Work-related stress – and how to identify it

Posted on 1st May, 2015 | By Lorretta Tatham

Stress is now the biggest cause of sickness in the UK, with over 105 million working days lost to stress every year.

While it can have a negative impact on businesses and profits, it also causes detrimental changes in those experiencing it.

It is important to identify the symptoms early on so that action can be taken and stress can be reduced, or ideally eliminated completely.

Recent research by mental health charity Mind, revealed that one in ten people resigned from a job due to stress, while one in four had considered doing so due to the pressures they face at work.

A large majority of respondents also highlighted the importance of their employer in helping them deal with stress.

These respondents said that if their employer were to take action to minimise workplace stress they’d feel happier, more loyal and motivated at work.

Causes of workplace stress

Simple as it sounds the causes of workplace stress are usually caused by one of three things – work pressure, lack of support from the team or manager or bullying.

All three issues are very sensitive and because of this they’re unlikely to be raised between manager and employee in fear that the person may look weak, unable to cope or a troublemaker.

Spotting the signs

Stress can manifest itself in many ways and is largely down to personality type.

Therefore, managers need to be aware of a vast array of behaviours and symptoms and consider changes in one’s behaviour over time.

It’s this change in behaviour that suggests something isn’t right and may therefore be linked to excessive pressures. Common behaviours include:

  • Negative or depressive attitude or approach to work
  • Disappointment in oneself or heavily criticising oneself
  • Highly emotional / mood swings – sensitive, angry, snappy or tearful
  • Withdrawn behaviour with little enthusiasm for the job or socialising with others
  • Confusion and inability to grasp concepts properly
  • Inability to make decisions and deal with the pressures that come with decision-making
  • Poor concentration and failure to deliver on projects

It’s important to consider why an individual may be exhibiting this behaviour.

If they’ve gone from being a high performer to continually making mistakes this may be a result of stress.

Likewise, if a fairly quiet employee starts exhibiting frustration or annoyance it’s unlikely they’ve been hiding these traits all along – rather they’re suffering from stress.

An individual may also be able to identify that they’re suffering from stress if their eating habits change, sleeping habits change or if they begin to notice changes in their emotions or behaviour.

Dealing with stress

Employers have a duty to ensure the health and wellbeing of staff and should conduct risk assessments for work-related stress.

Through regular meetings and appraisals with staff, employers should be able to identify any potential issues and take measures to remove the stresses.

If you’re suffering from stress yourself it’s good practise to learn how to say no.

It doesn’t have to be a negative word and it can safeguard your wellbeing.

If you take the strategy of saying yes all the time eventually you’ll take on too much and fail to deliver – so it’s important to have the confidence to say no and speak out.

If you can explain your reasoning in a specific and measurable way – while offering another solution – your manager should have no problems with your response.

Other alternatives are booking an appointment with your doctor to seek help, or discussing the matter with HR.

How does your workplace look after its employees and minimise the risks of stress? Share your tips in the comments below or tweet us @BrownsLadders

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