Managing Social Anxiety Disorder at Work: Advice for Employees

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Photo Credits - TienDat Nguyen via Unsplash

Research shows that 1 in 10 people in the UK suffer from an anxiety disorder at one time – which amounts to over 8 million people. Additionally, more than 800,000 workers are affected by work-related anxiety, stress and depression.

Since Tuesday, the 10th of October marks World Mental Health Day 2023, we want to bring awareness to social anxiety disorder. This is an invisible disability that can affect people in and out of the workplace, making them apprehensive about interactions with other people.

Each person’s experience with anxiety is different and hence employers need to take steps that appropriately support employees with this mental health condition. We take a look at what social anxiety means for an employee, how an employer can help, and the steps an employee should take to request this.

If you’re an employee who needs help with how your employer supports your mental health condition, please get in touch. Redmans Solicitors can help you exercise your employee rights under UK employment law and advise you on possible next steps. To start your journey with Redmans Solicitors, simply:

Topics Covered

  1. What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?
  2. How Does Social Anxiety Disorder Affect An Employee’s Life?
  3. What Can Employers Do To Support Employees With Mental Health Conditions
  4. How Can Employees Request Reasonable Adjustments?

What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?

According to the NHS, social anxiety disorder is a long-term, overwhelming fear of social situations. They explain that it usually starts when individuals are teenagers and can impact their lives substantially. Although this condition can diminish, they state it often persists without treatment.

READ: Sick Leave: Poor Mental Health Found to be Leading Cause of Long-Term Absence at Work

The NHS outlines that social anxiety is a fear that doesn’t go away and can present many symptoms. Some of the symptoms they provide include:

  • Having a panic attack
  • Struggling to complete tasks when others are watching
  • Worrying about everyday tasks and social activities
  • The fear of criticism
  • Feeling sick

If someone’s social anxiety is considerably impacting their life, the NHS advise that they seek help from their GP or an NHS talking therapist.

How Does Social Anxiety Disorder Affect An Employee’s Life?

Social anxiety disorder can massively affect all aspects of an employee’s life, including the workplace. After analysing the symptoms outlined by the NHS, it could be suggested that this condition may:

  • Prevent employees from developing through feedback due to the fear of getting criticism
  • Negatively impact performance due to poor concentration levels caused by constant worrying
  • Isolate individuals, halting networking opportunities because of anxiety in social settings

What Can Employers Do To Support Employees With Mental Health Conditions

The awareness of mental health at work has continuously grown. This means companies need to review the employer support they provide consistently. Managing social anxiety at work can be difficult, but, as reported by the mental wellness brand Calm, there are steps employers could take to help.

For starters, managers could be educated about identifying and supporting employees with social anxiety disorder. Furthermore, flexible working practices may allow employees to work in a manner they feel most comfortable. The workplace environment the employer creates should also be considered, as this could affect the employee’s condition. This could include introducing emotional support animals.

However, employee rights extend beyond these suggestions to improve mental health at work. Under the Equality Act 2010 (EqA), employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments if practices, physical features or lack of equipment put a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled persons.

READ: HR Grapevine ERBW 2023: Measuring and Promoting Your Mental Health Strategy

The EqA outlines that a person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to function normally. Thus, an employee suffering from social anxiety could be deemed disabled and potentially entitled to reasonable adjustments. In such circumstances, companies would have a legal requirement to provide employer support.

Because each person’s circumstance is unique, the required adjustments will differ. However, factors that could determine if the adjustment is reasonable include the adjustments:

  • Affordability
  • Practicality
  • Effectiveness

How Can Employees Request Reasonable Adjustments?

Employers must make reasonable adjustments when they know (or would be expected to know) that an employee is disabled and is substantially disadvantaged compared to non-disabled persons because of it.

Therefore, requesting reasonable adjustments if eligible as soon as possible is advisable. The request could be made orally, in writing or through a formal process. If agreed, this should be done in writing, and the employer must fund it.

If an employer wrongfully rejects a request, it could be considered disability discrimination for failure to make reasonable adjustments. Employees could speak with their employer or make a formal complaint in such circumstances. Supposing the matter remains unresolved, the employee could make a claim to an employment tribunal.

Get Expert Help

Managing social anxiety at work can be challenging, and matters can worsen if you aren’t receiving the legal support you’re entitled to. With World Mental Health Day approaching, check on your own. Should you feel your legal rights have been breached, contact Redmans Solicitors for expert advice.

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