Definition

Stress is something a person feels when excessive pressure or demands are placed upon them. Stress is a funny thing. Having some in the workplace is normal. We need it both for motivation and to improve our performance, but too much stress can have the opposite effect on both. While a high level of stress can boarder on feelings of fatigue and overload, staying in the sweet spot just before that can lead us to optimal levels of performance. Too much however, and we can quickly crash into sickness, anxiety and burnout. Stress affects people differently. What stresses one person may not affect another. Factors like skills and experience, age or disability may all affect whether an employee can cope. Employers should match positions to employees’ skills and knowledge. 

There are many areas which can effect stress levels such as:

  • Change
  • Control
  • Demands
  • Relationships
  • Role
  • Support

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Signs & Symptoms

If employees start acting differently, it can be a sign they are stressed. Managers should look out for signs of stress in teams and employees, listed below. Think about whether the stress could be linked to work pressure.These signs can be symptoms of other conditions. If there is something wrong at work, and this has caused the problem, managers should take action.

There may be signs of stress in a team, like:

  • Arguments
  • Higher turnover
  • More sickness
  • Absence
  • Decreased performance
  • More complaints and grievances

A change in the way an employee acts can be a sign of stress:

  • Take more time off
  • Arrive for work later
  • Be more twitchy or nervous
A change in the way someone thinks or feels can also be a sign of stress:
  • Mood swings
  • Being withdrawn
  • Loss of motivation
  • Commitment and confidence increased
  • Emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive

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Cause

Workplace stressors can be broken down into psycho-social or physical.

Psycho-social stressors are, arguably, the most predominant stress factors. These include high job demands, inflexible working hours, poor job control, poor work design and structure, bullying, harassment, and job insecurity.

Physical stressors can include noise, poor lighting, poor office or work layout, and ergonomic factors, such as bad working postures. 

Diagnosis

Treatment

Employers must assess the risks of work-related stress in their workplace and take action to protect employees. If managers are worried that an employee is showing some of the above signs, they should encourage their employee to see their GP. 

An employees might feel stressed if they don’t have the skills or time to meet tight deadlines. Providing planning, training and support can reduce pressure and bring stress levels down.

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Prevention

 Acting early can reduce the impact of pressure and make it easier to reduce or remove the causes. 

Related Considerations

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