be drawbacks, especially for more extroverted employees who value a sense of belonging. Without the personal interactions and the buzz of the office, remote workers can become lonely and anxious.

Statistics on work-related anxiety:

  • 17.9 million: Just in the United Kingdom alone, 17.9 million work days were lost to workplace anxiety and stress in 2019-2020. 1
  • 75%: More than 75% of employees who experience workplace anxiety and stress say it carries over to their personal life, and this is more true of men (83%) than women (72%). 2
  • 34%: 34% of employees have not spoken to their supervisor about work anxiety or stress for fear of reprisal (or reduction in responsibilities) from the boss.3
  • $300 billion: That’s the loss to the U.S. economy from workplace anxiety and stress, annually.4
  • 55%: Of employees are stressed during the day. 5
  • $11.3 billion: That’s the value of the market for work anxiety reduction and stress reduction approaches, growing at about 8.5% per year.6

What is the intersection point between work anxiety and increased remote work?

Three telling statistics were revealed in Perkbox’s 2020 UK workplace stress survey:

"Work-related office politics’ (37%) are the most common cause of work-related stress, followed by ‘lack of interdepartmental communications’ (34%), and ‘the work performance of others’ (33%).”

Changing from office-based work to remote work will disrupt each of these:

  • Office politics will operate quite differently without water cooler conversations and canteen gossip. Conflicts, dramas, and troublesome romances will have fewer opportunities to flourish.
  • Rethinking communication channels between departments will occur more frequently when teams are distributed, providing more opportunities to get things right.
  • With colleagues less visible when we’re not sat next to them all day, we’re less likely to feel envious of their performance.

Does this mean working from home will cause a reduction in work-related stress? Possibly, but it’s complicated. While these will contribute to a less stressful working life (along with the absence of unpleasant commutes), other factors will have the opposite effect: taking care of children at home, lack of work-life boundaries, precarious economic conditions, and increased loneliness.

How to manage work anxiety

Dealing with feelings of anxiety and job stress can be challenging, however, there are several proven approaches you can implement"

  • Develop a routine: Creating a daily routine can significantly reduce work anxiety. Schedule specific activities for your wellbeing and develop a structure to start your workday. Consistency can give you a sense of control and predictability.
  • Seek clarification from leadership: One of the biggest causes of work anxiety is poor communication and lack of clarity around projects and priorities. Regularly asking for project priorities and clarification from your managers can help reduce symptoms of anxiety.
  • Leverage social connections: Maintaining connections with friends and colleagues is essential. One study indicated that if you have a friend whom you see on most days, the increase in your happiness is like earning $100,000 more each year. On the other hand, when you break a critical social tie, it’s like suffering a $90,000 per year decrease in your income. Organize virtual or in-person events with colleagues to nurture these connections.
  • Take regular breaks: Overworking can lead to increased anxiety. Follow the 52/17 rule—work for 52 minutes and then take a 17-minute break. These breaks actually enhance productivity and reduce work-related stress. So go ahead, take that extra time, and feel your job anxiety lift
  • Explore a side hustle: If your worries about job security are contributing to work anxiety consider developing a side hustle as an additional income source. This financial safety net can alleviate fiscal stress and anxiety related to job security. And try to find a side gig that brings you joy and purpose.
  • Prioritize physical health: Do something to get moving. Incorporate physical activity, meditation, or mindfulness exercise into your daily routine. These activities help alleviate stress and promote mental well-being
  • Sleep: Lack of sleep can have a detrimental impact on your quality of life.  Eight hours of sleep per night will keep you starting each new day with renewed vigor and focus.
a woman taking a quick break in her office to do yoga to calm her work anxiety

By implementing these strategies, you can effectively manage and reduce work-related anxiety, improving your overall well-being and productivity.

What is a good job for someone with anxiety?

There's no one-job-fits-all, especially when it comes to anxiety.

The best way to find your dream job (yes, you can find a job that doesn't lead to a panic attack) is by understanding yourself and what your main source of stress comes from.

The ideal job will vary from person to person. For example, someone who has a need for structure might find a remote job to be a more stressful work environment. And someone who likes to think out of the box might feel a sense of dread when they are expected to follow too many procedures.

At F4S we know that traits can't be labeled as good or bad - it's all about context. We also know that everyone has the potential for self-development. Just because you're an anxious person when it comes to public speaking, doesn't mean you have performance anxiety across the board.

Get to know yourself on a deeper level by taking our free F4S assessment. You'll gain instant access to your personal dashboard and see how you rank within our 48 workplace motivations.

F4S dashboard shows your workplace motivations
F4S dashboard

Our assessment tool is more than 90% accurate and backed by 20 years of research) so you'll have a deeper understanding of your key motivations. We'll help show you what tasks excite and light you up. You'll also know what is draining to you or areas that you might want to improve. You might start to see a link between certain jobs and why they may have been an anxiety trigger in the past.

Personalized insights for your goal

Pioneering new things
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You like some variety, radical changes, doing new and different things in some of your work or business.

100% Match
Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
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With a little bit of development you can become more socially aware of yourself and others.

61% Match
Take the free assessment

We also offer AI coaching programs - you might want to start with our Vital Wellbeing.

What should managers know about workplace anxiety?

