Workplace anxiety is a real and pressing issue that affects both your job performance and your general well-being.

We will see about what causes workplace anxiety, its underlying causes and effective ways to manage it.

What is Workplace Anxiety?

Workplace anxiety isn’t about the occasional nervousness you feel before a big meeting. It’s a constant state of worry that can disrupt your ability to work effectively and even affect your physical health.

Symptoms to Watch For:

  • Social Withdrawal: Pulling away from friends and family.
  • Persistent Concern: A continuous state of worry.
  • Emotional Outbursts: Instances of crying or heightened emotions.
  • Mood Fluctuations: Experiencing irritability, fatigue or heightened tension.
  • Perfectionism: The constant feeling that you must not make any mistakes.
  • Sleep Disruptions: Struggling with sleep quality or duration.
  • Focus Issues: Difficulty in concentrating or retaining information.
  • Diminished Work Passion: A loss of enthusiasm or interest in your job.
  • Eating Imbalances: Either consuming too much or too little food.

More Common Than You Think

Workplace anxiety is a growing concern affecting a large portion of the working population. It’s not just an individual issue; it has a ripple effect on team dynamics, performance and collective morale.

Impact on Career Choices:

  • Turning down promotions
  • Avoiding tasks involving public speaking or travel

Severity Levels: From Mild to Crippling

Workplace anxiety can vary in its intensity. For some, it’s a mild inconvenience, while for others, it can be debilitating, affecting performance and leading to excessive missed days of work.

Red Flags:

  • A drop in performance
  • Physical complaints without another explanation
  • Poor job productivity

Underlying Causes

Workplace anxiety often has roots in both work-related and personal factors. From long work hours and high-stress environments to personal issues like low self-esteem, multiple factors can contribute to the condition.

Common Triggers:

  • High-stress environment
  • Lack of support from managers and co-workers
  • Personal issues like low self-esteem or past traumas

How to Break the Cycle?

Breaking the cycle of workplace anxiety is a more targeted approach that focuses on individual strategies. Here are some evidence-based methods:

  • Track Your Anxiety: Log moments of anxiety to identify triggers.
  • Set Boundaries: Clearly communicate your workload capacity.
  • Organise Your Space: Maintain a clutter-free workspace for mental clarity.
  • Be Honest: Speak up if you’re overwhelmed; your manager might not realise you’re struggling.
  • Celebrate Small Wins: Appreciate your achievements before moving on to the next task.
  • Educate Yourself: Learn to recognise signs of anxiety and manage symptoms.
  • Time Management: Use to-do lists to prioritise tasks and reduce deadline-related anxiety.
  • Seek Professional Help: Consult a mental health professional for targeted coping strategies.

Causes of Workplace Anxiety

Work Environment

The place where you spend most of your waking hours can either be a sanctuary or a stressor. A work environment that lacks support and understanding can be a significant contributor to workplace anxiety.

  • Lack of Support: Feeling unsupported by managers and colleagues can heighten anxiety.
  • Unrealistic Deadlines: Constant pressure to meet tight deadlines can be overwhelming.
  • Job Insecurity: Uncertainty about job stability can be a constant source of stress.

Personal Factors

Workplace anxiety doesn’t exist in isolation; it often reflects personal issues that can exacerbate stress in a professional setting.

  • Low Self-Esteem: A lack of confidence can make workplace challenges seem insurmountable.
  • Life Stresses: Personal issues like financial worries or family problems can compound work-related stress.
  • Past Traumas: Previous negative experiences can set the stage for heightened anxiety in current roles.


Your lifestyle choices can also play a role in exacerbating or alleviating workplace anxiety.

  • Poor Sleep: Lack of restful sleep can make you more susceptible to stress.
  • Lack of Exercise: Physical activity is known to reduce stress, and its absence can have the opposite effect.
  • Nutrition: Eating habits can affect your mental state. High sugar and caffeine intake can contribute to anxiety.

Anxiety Begets Anxiety

Workplace anxiety often creates a self-perpetuating cycle. The stress of not performing well can lead to increased anxiety, making it even harder to break the cycle.

  • Performance Anxiety: Worrying about how well you’re doing can lead to mistakes, which increases anxiety.
  • Avoidance: The more you avoid tasks that make you anxious, the more daunting they become.
  • Procrastination: Delaying tasks can provide temporary relief but ultimately increases stress as deadlines approach.

Managing Workplace Anxiety


Before seeking external solutions, consider what you can do for yourself. Self-care is one of the necessary components of mental well-being.

  • Mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness can help you become aware of your thoughts and feelings.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity is proven to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Breaks: Don’t underestimate the power of short breaks to clear your mind.

Professional Help

If self-care doesn’t give you the relief you need, it may be time to seek professional help.

  • Therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is effective for treating anxiety disorders.
  • Medication: Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication can be prescribed for severe cases.
  • Support Groups: Sometimes, talking to others who are going through the same thing can provide invaluable support.

Workplace Policies

Employers have a significant role to play in managing workplace anxiety. A supportive work environment can make all the difference.

  • Mental Health Days: Offering mental health days can provide much-needed breaks.
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): These programs offer free and confidential consultations on a range of issues, including mental health.
  • Flexible Work Arrangements: Allowing flexible work hours or remote work can reduce stress.

Using Technology Wisely to Combat Anxiety

While technology can make our lives easier, it can also contribute to workplace anxiety.

  • Constant Connectivity: Being always “on” can increase stress levels.
  • Digital Detox: Periodic breaks from technology can help reduce anxiety.
  • Mindfulness Apps: Use technology to your advantage with apps designed to promote relaxation and mindfulness.


Workplace anxiety is a tangible challenge that affects many, but it’s not insurmountable. Recognising the signs and knowing the triggers can help you to take action. Employers and even technology offer avenues for support and relief.

The first step you take towards managing this issue is a significant victory, setting the stage for a more balanced work life.


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Sources: WebMD, Healthline, ADAA, WHO.