Factors contributing to workplace social anxiety

Social anxiety, a persistent fear of social situations and interactions, is a mental health challenge that knows no boundaries when it comes to its potential impact. This anxiety can seep into various aspects of life, including the professional realm, where it manifests as workplace social anxiety. In the UK, as in many parts of the world, individuals often grapple with social anxiety in their workplaces, leading to decreased job satisfaction and hindrance to their career progress.


This article explores the various facets of workplace social anxiety, delving into the factors that can trigger it and offering practical strategies to alleviate its grip. We identify five primary causes of social anxiety in the workplace and shed light on how individuals can mitigate its effects on their overall well-being and professional success.

Five factors that contribute to workplace social anxiety

There are five primary factors that can give rise to social anxiety within a workplace:

1. COVID-19 and health concerns

The ongoing impact of the pandemic has created a unique set of challenges. Adjusting to sharing a workspace with others, transitioning from remote work or flexible hours to a more structured setting, and concerns about safety are causing stress for many. Some individuals may feel out of practice or uncomfortable working closely with colleagues. Questions like whether it's acceptable to wear a mask when a nearby colleague is coughing excessively can further add to this anxiety.

2. Post-holiday reentry

Returning to work after a holiday can be anxiety-inducing as well. Colleagues may exhibit envy, harbour bitterness for perceived absences during critical project deadlines, or feel let down due to your absence during the allocation of new work responsibilities.

3. Maternity leave

Maternity leave can trigger significant social anxiety for parents. Pressures related to balancing flexible work hours, childcare arrangements, the fear of missing out on precious time with their children, and the sensation of being disconnected from the workplace can be prominent stressors.

4. After an injury

Following an extended period of injury that prevented one's active participation in team activities, individuals might find themselves feeling like outsiders. Unfortunately, some may even face criticism or shame for their absence during this time.

5. Miscarriage

Miscarriages, stillbirths, and early infant loss are experiences that affect a significant number of women, but these topics are often taboo. When grieving parents return to work, they may find it incredibly uncomfortable to interact with colleagues who are unaware of their profound personal suffering.

Four strategies to alleviate social anxiety

If you're looking for ways to manage social anxiety in the workplace, consider these four strategies:

1. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques

  • Practice mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises to manage anxious thoughts and physical symptoms of anxiety.
  • Prioritise self-care, including regular exercise, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep, to reduce overall stress levels.

2. Gradual exposure

  • Gradually expose yourself to anxiety-triggering situations at work. Start with less challenging scenarios and progressively work your way up to more intimidating ones.
  • Set achievable goals and celebrate your successes along the way to boost your confidence.

3. Seek support and communication

  • Talk to a trusted colleague, supervisor, or HR representative about your social anxiety. They can provide support, understanding, and potentially make workplace accommodations.
  • Consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counsellor who specialises in anxiety disorders. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is particularly effective in treating social anxiety.

4. Self-compassion and positive self-talk

  • Replace negative self-talk with self-compassion and self-encouragement. Recognise that everyone makes mistakes and faces challenges in their professional lives.
  • Develop a mantra or positive affirmations to remind yourself of your strengths and abilities.

Remember that overcoming social anxiety is a gradual process, and it's okay to seek help and take small steps toward improvement. With patience and consistent effort, you can make significant progress in managing workplace social anxiety.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Stroud GL5 & Gloucester GL1
Written by Hope Therapy & Counselling Services
Stroud GL5 & Gloucester GL1

Hope Therapy & Counselling Services are dedicated to providing comprehensive and compassionate mental health and wellbeing support to individuals, couples, and families. Our team of experienced and qualified counsellors & therapists are committed to helping clients navigate life's challenges...

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