We’ve been studying these concepts for years at F4S. Here’s what our research has shown: there are employees who thrive in group environments, and those who thrive in solo environments. Sometimes, the same individual may thrive in both, in different contexts.

Group Environment

Someone who thrives in a group environment needs to have contact with people. They like engaging with others to share their work and ideas, in order to be productive.

They love on-the-spot questions and are not afraid to interrupt others (and usually don’t mind being interrupted). They are driven by the energy of the mix of personalities and approaches to problem-solving constituting an office.

this group of colleagues works best is a group environment as it energizes them

Solo Environment

Someone who thrives in a solo environment needs space without auditory or visual distraction to get things done; this is partially why you saw the rise of “pod” spaces in Silicon Valley offices about 10 years ago because many programmers fit this mold.

Once the zone is breached, it can take a solo environment person a long time to get back into said zone. While they can appear reclusive or distant to some other employees, especially the group-focused ones, this is less an issue of introvert vs. extrovert and more an issue of preferred productivity style.

Many solo environment employees would be super fun at happy hour -- but to maximize their workflow, they need time alone to focus.

How can managers reduce workplace anxiety?

Get to know your team. The more you understand their unique workplace preferences, the better you can support and manage them. Learn their communication preferences, and understand their preferred work environment. Most of all, find out what motivates and energizes them, as well as what drains them.

By understanding this, you can support your team's workplace performance and reduce their job anxiety.

With solo environment team members, you want to make sure:

  • Their workspace is set up in the best way for them.
  • You are not inundating their schedule with meetings and unnecessary interruptions. Give them 3-4 hour blocks of time to work.
  • You are including them in team icebreaker games, or more social initiatives, so they feel connected to the team at a high level.

With group environment team members, you want to:

  • Talk to them consistently about how they’re feeling.
  • Include them in more video calls and group calls, even if potential task productivity may decline a little bit in the short term. (I say short term because in the long term a group environment person’s productivity will drop if they don’t have these types of opportunities.)
  • Encourage them to do virtual meetups with fellow employees for a coffee, etc.
  • Create a brainstorming channel or something similar on Slack, in G-Docs, or wherever so that people can pop in and chat about ideas, interesting articles, etc. It’s not the same as office bump-ins, but it can be a digital manifestation of that idea.

One of the hardest parts about work, and especially about organizations scaling up, is that a lot of advice about communications or management is a “one-to-many” approach, i.e. an Intranet board, an employee newsletter, or the like.

But people are individuals, and every employee has a different connection to the work, to the purpose of the organization, to their own working style, and more. Management needs to be more one-to-one, especially in trying times.

How can Human Resources and leadership help reduce workplace anxiety?

Employees need support now more than ever. Here are some things to consider to support people with anxiety in the workplace:

Team culture

Developing a positive team culture is key to employee wellbeing. Invite your team to take the F4S assessment. You'll uncover your unique team culture, where your differences lie, and other key insights.

F4S reveals this team culture prefers working directly with money and fair pay
F4S team culture

Consistent workload:

If you have an increasing or decreasing workload, that can be a source of anxiety and stress — those with a decreasing workload will begin to assume they’re on the layoff list. When someone has decreasing task work, give them longer-term, strategic projects to work on. With an increasing workload, it's easy to start feeling overwhelmed. Be sure to provide additional support, recognition or even a bonus to show their work is valued.


If you are growing, consistently communicate about the new workload, explain what types of new hires you are working for, and provide either increased compensation or an incentive/bonus structure for current employees. No one wants to take on more work without a monetary adjustment.

Buddy system:

Some feel this concept is cheesy, but it works in numerous organizations.

These aren’t necessarily mentors, as peer relationships can work fine, but they are employees who check in on other employees to chat about things like:

  • How are things going?
  • How’s the workload?
  • What issues are there?
  • What could be addressed more?

It’s almost a de facto managerial role and might be good for those who want a management track in the future. It allows managers to focus on their deliverables (while also checking in with their people, of course) and have some help on the anxiety temperature-taking.

Leadership style:

Previous F4S success on leadership styles has shown that roughly 4 in 5 employees are motivated by goals, whereas the other 20% is motivated “away from problems,” i.e. by challenges. This applies to leaders too, and when people become leaders, their motivation methodology carries through -- so if they were motivated by goals, that’s how they drive others.

The “away from problems” (challenges) model can work, but in a high-stress period of time like a pandemic and concerns about returning to work, the “goals” model of leadership is likely to be more effective.

If you are a leader who drives others around challenges and problems – we see this in tech often, as the underlying goal of tech is commonly to fix some inefficiency – it might be better to take a softer, step-by-step, goal-rooted (“let’s accomplish this for this week”) approach for the near-term.

Support employees with anxiety - or yourself

The above is the beginning of a guide, but it all comes back to checking in with yourself and making people feel heard and appreciated. By allowing individuals to work based on their preferences and skills, there can be a wide range of benefits, including reducing chronic stress and workplace anxiety.

Calm your anxiety and start enjoying work again

Take the free workplace assessment and find out how you really thrive. Then take our Vital Wellbeing so you can kick your anxiety to the curb. 

Recommended program for you:

Our expert coaches developed a 9-week Vital Wellbeing program to help you learn how to calm anxiety quickly and build emotional resistence.

Coach Marlee (your amazing AI-powered personal coach) will analyse your unique traits and goals to personalize the program so you see results as quickly as possible.


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