No matter the position or rank, workplace anxiety affects employees across all levels, potentially leading to a demotivated and underconfident workforce with detrimental impacts on productivity, progression, and morale.

Recognising the prevalence of this issue, music licensing company PPL PRS conducted a survey seeking Brits’ insights into their top anxiety-inducing situations at work.

Music Therapist Marianne Rizkallah and Leadership Coach Debbie Green provide valuable advice for employers and People Managers to address and alleviate workplace anxiety.

Identifying Signs of Workplace Anxiety

Marianne Rizkallah emphasises the importance of recognising signs indicating employees may be struggling with anxiety. Physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate, shallow breaths, fatigue, and muscle aches may manifest alongside mental and emotional symptoms like a quick temper or paranoid behaviour. Identifying these signs is crucial for early intervention.

Top Causes of Workplace Anxiety

PPL PRS’s 2023 survey identified the top five causes of anxiety in the workplace:

  1. Performance reviews – 50%
  2. Starting new projects – 39%
  3. Client meetings – 31%
  4. Internal meetings – 29%
  5. Answering calls – 28%

Performance reviews, in particular, trigger heightened anxiety levels due to the potential for a fight or flight response, especially if negative feedback is expected. Face-to-face encounters, including client and internal meetings, also contribute to workplace anxiety, along with phone anxiety linked to social anxiety.

Consequences of Unaddressed Anxiety

Unaddressed workplace anxieties can lead to burnout, characterised by chronic stress, physical and emotional exhaustion, detachment, and negativity. This state often arises from feeling overwhelmed, expecting too much from oneself, or inadequacy in one’s role.

Strategies for Employers

To support employees and alleviate workplace anxiety, creating a psychologically safe work environment is crucial. Mental health first aid training for HR and People Managers can facilitate a collaborative approach to address underlying issues. Marianne Rizkallah suggests three daily habits to combat negative feelings:

  1. Listen to your favorite music: Tailor music choices to match your mood or energy needs, with faster music for boosting energy and lyric-free tracks for concentration. PPL PRS offers a music flow chart to help employers choose the right music for their workspace.
  2. Get out into nature: Spending time in nature can positively impact mental health, engaging the senses and providing a break from workplace stress. Outdoor activities, such as walking meetings, can foster creativity and well-being.
  3. Write down your thoughts: Journaling or free association writing can help individuals reflect on their thoughts, providing a new perspective and reducing feelings of overwhelm.

Leadership Coach’s Tips for Managers

Debbie Green, Leadership Coach for PPL PRS, emphasises the importance of creating a collaborative and connected team to overcome workplace anxiety. Managers are encouraged to recognise and appreciate team members, offer suggestions, and provide development opportunities. Building an environment where individuals feel heard, noticed, and supported contributes to a workplace where employees can thrive.

In conclusion, by proactively addressing workplace anxiety and implementing supportive measures, employers and People Managers can foster a positive work environment, leading to improved morale, engagement, and overall productivity among their teams.






Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.