Work Related Stress – A Positive Approach

The Oxford online dictionary defines stress as ‘A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’

It’s not surprising then, that with increased hours and workloads, pressure to perform with constant reviews, and mobile phones meaning making switching off from the workplace almost impossible, that the rise of work related stress is fast becoming an epidemic.

According the HSE ‘Work related stress depression or anxiety statistics in Great Britain, 2018’ report, 15.4 million working days were lost to work related stress, depression or anxiety. This is an increase of around 720 cases for every 100,000 workers. 44% siting workload, deadlines and too much responsibility as the cause and 14% saying a lack of managerial support was the cause of their distress.

It is important to be aware of the signs of work-related stress in yourself, early recognition can help you to receive help and support sooner reducing the long-term effects of stress in your life and body.

Here are some of the warning signs that you are suffering from stress, anxiety or depression in the workplace

  • Insomnia
  • Feeling flat/low
  • Regular illness
  • Taking regular days off work
  • Feelings of failure and underachievement
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss/gain
  • Increased alcohol intake
  • Lack of motivation
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty in concentrating

In order to tackle this worrying rise, companies and managers also need to become better equipped to recognise the signs of stress within their workforce.

So, what should managers be looking out for in their employees? Below are some warning signs that your employee may be suffering

  • Absence – a rise in days taken off work for illness or stress
  • Lateness – not turning up to work on time or trying to leave early
  • Change in appearance
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Low productivity
  • Sudden outbursts of emotion or anger
  • Irritability
  • Low performance
  • A lack of commitment to role
  • A lack of concentration
  • Being defensive

Knowing how to recognise the signs of stress in both yourself or an employee is only half the story, the problem then needs to be tackled.

Let’s look into the two biggest reasons associated with stress in a little more detail and how they can be positively managed.


ComplaintPositive Approach
Work overloadBeing aware and sympathetic of staff’s current workload and limiting extra work on top of this. Setting realistic and achievable deadlines
Conflicting work demandsSetting regular meetings to discuss current staff demands and offering to set out plans to help with role conflicts.
Working hoursAllowing flexibility in working hours
Ridged working patternsAllowing employees, a certain amount of trust and autonomy in their role. Helping employees to come to their own decisions within their role. Allowing them to grow. Every member of staff offers a unique working style – nurture this and don’t force them to conform to other’s working styles – you employed them for their abilities and experiences.
Inability to control work/life balanceEncouraging staff to leave on time at the end of the day. Allow flexitime where appropriate. Avoiding contacting staff outside of working hours.
Unfair work delegationEnsure that work is fairly distributed throughout a team. Many times, someone can feel as though they are carrying a team and taking on a disproportionate percentage of the work but are afraid to say. Encourage task rotation within the team.
Lack of confidence/clarity in roleDon’t allow for any ambiguity within someone’s role. Set out clearly their roles and responsibilities and keep an open discussion on this.If a member of staff is lacking in experience or confidence in an area of their job offer support and training where relevant.
Promotion of negative work cultureBreaking away from negative work cultures were staff are made to feel they have to work longer hours to be appreciated. Promote a culture of appreciation for the individual’s own contribution.

Lack of Managerial Support

ComplaintPositive Approach
Poor working relationshipsNot everyone in the workplace is going to get along all the time. Be aware of what is going on within your team. Have zero tolerance for workplace bullying or verbal abuse. Let staff know they can come to you if they are feeling uncomfortable at work.
Not dealing with complaints at early stagesIf an employee airs a complaint or grievance then ensure you deal with it in a timely fashion. Failure do this will discourage them from coming to you in future as they feel their voice isn’t heard.
Inadequate communication styleCommunicating with your staff in an appropriate way, not all staff members are the same and they will react in different ways. Getting to know your staff and understanding how to tailor the way you communicate with them as individuals will avoid potential and needless stress to them.
Lack of information sharingIf there are changes happening within the business, then discuss this openly with staff. Leaving them confused and guessing causes distress within the workplace. Don’t keep them in the dark.
Lack of encouragementWhen staff are doing well tell them, take time to let them know you appreciate their efforts. Encourage them in their career, help with promotion applications and further training.

The first steps in curing this epidemic is opening up the conversation, speaking to managers and communicating effectively with staff, taking extra training where needed and referring to relevant support agencies if required will all contribute to creating a happier and more productive workplace. Complaints of stress within the workplace should be treated with the same regard as a physical illness and every step should be taken to help relieve the situation.

Keeli MacMillan