Focus on Leadership: Employee Well-Being and the Anxiety Epidemic

At the recent month long The Gratitude Symposium  Chester Elton, and Adrian Gostick Founders and Authors of FindMojo focused in on what may be characterized as an epidemic of employee anxiety brewing in the workplace and what we as leaders can do to help combat this phenomenon and help to cultivate employee well-being.

Their session entitled- “The Anxiety Solution: 8 Strategies to Help Teams Build Resilience, Handle Uncertainty, and get Stuff Done,” began with Elton and Gostick sharing some sobering statistics:

  • #1 issue in the workplace today is anxiety
  • In 2018- 15% of workers living with an anxiety disorder
  • In 2020 30% of people had an anxiety disorder
  • 50% of millennials and 75% of Gen Z say they have quit a job for mental health reasons
  • Only 10% of employees feel like they would feel safe speaking to their boss about their anxiety.

With employee anxiety at an all-time high, and the need to retain employees a priority in the home care industry- the question becomes, how can leaders address the anxiety while continuing to motivate their employees to stay engaged?

Elton and Gostick share that it is important for leaders to help employees by preparing them, by setting the right expectations and leading with positivity instead of fear. This can be accomplished by:

They also stressed during their session ways in which as leaders we can work to “spot anxiety”:

While Elton and Gostick shared 8 ways in which leaders can work towards building a culture that enhances mental safety and resilience (You can listen in to their session for free HERE or any of the other sessions from the symposium’s 45 speakers and though leaders), one of their biggest takeaways unsurprisingly centered around the idea of embracing gratitude as a way to combat anxiety.

The speakers shared “Anxiety can make talented people feel like frauds, their external validation is not matching up with what they feel internally- Imposter Syndrome.”  It may seem like too much gratitude can be a bad thing, but the reality is that showing gratitude and recognition for their contributions can be a powerful positive motivator, because “let’s be honest, no one has ever gone home and said that they got too much recognition.” But its not just about the act of showing gratitude and recognition, the efforts should be done “now, often, with specificity, and with sincerity.”

Take for example the “The Ten Penny Story”:

A general manager from Avis rental cars explained that he places ten pennies in the one pocket of his pants every morning. Over the course of the day, he actively seeks out moments where his employees are demonstrating the company “values in action.” When he sees an employee caught doing something great, stops and shows gratitude and recognition for their actions, in the moment, with specific and sincere praise. He might offer them a small token of appreciation etc. But, for each moment he does this, each action he finds, he moves a penny from one pocket to the other, ensuring that all ten have moved by the end of the day. This is how one leader embraces gratitude in the moment, with frequency, specificity, and sincerity working towards combatting employee anxiety but also gives himself a salient, tangible, reminder to practice gratitude in a meaningful way.

As we work as a community to address our workforce challenges, I encourage you to think about your organizations and what you can do as a leader to identify anxiety, practice gratitude, and positively impact well-being.