How to manage employees’ layoff anxiety
16 Dec 2022

How to manage employees’ layoff anxiety

Written by: Angelo Rosati

The Great Resignation has officially turned into the Great Layoffs. From Twitter and Amazon to Lyft, Meta, Stripe, Asana and more, major companies across the globe have resorted to mass job cuts in the last few months of 2022. In the U.S. alone, over 73,000 tech employees were laid off this year, according to Crunchbase News.

With inflation on the rise and a recession looming, there’s no clear end in sight to the trend – and employees everywhere are starting to worry. How can business leaders steer their team members away from layoff anxiety and into a more positive future? 

Frankie Health has already helped dozens of companies worldwide support their teams and prevent burnout through our user-friendly employee mental health platform.  We’ve developed a framework you can follow to stop burnout in its tracks – no matter what’s going on in the industry or the global workforce.

What is layoff anxiety?

During the Great Resignation, many workers abruptly left their positions in search of better opportunities. For some, those risky moves have shifted into a newfound sense of job insecurity. According to Bankrate, around 56% of people who started a new, more highly-paid job within the last year are now afraid of losing it. 

Can you blame them? As you can see from the chart below, in 2022 (colour green), startups and major companies in all industries are slashing their headcounts left and right.

layoff anxiety  2022

It’s no wonder that layoff anxiety – an overwhelming sense of worry or fear about losing your job – is a growing phenomenon. What’s more, it’s a trend that could have a lasting negative impact on your business.

To fight layoff anxiety at your company, you’ll need to address it head-on before it gets out of hand. When burnout sets in, everyone loses. 

Why is layoff creating anxiety for employees around the world?

When your employees experience anxiety about their job security, they’re at risk for burnout and decreased work performance. This is because of a phenomenon called “the stress cycle”.

The stress cycle

The stress cycle refers to our internal process when we’re in a state of anxiety. When we’re caught in the cycle, triggers lead to thoughts, thoughts become emotions, and emotions turn into behaviours. 

The stress cycle consists of the four following stages:

the employee stress cycle

1. The stressor

The stress cycle is kicked off by a trigger – a stressful event or condition that begins an anxiety spiral. For example, a trigger for layoff anxiety may be a temporary hiring freeze, the general state of the global economy, or an actual round of layoffs at your company or a competitor’s.

For example: Maria is a UX designer at a reputable tech company. Just before the holidays, some of her friends – who are working at one of her company’s best-known competitors – are abruptly laid off. Now, she’s worried she could be next.

2. Related thoughts

After being triggered by a stressor, negative thinking patterns set in. Employees may start to wonder:

- If I was the last to be hired, will I be the first to be fired?
- What can I do to prevent being laid off? Am I working hard enough?
- How will I pay the bills if I get laid off?
- Am I considered “valuable enough” to stay at the company?

For example: After her friends at a similar company are let go, Maria starts to worry constantly about her finances. She just bought a home and isn’t sure how she’ll pay the mortgage if she’s laid off. She’s filled with dread every time her manager asks to set up a meeting.

3. Effects on emotions and mental health

For better or worse, thoughts often turn into emotions. If we’re stuck in a repetitive cycle of negative thinking, negative feelings – like self-doubt, sadness and defeat – may follow soon after.

For example: Maria has always felt confident at work, but now she isn’t so sure. She sometimes wonders if she was even good at her job to begin with. She starts to wrestle with anxiety and self-doubt. Finally, she disengages from her job.

> You may be interested in our article“How does mental health drive employee engagement”

4. Physical responses and external behaviors

In the final stage of the stress cycle, our thoughts and emotions show up in our bodies and behaviors. This could lead to physical symptoms like chronic illness or fatigue. Some employees will externalize their stress by avoiding certain tasks, skipping work days or even quitting their job.

For example: In an effort to avoid being laid off, Maria starts to work longer hours to prove herself. She suffers from insomnia and back pain, but she still shows up at work when she’s sick (a phenomenon called “presenteeism”). Her work performance declines because of her pain, lack of energy and difficulty focusing. She is now stuck in a vicious spiral until she completely burns out.

