"The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work."
Stress is not an illness – it is a state.
However, if stress becomes too excessive and prolonged, mental and physical illness may develop.
Work is generally good for people if it is well designed, but it can also be a great source of pressure. There is a difference between pressure and stress. Pressure can be positive and a motivating factor, and is often essential in a job. It can help us achieve our goals and perform better. Stress occurs when this pressure becomes excessive. Stress is a natural reaction to too much pressure.
Stress can also result from having too few demands, as people will become bored, feel undervalued and lack recognition. If they feel they have little or no say over the work they do or how they do it, this may cause them stress.
their background and culture; their skills and experience; their personality; their personal circumstances; their individual characteristics; their health status; their ethnicity, gender, age or disability; and other demands both in and outside work.
As a manager you have a duty to ensure that work does not make your team ill. Understanding how to spot the signs of stress in your team, and then know what to do to reduce stress, will help you achieve this.
Negative or depressive feeling Disappointment with yourself Increased emotional reactions – more tearful or sensitive or aggressive Loneliness, withdrawn Loss of motivation commitment and confidence Mood swings (not behavioural)
Confusion, indecision Can’t concentrate Poor memory
Changes from your normal behaviour
Changes in eating habits Increased smoking, drinking or drug taking ‘to cope’ Mood swings effecting your behaviour Changes in sleep patterns Twitchy, nervous behaviour Changes in attendance such as arriving later or taking more time off.
Please note these are indicators of behaviour of those experiencing stress. They may also be indicative of other conditions. If you are concerned about yourself please seek advice from your GP. If you are concerned about a colleague try to convince them to see their GP.
Signs of stress in a group Disputes and disaffection within the group Increase in staff turnover Increase in complaints and grievances Increased sickness absence Increased reports of stress Difficulty in attracting new staff Poor performance Customer dissatisfaction or complaints
It is not up to you or your managers to diagnose stress. If you or they are very worried about a person, recommend they see their GP. It is up to you and your managers to recognise that behaviours have changed, be aware that something is wrong and take prompt action. Take care not to over react to small changes in behaviour. You and your managers need to act when these behavioural changes continue. Use these symptoms (both individual and group) as clues.
HSE has identified six factors that can lead to work related stress if they are not managed properly.
It is important to understand each of the six factors and how they are related to each other, as this can influence the amount of stress an individual experiences.
Employees indicate that they are able to cope with the demands of their jobs.
Employees indicate that they are able to have a say about the way they do their work.
Employees indicate that they receive adequate information and support from their colleagues and superiors.
Employees indicate that they are not subjected to unacceptable behaviours, e.g. bullying at work.
Employees indicate that they understand their role and responsibilities.
Employees indicate that the organisation engages them frequently when undergoing an organisational change.
Systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.
Understanding that these six factors can cause stress for employees can help managers and employees to answer the questions:
We have established good practice guidance for each of these factors. We hope that this helps everyone take a proactive approach to preventing and managing stress in your workplace.
Problems outside work can affect a person's ability to perform effectively at work. Stressors at home can affect those at work and vice versa. For example, working long hours, or away from home, taking work home and having higher responsibility can all have a negative effect on a person’s home life – something which is supposed to be a 'buffer' against the stressful events of work. In the same way, domestic problems such as childcare, financial or relationship problems can negatively affect a person’s work. The person loses out – as do their family and their employer. It becomes a vicious circle.
It is difficult to control outside stressors, but you need to take a holistic approach to employee well-being. To manage work related stress effectively, you need to recognise the importance and interaction of work and home problems.
Many things in people's lives outside work can cause them stress, for example:
Personal or social issues
Your employee is not obliged to tell you their personal problems, but there are some practical things you could do to support them:
Be sympathetic and proactive. Arrange a confidential meeting with the person, allowing them the opportunity to discuss any problems they wish and allowing you time to voice your own concerns. It may help to clarify whether the person’s problems are work related or personal. Be flexible. Consider offering the person more flexible working hours, or even offer them some paid time off to deal with their problems. Offer outside support. If appropriate, you could suggest they visit their doctor and allow them time off to do so. You could also suggest support groups. Outline the support and services your organisation offers. For example, your organisation may have a work–life balance initiative in place. These are benefits, policies, or programmes that help balance out job demands and a healthy life outside work. They can include:
childcare services; flexible working arrangements; family leave policies; employee assistance programmes; or fitness programmes.
Programmes of this kind can work effectively to
retain staff; improve morale; reduce sickness absence and stress; and increase productivity and commitment.
Certain information on this page has been sourced from the HSE website.
© 2021 Jon Kestell, Spiral Wellbeing, trading address 115 Marldon Road, Paignton TQ3 3NN. Providing staff training, wellbeing training, stress management and stress prevention courses throughout the UK, United Kingdom, England, Scotland and Wales.