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Employee Engagement

Warning Signs That Your People Are Stressed Out

Stress in the workplace is no secret. A majority of workers report feeling moderate to high levels of stress on the job and the issue has been gaining international attention. But if you aren’t able to sit down with every employee and ask them how they’re doing, how can you determine if people are stressed out at your organisation? 

What is Workplace Stress?

Virgin Pulse Science Advisory Board member Dr. David Batman, an occupational health consultant who specialises in mental health, notes that it’s important to distinguish between pressure and stress.

“Pressure can be positive and a motivating factor and is often essential in a job. It can help us achieve our goals and perform better. But stress occurs when this pressure becomes sustained and excessive. It is a natural reaction to too much pressure that’s not sustainable in the long term,” he says. 

Prolonged levels of stress are a concern for both the individual and the organisation as a whole. “Stress becomes a problem for employees when they are presented with demands that exceed their knowledge, abilities and capacity to cope,” says Batman. “Stressed employees may suffer recognised clinical problems such as anxiety, depression and associated sleep loss, and the resulting effects can damage an organisation on many levels.” 

Stress can cause serious health implications, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems 
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability/ anger
  • Depression
  • Loss of or increase in appetite

Is Stress Affecting Your Business?

To get a sense of stress levels in your organisation, Batman recommends assessing your employees’ wellbeing. A good first step is to commission a survey, but managers should maintain regular contact with their employees and identify opportunities to engage with employees who are struggling. 

One or more of the following could be signs that an employee is under stress levels that require intervention:

  • Frequent absences
  • Low engagement
  • Significant changes in mood or disposition
  • Frequent workplace accidents
  • Impaired or lowered productivity

“If there are marked changes in attendance, performance levels, mood or energy, their manager should approach the employee in private and ask if they are experiencing problems and offer to help,” recommends Batman. “Then they should take the employee’s lead. You never want to create a situation where managers try to make a diagnosis or impose on an employee’s personal situation.” 

Tips to Deal With Stress In The Workplace

Due to the nature of work, workplace stress is unavoidable. But it’s not all bad. A little bit of stress can actually be a good thing! It can create a sense of urgency and help you focus on the task at hand.  

Stress becomes a problem when it is prolonged or unmanaged. Employers can play an important role in preventing this by providing employees with tools and resources to help them cope, and by:

  • Encouraging healthy lifestyles, activity and exercise at work and home
  • Respecting employees’ personal time outside of work
  • Monitoring engagement, sickness absence levels, staff turnover and accidents
  • Providing a sensible balance between work and life responsibilities
  • Creating a culture where mental health and safety are discussed to reduce the stigma

Every business has to deal with stress in the workplace, but it’s how you help your employees deal with stress and build resilience that makes a difference. 

Our stress eBook has tools to help your employees build resilience and cope with workplace stress. Get your copy