The work event. A term that, for some, denotes networking opportunities, a nice break from the office 9-5, and perhaps some questionably beige canapés. For others, an invitation to a work event brings with it a cold, sinking feeling: it’s out of routine, it’s in an unfamiliar place, you’ll be expected to mingle with people you don’t know well (if it all)… Then there’s the pressure to positively represent your company, take in all the information, and better yourself as an employee. If you’re naturally introverted, the prospect of a work event is nerve-wracking – and if you struggle with anxiety, it can feel thoroughly overwhelming. 

Whilst making excuses to get out of the occasion might seem like the obvious solution, avoidance can actually increase anxiety in the long-run. Facing your fears, on the other hand, is a really good way to show yourself that things aren’t as bad as you imagined; you’ll be able to build confidence, and draw on previous experience when future invitations roll around. 

Of course, this guide won’t eliminate anxiety around work events, but the following tips can help scale stress down to more manageable levels. You’ve got this!   

Buddy up

Ask around to see whether anyone you know is also attending the event. If you can, arrange to go with them; the dreaded pre/post-event mingling can feel a lot easier when you’ve got someone else next to you. Pairing up also offsets some of the intensity of one-to-one conversation – even if it’s just a springboard, and you separate after the initial ice-breaking, attending with a colleague can ease some of those networking nerves.  

Be honest

Remember, most people feel some level of anxiety in new social situations. Simply saying that you ‘always get nervous around these sorts of events’ can serve as a surprisingly good conversation-starter (and chances are, you’ll be helping the other person relax as well). Once you’ve broken the ice, talking feels a lot more natural – sometimes honesty really is the best policy! 

Keep yourself well-fuelled

A work event can be long and draining, so it’s vital that you’ve got the energy to get through one. If anxiety affects your appetite, it can be helpful to keep a couple of snacks on hand, especially if you’re unsure about on-the-day catering. Try to make time to eat them, even if this means stepping out of the main room for a minute. It might feel mechanical, but staying fuelled – and hydrated – supports concentration maintenance (all the more important when you’ve got a lot of information to take in).  

And… breathe

Feeling overwhelmed? Pause, assess, and slow down your breath. Some good techniques include the 7/11 count (inhale for seven, exhale for eleven) and square breathing (imagine you’re tracing the perimeter of a square: inhale for four, hold for four, exhale for four, hold for four, repeat). It’s a simple tip, but an effective one!

Reality check-in

It’s so easy to get caught up in all the “what ifs” – anxiety just loves an overthinking spiral. As with breathing, taking time to stop and check in with yourself at intervals is a quick, practical way to prevent your thoughts from running away from you. Consider a grounding exercise – there are lots of great examples online – or simply pausing to put panic into perspective. Is there evidence to support that thought? (Spoiler: probably not!)

If in doubt, list it out

When it comes to work events, planning is your friend. It can be really useful to put pen to paper (or finger to phone) and list out the logistical basics in advance: what time you’ll get up, when you’ll leave, how you’ll get to the venue, how you’ll get back, etc. Having a clear plan of action means you won’t need to spend time stressing about train tickets or available taxis on the day, leaving you free to focus on the event at hand. 

A note to events planners:

If you’re organising a work event, try to bear in mind that the experience can be anxiety-provoking for some. Little nods to well-being go a long way (such as scheduling breaks, or creating a designated space for your delegates to refresh and recharge), and make for a more enjoyable event all-round!