According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, social anxiety disorder affects approximately 15 million adults in the U.S. Also referred to as “social phobia,” this disorder is a mental condition in which people have an intense, persistent fear of being watched or judged by others. This can lead to feelings of stress, unworthiness, and isolation, as well as vulnerability to illness.
One of the most common places in which social anxiety can be triggered and exacerbated is at the office, where the fear of humiliation, rejection, and scrutiny from colleagues and managers can take a significant psychological and physical toll.
What Protections Should an Employer Offer?
Mental health issues like social anxiety, depression, and stress can certainly be costly—not just to employees, but the business itself. According to research from Stanford Graduate School of Business professors and a report from McKinsey, mental health disorders can have adverse effects on productivity, drive up voluntary turnover, and cost U.S. employers nearly $200 billion every year in health care coverage.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that employers protect employees with social anxiety and other mental health conditions against discrimination, there are several other, non-legally binding ways that companies can support their workers’ well-being, including offering employee assistance programs (EAPs), mental health days, and other wellness benefits.
Some employers may even try to accommodate employees with mental health conditions by shifting them out of the work environment. However, in an email interview with The Balance, career practitioner Wayne Pagani explained why this may not be ideal. “The issue of anxiety is complex,” he said. “While it might appear to be a good strategy to shift someone to an environment where they are less exposed to the need for social interaction and try to alleviate related stressors, it could sometimes heighten the anxiety instead of reducing it.”
Pagani suggests instead that a multidisciplined approach be adopted.
First, tap into the expertise of different professionals and communities to understand how to best support someone experiencing social anxiety. Second, allow the process to be driven by the individual, and ask questions like, what are their aspirations? What would their quality of life look like? Do they want to continue in the workforce, engage in more independent work, or run their own business?
7 Careers Suited for Those With Social Anxiety
For current employees and job seekers suffering from social anxiety who aspire to do something different professionally, or to find a position better suited for their condition, there are several careers options to explore.The jobs below were selected based on two criteria: Possibility of fewer in-person interactions, and projections for growth in each field provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Accountants prepare and examine financial records and are the backbone of a business. They are well-organized and are focused on accuracy and details. Accountants can work in corporate settings as well as alone.
- Education: A bachelor’s degree in accounting is required. Some universities and colleges offer specialized programs for a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
- Average annual salary: $71,550
- Job outlook: Employment of accountants will grow 4% through 2029.
Court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions at trials, depositions, and other legal proceedings. Their role is to record court proceedings with little interaction with others.
- Education: A certificate in court reporting, an associate’s degree, or on-the-job training.
- Average annual salary: $60,130.
- Job outlook: Employment of court reporters is projected to grow 9% through 2029.
Librarians manage information and help people find material to conduct research for personal and professional use. Their job duties may change based on the type of setting they work in, such as public, school, or medical libraries.
- Education: A master’s degree. Some states require certification.
- Average annual salary: $59,500
- Job outlook: Employment of librarians is projected to grow by 55% through 2029.
Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or another device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or that control networks.
- Education: Bachelor's degree software engineering, mathematics or computer science.
- Average annual salary: $107,510
- Job outlook: Employment of software developers is projected to grow 22% through 2029.
Statisticians collect and analyze data and apply mathematical and statistical techniques to help solve problems. They design surveys, questionnaires, and polls to collect data. Social interactions are not that frequent, as surveys are typically conducted over the phone, collected online, or gathered through some other means.
- Education: Statisticians typically need at least a master’s degree in mathematics or statistics. However, some positions are available to those with a bachelor’s degree.
- Average annual salary: $91,160
- Job outlook: Overall employment of statisticians is projected to grow 33% through 2029.
Translators convert information from one language into another. Nearly all translation work is done on a computer, and translators receive and submit most assignments electronically. While some translators work as freelancers providing services to different clients at once, others might be employed at institutions where they help people access social and community services.
- Education: Although translators might need at least a bachelor’s degree, one of the most important requirements is that they have native-level proficiency in English and at least one other language.
- Average salary: $51,830
- Job outlook: Employment of translators is projected to grow 20% through 2029.
Writers develop content for various types of media, including advertisements, blogs, books, and magazines, as well as movie, play, and television scripts. Many writers and authors are self-employed, and can work anywhere they have access to a computer.
- Education: Bachelor's degree in journalism or English, coupled with on-the-job training.
- Average salary: $63,200
- Job outlook: Although the BLS projects that employment of writers will decline 2% through 2029, writers who have adapted to online and social media, and are comfortable writing with a variety of electronic and digital tools, should find work.
There are other options for low-stress, higher-paying jobs, like actuary or data scientist, that provide an opportunity to work alone or involve minimal in-person contact.
How to Prepare for an Interview
The more prepared you are, the more relaxed and confident you will become. Practice to answer some of the more common interview questions, weaving stories of your own accomplishments into them.
Visit the Location
If possible, a day or two before the interview, visit the location to get a sense of how long it might take you to get there. From the parking lot, observe employees as they go by. What does the dress code look like? Do the employees go out in groups or by themselves?
Conduct research but don’t rely only on a company’s website. Google its name just as it would do with yourself. Also, find current and former employees whom you can connect with on LinkedIn or other social media to gain an understanding of the company’s culture.
Tips for Coping on the Job
Social anxiety causes a significant amount of stress that affects the mental health of many people and can render them unable to function effectively at work. Sometimes, their only option is to learn how to cope with the disorder.
In a phone interview with The Balance, HR consultant and coach Michelle Precourt of Mindful HR Services suggested the CARE approach as one coping strategy:
- Connect to the present moment by anchoring yourself.
- Allow your feelings to be present.
- Relax and notice when thinking takes over.
- Exhale and return to anchor.
Beyond CARE, Precourt outlined other tips for ways to cope with social anxiety:
- Learn to identify what triggers your reaction.
- Pause for a few seconds to ease the anxiety.
- Take some deep breaths.
- Walk away from unhealthy situations.
- Talk with someone, like a manager, colleague, or a contact through an EAP.