How to prevent layoff anxiety and burnout

It’s in your company’s best interest to stop the stress cycle before the wheels of anxiety start turning. When layoff anxiety persists, it can easily lead to widespread burnout. 

At Frankie, we know that employee burnout is deadly for any business – which is why we’re so dedicated to preventing it in today’s workforce. 

how to manage layoff anxiety

While burnout is a serious problem, it’s also preventable.

Here is a framework you can follow to help your employees navigate layoff anxiety with greater resilience.

1. Create a safe space for employees

Layoff anxiety is often rooted in a fear of the unknown. You can help your employees escape the cycle of doubt and create a safer place for them to land by:

1.1 Embracing transparency

Ask managers and C-levels to be as honest as possible with employees about how your organisation is doing and their plans moving forward. Team members don’t need a play-by-play of every decision, but honesty goes a long way in building trust and fighting anxiety.

1.2 Leading by example

Company leaders can model a way out of the layoff anxiety cycle by talking about their own emotions, problems and fears. This can help fight mental health stigma and make employees feel safer when bringing up their own challenges. 

1.3 Providing a path forward

Business leaders can put power back in employees’ hands by giving them realistic, actionable ideas about how to contribute to the company’s success.  

1.4 Create an open dialogue

Feedback is powerful. Employees who know how they’re doing at work – and what they can do better – are much less likely to struggle with layoff anxiety and burnout. 

2. Offer meaningful mental health support

No one should have to deal with layoff anxiety alone. Employees who are struggling with fears of the future deserve mental health support that really works.

When your employees are stuck in the stress cycle, it can be difficult to see any way out – and giving lip service to mental health, like through EAPS, isn’t enough. Often, it will take more than a few check-ins or meditation sessions to make a real difference.

> You may be interested in our related article,“Why EAPs don’t work”

What your employees need is a modern approach to mental health, which means a combination of preventative and therapeutic care.

Mental health is a spectrum – from mild stress to burnout and depression – and your mental health platform must be ready to handle it all along the way.

the mental health spectrum

At Frankie Health we offer valuable preventative support, such as meditation, yoga and  wellness courses. We also connect employees to a global network of over 1,000 licensed therapists and coaches with just a few clicks.  We believe that eliminating barriers to care is key, and we focus on supporting our clients' employees when, where and how they need it. 

frankie heathl review

3. Encourage work/life balance

When layoffs are on the rise, many employees instinctively respond by trying to prove themselves “worthy” of their position. Fearful of losing their jobs, they may start to bite off more than they can chew, skip their vacation or feel reluctant to take a much-needed personal day. 

But when employees say “yes” to everything, their bodies and minds eventually say “no” – and that’s a recipe for large-scale burnout. 

Instead, make sure your team members know that they have worth outside of work. Encourage employees to nurture quality relationships with their friends and family and use their paid time off. Then, they can get back into the flow of work refreshed and ready to succeed.

If you notice that a team member seems overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to step in and offer support. Frankie’s reports can help you keep a finger on your employees’ pulse – so you can stop burnout before it begins. 

4. Invest in employees’ physical wellness

Mass layoffs can create a tense workplace environment, even if your company isn’t directly affected. Over time, chronic workplace stress can lead to pain and fatigue. It can also put employees at risk for more serious health problems, from heart conditions to diabetes. 

Help your employees protect their bodies against the effects of anxiety by encouraging relaxation, rest and renewal. Complete one of Frankie’s guided meditations together to soothe the body and mind, or help employees stretch out their stress with a workplace yoga session. 

Start your burnout prevention journey

Burnout prevention is one of the most important things you can do for your people – and for your company’s profits. Research suggests that offering quality mental health care to your employees is a worthwhile investment that pays off.

Want to know more? Check out our article about the ROI of employee mental health.

Work to equip your employees with the tools they need to build resilience and succeed in the face of challenges, and they will thank you with a better performance and greater loyalty.

To learn more about how Frankie can help you empower your team members along the entire mental health spectrum, reach out to one of our representatives by clicking here.