Understanding Signs of Workplace Stress

Work-related stress is a serious problem that employers must understand and address. It’s possible that some organisations may see workplace stress as a natural occurrence and choose to marginalise the issue or ignore it altogether. However, it’s important for employers to realise that failing to address and manage work-related stress can lead to greater problems.

The HSE defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’. Work-related stress may stem from employees feeling like they cannot cope with the pressure and responsibilities of their job. For example, a worker may develop work-related stress if their workload exceeds their skills or if they are being asked to accomplish tasks they do not understand.

Employers should take the time to assess the limitations of workers and ensure that various tasks, schedules, deadlines and other responsibilities are appropriately assigned to capable employees.

Understanding and mitigating work-related stress starts with being able to detect signs that employees may be struggling. It’s also important to understand that work-related stress may not be limited to an individual employee. It’s possible that an entire team or department may be stressed. Managers and supervisors should be trained and educated on noticing and assessing employees who may have difficulties. Signs may include:

  • Arguments or emotional reactions
  • High staff turnover
  • Increased requests for time off
  • Decreased performance
  • Increased complaints or grievances
  • Withdrawal
  • Tardiness

In addition to a potential loss in productivity, employee turnover and damaged relationships between colleagues, work-related stress can also lead to mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.

Employers should attempt to address sources of work-related stress, but it may also be advisable to suggest that employees visit their GP. Chronic or extreme stress may be an indicator of a variety of conditions.

It can also be beneficial for organisations to educate their employees on work-related stress so they are capable of detecting it amongst themselves. Provide clear communication to workers regarding the resources and support that may be available to them.

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