Spotting the signs of workplace stress

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8 ways to reduce stress in the workplace

Whether it's personal, family, or work-related, stress can be a big part of all our lives. As an employer, it is important for you to be able to recognise the signs of stress in those around you, particularly your employees. But how do you do this? And what do you do once you spot the signs?

How to recognise stress?

It is important to realise that you know your people best. Some people are quieter than others which is to be expected. To recognise those feeling stressed you need to be on the lookout for those whose behaviour has changed. 

Is your typically happy employee suddenly unusually quiet or are they getting angry or upset about things that they have not before? Is their mood changing more frequently than normal – one minute they are happy and the next they are tearful?

If yes,  they may be feeling symptoms of stress and struggling to cope with or to address this.

Is there a change in output or motivation?

Is your reliable or overachieving employee missing deadlines or producing less work than before? Has the quality of their work declined, or are they having difficulty concentrating in meetings? Are they struggling to remember what to do on a piece of work they have done many times before? These are all cognitive signs of stress. 

Are they notably less motivated in the work they are doing, or less focussed on their career development perhaps? They could be disinterested, or even spreading negative messages across the business. All of these could be indications that your employee is feeling stressed and may need some support and in the case of spreading negative messages across the business could be damaging to others or employee morale.

Is there a change in the working pattern?

Is the person working longer hours than normal? Are they missing lunch or avoiding taking time off? This could be because they are feeling overwhelmed or struggling with their workload. Are they visibly tired, or do they show a lack of energy? Are they arriving late with a poor excuse or reason? Lack of sleep is a symptom of stress as you can feel so overwhelmed that your mind finds it hard to switch off.

Have they been taking more absences than usual, particularly last minute or for a variety of different reasons – have they mentioned any of the physical symptoms of stress - agitation, dizziness, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, palpitations, sweating, nausea, stomachache, muscle tension or shaking / stiffness which may be causing other health problems and causing absence.

8 ways to help your people?

  1. Talk to them – try to understand what the root cause of their stress is.
  2. If it is work-related is there anything that you can do or change to support them even for a brief period to give them some respite from the cause?
  3. If it is outside your sphere of influence (personal / family related) then sometimes the simple act of speaking to you and receiving some understanding and compassion will help them to work out the best way forward.
  4. Irrespective of the underlying cause of the stress, consider what services you offer as a business. What can you signpost them to that could help? Do you have an Employee Assistance Programme or Mental Health First Aiders for example?
  5. Consider if you can offer them some flexibility around their working pattern to give them time to deal with what is causing them stress.
  6. Talk to them about taking control over what they can directly influence whilst accepting that there are things they cannot change.
  7. Encourage them to make time for themselves and connect with people to be more active and challenge themselves in other areas, or maybe try something new.
  8. Encourage them to prioritise their diary and plan ahead (particularly if the stress is being caused by perceived issues in the workplace.

Whilst the above techniques will help in most cases, there may be occasions where their stress levels are so high that they may need intervention from their GP (General Practitioner). Encourage them to speak to them if the management techniques do not work for them or if they are unable to lessen the feeling of stress. 

It is important to note that stress affects everyone differently. Some people thrive on stress and getting things done at the last minute, whereas others require plenty of time to prepare and plan for something. Not all of the above changes will be evident in everyone, and you know your employees best, so look for the warning signs and encourage open conversations with them. 

Remember, stress manifests differently in everyone, so remain aware of subtle changes and foster an environment of open communication. Lastly, prioritise your well-being as an employer to effectively support your people through stressful times.

How we can help you

If you're unsure about the best strategies for supporting your employees through stressful times or need assistance implementing effective initiatives, don't hesitate to get in touch. We can tailor solutions to meet the specific needs of your workforce to help create a supportive environment where employees can thrive.

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