Anxiety in the workplace.  It’s a growing phenomenon in businesses large and small. Indeed, even solopreneurs are facing issues that can breed anxiety and an upset stomach. A rising unemployment rate, slower job growth, and increasing layoffs at a time when employees were just starting to think there may be better opportunities are driving job security fears.

"This optimism is now being replaced by greater apprehension over job security," says Annie Stevens, managing partner with ClearRock. "Some employers who had growing concerns about how to retain valued workers have now shifted their attention to keeping employees engaged and motivated during a hot, uncertain summer."

With employee loyalty also tanking, what’s a small business owner to do? How do you keep your best and brightest employees on board and create a work atmosphere where employees feel comfortable, secure, optimistic—and productive? ClearRock is offering some sound recommendations for employers looking for ways to ease workplace anxiety and maintain employee engagement. Let’s look at each one in detail.

1. Communicate frequently, openly, and honestly about the state of business.
"This should comprise both good and bad news, including planned layoffs and other cutbacks,” Stevens says. “Employees who have survived past downsizings are especially worried in an environment of higher unemployment.

2. Discover what employees are thinking.
"Use a variety of methods to learn what is going on,” Stevens suggests, “including individual, face-to-face meetings, regular staff meetings, and informal company get-togethers.”

3. Manage by walking around.
"There is no substitute for managers getting out of their offices, walking among workers and talking with them,” Stevens says. “There has been more of a tendency to communicate in recent years by email, memos, and in meetings, rather than finding out first-hand what each employee does, and how to help them do it better.”

4. Recognize and reward accomplishments.
"One of the most common criticisms about managers is they do not recognize and reward individual accomplishments,” Stevens says. “Even in a tough business environment, employers can acknowledge achievements through low-cost tokens of thanks, handwritten notes, and personal emails, instead of with monetary rewards.”

5. Give useful feedback.
"Providing ongoing feedback to employees is one of the best ways to ease anxiety and uncertainty. Feedback should be delivered regularly and not just during performance evaluations,” Stevens says. “It creates more occasions to interface with direct reports and reinforce positive behaviors.”

6. Celebrate individual and group successes.
"Recognition and reward need to be shared collectively as well as acknowledging individual employees,” Stevens says. “Successes are often the result of individual and group efforts.”

7. Involve employees.
"Engage employees in a search for solutions to work-related problems and improving operations,” Stevens says. “This will make them feel part of the decision-making process, which can lead to better financial performance for the organization and employees.”

8. Focus on the long-term as well as the short-term.
"Employees want to know that there will be a future for them and an interest in growing their careers,” Stevens says. “Offer workers a long-term picture about the vision for the company, how they fit into it, and plans for their professional development.”