Workplace stress will always be present and in small doses it can even be a good thing for productivity and creativity. There's a fine line between healthy stress and too much stress that can lead to mental health problems. When employees become too stressed, it takes a toll on them personally, as well as the overall health of the company. To make sure you have a happy, healthy, and engaged workforce, stress management is a must.
With the amount of time we spend at work, it is hardly surprising that stress can become a workplace issue. Work-related stress is defined as a harmful reaction people can have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work.
It definitely isn't a rare occurrence either, as over half a million workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017, equating to 12.5 million working days being lost as a result.
There are certain factors that can lead to work-related stress - factors that managers should keep an eye on to prevent problems getting out of control:
Demands: This includes issues such as your team workload, their work patterns and the working environment.
Control: The level of control you give your team when it comes to the way they do their work.
Support: The encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by managers for their team.
Relationships: Promoting a positive working environment avoids conflict and deals with unacceptable behaviour.
Role: Make sure your team know what their role is within the organisation to ensure they have clarity of their position and prevents them from being 'stretched too thin' due to conflicting roles.
Change: How you manage and implement organisational change has a massive impact on your team.
Behavioural changes don't automatically mean stress, but any changes need to be noted and examined so you can work out the cause. The earlier you can spot stress, the easier it is to control the situation.
- Sleeping difficulties
Stress can cause people to struggle when it comes to sleeping because it requires them to switch off. With nothing to distract them, it allows their thoughts to take over, which is when anxiety and worries can get worse.
Failing to get a good night's sleep then causes more stress because you wake up with an energy deficiency that could mean your work level decreases, making you stress more because you're struggling to meet deadlines. It really is a never-ending vicious cycle.
2. Lack of punctuality
Timekeeping becomes an issue when stress takes its toll. This is because the individual takes on too many tasks, allowing things to get on top of them. As a result, you can quickly find yourself feeling overwhelmed.
3. Lack of presence
If you're stressed, you tend to miss work more than you would normally. This is because individuals may be trying to avoid a difficult situation or may find themselves in a rut they can't get out of, such as using alcohol as a coping mechanism.
People tend to isolate themselves if they are feeling stressed. The individual's self-esteem and confidence may have taken a hit, and for this reason they don't feel capable of coping with social situations. Their confidence is feeling fragile, and as a result they avoid anything that might push this.
Looking after ourselves is something that a lot of people neglect. There will be times when work pushes us to our limits, causing stress, and in order to do this healthily you need to balance it out with periods of rest so that your mind and body can recover. Failure to do this can lead to burnout and chronic fatigue, and a state of constant stress.
6. Addictive/Excessive Behaviour
If you are suffering from stress, you often don't realise it. This inability to recognise stress, or having no idea how to deal with it can lead people to look to short term solutions. Although this can have a temporary fix, it tends to have a damaging impact in the long term.
One of the most common coping mechanisms is alcohol. Alcohol can produce a temporary benefit for the individual, but it can also be highly addictive and fails to resolve any problems - instead just making you feel better in the short term.
7. Unhealthy eating
Comfort food is a term thrown around all too often and is usually turned to as a solution for stressful situations. Convenience food can make you feel better in the moment, but the high levels of sugars, salts and fats mean that it does your body no good, and can lead to further mental health problems too.
Comparatively, some people avoid eating altogether when they're stressed. They might be experiencing a suppressed appetite, developing a negative association with food, or be low in body confidence. Whatever the reaction, the consequences of avoiding food can be just as devastating as indulging in it excessively.
8. Risk taking behaviour
Individuals may be experiencing a low sense of self-worth or a lack of excitement, which can lead to them feeling the need for a 'buzz'. However, this 'buzz' may only be achieved through dangerous actions.
Gambling is strong symptom of stress as people could turn to the excitement of a potential win as a way of channelling their stress. As the slogan suggests though, "When the fun stops, stop" – the gambling can soon lose its thrill, and you're left with a damaged bank account and a sore head.
Stress can cause people to lose concentration at times, and when this is lost, accidents happen. In certain workplaces, usually manual industries, it can result in accidents that can sometimes have fatal results.
Along with reduced concentration, the individual could be overworked, poorly trained, or displaying risk-taking behaviour; all of these factors can be contributory factors in stress.
10. High turnover in the workplace
Stressed employees tend to be unhappy in their work situation, and due to failing to have a point of contact in the workplace, they simply look elsewhere for work. Having employees constantly come and go is a tell-tale sign that you're running a stressed workforce.
Looking out for these Symptoms
Many people feel too embarrassed or ashamed to open up about their stress, which means it is all the more important that we know the signs to look out for. By making it a more open conversation, it takes away the attitude that is a taboo subject, and as a result, more people can open up and combat problems before they escalate.
Understanding stress means that people can identify what others are going through, and from there they can point them towards the right channels for help, whether that is a colleague, a friend, or their GP.
Additionally, knowing the symptoms of stress can allow you to notice if you're suffering personally, and from there you can identify it early and take appropriate action.
The key to stress management is communication – a problem shared is a problem halved.