In the final blog in our three-part series on stress in the workplace (read part two here), we focus on spotting the signs of and managing stress in the workplace.

With various studies suggesting that the workplace is becoming a more stressful place, it’s understandable that stress related absenteeism in the UK is also on the rise. Figures indicate that up to 40 per cent of workplace sickness in the UK is stress related, with 42 per cent of employers also stating that they have seen a rise in stress-induced days off.

It’s not always possible to spot the signs of stress as everyone copes with stress in different ways. Even asking an employee or a colleague if they’re stressed is also no guarantee that they’ll tell you how they’re really feeling. Despite this there are some signs that may be noticeable:

  • Sickness levels (in the last six years the number of working days lost to stress, depression and anxiety has increased by 24 per cent)
  • Low morale
  • Unhappy or hostile work environment
  • Low productivity
  • High staff turnover (a quarter of people consider resigning due to stress)
  • Low company loyalty

Employers should play an active part in helping their staff manage their workplace stress, and empower their employees to become confident at managing their stress levels. After all, if an organisation’s employees are suffering from stress, this could harm overall productivity and profit, especially if a member of staff leaves the organisation as a result of ill health. This will result in the company having to pay to recruit and train a replacement employee.

Work-life balance

Managing a healthy work-life balance is not always an easy thing to achieve, especially when some people feel it may negatively impact their career if they’re not seen to be working long hours. Despite this it’s important employees find a balance that allows them to effectively switch off when they leave the office and not dread their workload in the morning.

Organise. Plan. Prioritise

Being as effective as possible in the workplace can help reduce stress levels and ultimately help employees establish a healthier work-life balance. Allocating times to check emails, creating a to-do list to plan the working day, and prioritising tasks/deadlines are examples of strategies that can help employees cope with workplace stress.

Take time off

Rest is an important part of maintaining positive wellbeing and reducing stress levels. Therefore it’s essential that employees should always use their full holiday entitlement each year. However, recent research that appeared in The London Economic (TLE), suggests that the average Brit is only able to relax for 11 days a year. This is because many workers use their annual leave to complete chores and take personal appointments that they simply cannot get done while at work. Although it may be tempting to use your annual leave in small chunks to complete tasks, this does not give you enough time to rest and re-energise. Therefore it is recommended that you allocate some of your annual leave to be used towards an extended break, such as a full week off work.

Report negative relationships

Stress caused by negative relationships can leave employees feeling that their only option is to find a new job and resign from their role. However employees should not feel like this is their only option, especially as under the Equality Act 2010 some forms of workplace harassment are actually illegal.

Advice from recommends that anyone who is subjected to workplace bullying should firstly try to sort out the problem informally. If the employee does not feel confident about doing this, it is recommended that the employee document all instances of negative behaviour against them and involve Human Resources or senior management where appropriate. More information on dealing with workplace bullying and harassment is available here.

Sources (2014) Workplace bullying and harassment

Huffington Post (2013) Stress At Work On The Increase, Claims CIPD

Monster (2015) How Can I Manage My Stress Levels at Work?

Stress Management Society (n.d.) Signs of stress

The London Economic (2015) New research on how we spend annual leave

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