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Managing anxiety at work caused by the war in Ukraine

Expert tips


Many employees are currently experiencing strong feelings of anxiety, insecurity and stress about the war in Ukraine. As managers and colleagues, we can support each other and help to manage our feelings associated with this crisis.

Many of us are affected by the war in Ukraine. Some of us are impacted directly, others feel anxious about the world order, what is happening in Europe and how the situation could affect us in Sweden. Anna Wickberg is a specialist psychologist at Falck Healthcare and, since the start of the war, she has noticed increased levels of anxiety in many employees and managers around Sweden.

– When we feel anxiety and stress, it is important we allow ourselves to feel what we feel and to support each other in that. For a lot of people, the workplace is an important arena for social interaction where they can talk and process things together. But for some people, it is also somewhere that provides space to take a break from all our worries, says Anna Wickberg.

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Active listening also includes being open to accept that not everyone wants to talk about the crisis, and that also has to be OK.

Different reactions and needs in crisis situations

As colleagues and managers, it is important to be aware of, and accept, that everyone is affected very differently by the situation. We all have different fundamental ways of managing the insecurity we are feeling.

– Listen to your colleagues, be open to conversations and show that you are available to them. Active listening also includes being open to accept that not everyone wants to talk about the crisis, and that also has to be OK.

– When someone is feeling anxious, they might also need to be distracted from their thoughts for a while. Suggest going for a walk or a coffee to talk about something completely different to help their brains relax a little.”

Be sure to offer and prioritise social interaction in the workplace. Being part of a group and doing things together reduces anxiety and stress. Encourage social activities, taking a coffee break and having lunch together or going for a walk. It does not require a great deal of effort but it makes a real difference to the working group.

Information creates a feeling of security

As an organisation, it is important to communicate security and stability. Show that the company knows what is happening in the world and that the situation is under control in terms of the organisation itself.

– Making sure that employees are provided with regular information is a concrete measure a manager can take. Be clear about the support available, offer your support and show empathy and understanding. Information that is clear, objective and honest can have a calming effect.”

If there are people at the workplace who have a direct connection to Ukraine or have previous experience of having to flee from war, you may need to initiate more contact as their manager, especially if that person often works from home. Check in more frequently, ask how your colleague is feeling and what they need from you as the employer.

As a manager, however, it is also important to feel that you do not shoulder the responsibility alone. Seek help from your fellow managers and increase communication with them. Share advice about what you are doing in your working groups, and unburden each other if necessary.

– It is important to be able to accept support in your role as a manager to maintain the clear, secure and empathetic leadership that is really important right now.

How to manage your own anxiety

  1. Normalise anxiety It is completely normal to feel anxious due to the war in Ukraine, regardless of whether you are directly affected or feel anxiety about what is happening in Europe and how it could affect you.
  2. Keep to your routines Make sure your rest, eat and go to work as before. It relaxes the mind to have predictability in your daily life, and your daily routines can be even more important when other things are making your anxious.
  3. Take a news break When people are in uncertain situations, it is natural to seek out information. If you read and update your news feed often in a way that you feel makes you more stressed, it can be a good idea to take a step back or take a break. A constant flow of information can provide a false sense of control and is rarely helpful.
  4. Do something concrete Many people feel good if they can channel their anxiety and do something concrete. Help with clothing collections or donate money to aid organisations if you can. We feel good about doing things for others.
  5. Check your sources It is extremely important to check your sources in the deluge of news and information that we are inundated with every day. When information and news stories awaken strong feelings, it can be easy to forget to check sources. We need to be aware of what effect the information flow is having on us.
  6. Get help if you need it If you feel that the anxiety and stress start to take over, it is important to get help from outside. We might notice that our work and relationships are affected, you may find it hard to wind down and your sleep may be disrupted. Talk to your employer about what support you can get.

Read more about crisis support