Would you recognise the signs of work-related stress in your staff? Find out how stress can affect employee health and productivity, as well as the signs to look out for, in this guide from myhrtoolkit.
Stress is an inevitable part of any workplace, as it’s sometimes an inevitable part of life. Humans are hard-wired to experience stress and fight-or-flight responses when we perceive things to be a ‘threat’ of some kind. Usually, once this has passed, our responses go back to normal. However, when someone feels frequently stressed, this can cause health problems and have a negative impact on every area of the person’s life, including their workplace.
As work can be a fast-paced, competitive environment where people spend a lot of their time, it is a common cause of stress. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) have just made work burnout from stress a medical condition. It’s therefore important for employers and managers to learn how to spot signs of work-related stress in employees in order to help staff foster a healthier approach to working and make reasonable adjustments if necessary.
It's important to address the signs of work-related stress; otherwise, it can have an adverse effect on individuals and organisations. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), work-related stress, when unaddressed, can lead to a range of issues for businesses. We'll dig into some of the most important signs here so you understand what to look out for.
Signs of work-related stress
Everyone has different capacities for and responses to stress, but there are signs of work-related stress you can look out for and help address for happier and healthier employees. Here are some signs to look out for:
High levels of staff turnover
At an organisational level, there can be signs of staff stress that employers can pick up on. One of the main ones is turnover: has there been an increase in people leaving the business? Are the gaps between leavers becoming shorter?
If this is the case, make sure you’re performing exit interviews to get people’s honest reasons for leaving; perhaps high workloads, workplace bullying, or poor management styles are causing undue levels of stress.
Increases in sickness absence
Feeling unmanageable levels of stress over time is linked to an increase in illnesses; this is because cortisol, a chemical associated with stress, alters immune system responses. For example, chronic stress is linked to ailments such as headaches, digestive problems, sleep problems, and heart disease.
Stress itself can also be a reason for absence, particularly if it contributes to or results in a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety. So, if you’re noticing an upwards trend in absence (which is much easier to spot using absence management software), it’s good to consider if this may be related to stress levels.
Arriving late and leaving early
Is someone falling into a pattern of arriving late to their shift or working day? Are staff winding down and ready to dash out the door before closing time? These can be signs that someone is experiencing work-related stress, tempering their enjoyment of the job.
Related article: How to discipline employees who are late
Changes in mood and outlook
Chronic stress can also cause changes in someone’s attitude, particularly if their stressors are related to the workplace. If someone is becoming nervous, irritable, or withdrawn at work, it may be due to them feeling stressed out.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, negative reactions to situations and events can be another sign of work-related stress; as can feeling unable to concentrate or being indecisive. Of course, everyone has bad days and goes through stressful times; but if these behaviours are becoming the norm for a staff member, they may be experiencing unhealthy levels of stress.
A lack of motivation
Is a staff member or team’s output at work slowing down? Are people taking longer to complete their work and getting snowed under a growing mountain of tasks? Work-related stress can have a negative effect on productivity, especially when someone’s workload feels unmanageable.
How to address work-related stress
Now you can recognise some of the signs of work-related stress. But how can you effectively address stress? Read our guide on how to reduce employee stress at work to find out how to ease levels of stress in your organisation and boost productivity.
Written by Camille Brouard
Camille is a Senior Marketing Executive for myhrtoolkit who writes on topics including HR technology, workplace culture, leave management, diversity, and mental health at work.