Climate anxiety is a genuine and growing concern for many people. The recent heatwave saw the UK reach staggering temperatures of over 40 degrees, resulting in wildfires, transport problems and warnings on non-essential travel. This sudden shift in temperature and its devastating impact has made many people fear the impact of climate change.
For your employees, it can be challenging to know how to cope with climate anxiety. Dealing with external pressures inevitably bleeds into working life, which can cause problems that affect managers and organisations. Evidence suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions, so acting early and taking preventative steps can really benefit your business.
What is climate anxiety?
Climate anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, or dread about the state of the environment. It’s often accompanied by a sense of powerlessness or hopelessness. Climate anxiety can be triggered by news stories, images, and first-hand experiences of climate change. It’s a physical response to the knowledge that climate change is happening and will have devastating consequences for our planet.
How does climate affect mental health?
The effects of climate change are already being felt by people around the world. And as the climate continues to change, we can expect to see more impact on our mental health. Some of the ways climate change can affect mental health include:
- Triggering anxiety and depression
- Increasing stress levels
- Causing sleep problems
- Contributing to substance abuse
- Worsening existing mental health conditions
How common is climate anxiety?
Climate anxiety appears to be a growing problem. A survey conducted in 2019 found that 61% of Americans were worried about climate change, up from 52% in 2015. The number of people who reported feeling “angry” or “hopeless” about climate change also increased during this period. Climate anxiety appears to be more common among young people, with 70% of millennials reporting climate anxiety in a 2019 survey. If you haven’t already spoken to your employees about climate anxiety, now is a good time to open the conversation.
Who is most affected by climate anxiety?
Climate anxiety affects people of all ages, but it is widespread among young people. This may be because young people are more likely to be engaged with the issue of climate change and have a greater understanding of the science behind it. Additionally, young people are often more uncertain about the future and feel more powerless to make a change.
How should you deal with climate anxiety?
When it comes to supporting employees with climate anxiety, there are many things you can do.
Here are a few ideas for supporting employees at work:
1. Start the conversation
Talking about mental health at work is important. If you’re not sure where to start, our blog has six tips for having conversations around mental health. It might be a good idea to draft some questions to pass on to your line managers or create a quick survey that asks some important questions about climate anxiety. You should keep these loose and open-ended. For example, asking if someone has climate anxiety outright won’t be as effective as asking them to rate how they feel about global events, or asking if the climate is having little, or a large impact on their wellbeing.
2. Highlight your routes to mental health resources
Often, mental health concerns need a little more input than just one-to-one conversations. It’s a good idea to share information about your EAP (Employee Assistance Programme), or if you don’t have one, links to resources like mental health charities. It’s important that these are easy to find and accessible, for example, on your intranet, a news bulletin email, posters in your office, or delivered via an app, like Symbio. By putting resources in your employees' reach (or better yet, in their hands with tools like Symbio) you can be sure that they have access to the right support when they need it.
3. Create safe spaces at work or support groups
Recognise that only 30 percent of workers feel able to talk openly about stress at work with their line manager. Consider how you can build relationships and support networks within your teams, so your people always have an ally. This might be as simple as promoting channels for people to talk to each other (i.e. with tools like Slack) or you could invite a speaker in for a lunch and learn session on climate anxiety and allow those who attend to spend time in breakout groups. Actively encourage your teams to nurture these relationships and meet regularly.
4. Promote healthy activities that build mental health resilience
Climate anxiety can trigger mental health problems or worsen mental wellbeing. Consider how your business promotes healthy activities like yoga, meditation, or nature walks as a way to calm the mind. Our guide to employee wellbeing is packed full of tips for building a wellbeing strategy. Take a look at it here.
5. Tailor your support offering
Many businesses invest in wellbeing support options like EAPs and tools that promote mental health. If your solution allows, think about how you can offer tailored or personalised content to your employees who may be struggling with climate anxiety. Tools like Symbio make it really easy to get personalised content, based on user input, so you always know your staff are getting the support they need at the right time.
If you're looking for more ways to support both the mental and physical health of your employees, check out our resources.
Interested in how Symbio could help? We’d love to show you how personalised, configurable, digital support could help your employees to thrive. Find out more and see Symbio in action with a demo.