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Stress at Work

As we enter 2022 we all seriously need to look at Stress and what we can do about it individually and what we can do to reduce it at work.

It’s a HUGE problem.

At the end on 2021 I worked with many companies putting together stress and well-being policies and procedures to help protect the business and more importantly the staff members. Below is some information that you may find interesting from the HSE:

What is stress?

HSE defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.

Workers feel stress when they can’t cope with pressures and other issues. Employers should match demands to workers’ skills and knowledge. For example, workers can get stressed if they feel 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.

Stress affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another. Factors like skills and experience, age or disability may all affect whether a worker can cope.

There are six main areas of work design which can effect stress levels. You should manage these properly. They are: demands | control | support | relationships | role | change

Employers should assess the risks in these areas to manage stress in the workplace.

Stress in the workplace

Signs of stress

Stress is not an illness but it can make you ill. Recognising the signs of stress will help employers to take steps to stop, lower and manage stress in their workplace.

Causes of stress at work

There are six main areas that can lead to work-related stress if they are not managed properly. These are: demands, control, support, relationships, role and change.

For example, workers may say that they:

  • are not able to cope with the demands of their jobs
  • are unable to control the way they do their work
  • don’t receive enough information and support
  • are having trouble with relationships at work, or are being bullied
  • don’t fully understand their role and responsibilities
  • are not engaged when a business is undergoing change

Stress affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another. Factors like skills and experience, age or disability may all affect whether a worker can cope.

By talking to your workers and understanding how to identify the signs of stress, you can prevent and reduce stress in your workplace.

Signs of stress

If workers start acting differently, it can be a sign they are stressed. Managers should look out for signs of stress in teams and workers, listed below. Think about whether the stress could be linked to work pressure.

Acting early can reduce the impact of pressure and make it easier to reduce or remove the causes. If managers are worried that a worker is showing some of these signs, they should encourage them to see their GP. 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.

Signs of stress in teams

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

  • arguments
  • higher staff turnover
  • more reports of stress
  • more sickness absence
  • decreased performance
  • more complaints and grievances

Employers must assess the risks of work-related stress in their workplace and take action to protect workers.

Signs of stress in a worker

A change in the way someone acts can be a sign of stress, for example they may:

  • 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, for example:

  • mood swings
  • being withdrawn
  • loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
  • increased emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive

Physical sensations:

  • Shallow breathing or hyperventilating.
  • You might have a panic attack.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Blurred eyesight or sore eyes.
  • Problems getting to sleep, staying asleep or having nightmares.
  • Sexual problems, such as losing interest in sex or being unable to enjoy sex.

Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it.

If you have fewer than five workers you don’t have to write anything down. But it is useful to do this, so you can review it later, for example if something changes. If you have five or more workers, you are required by law to write the risk assessment down.

Any paperwork you produce should help you communicate and manage the risks in your business. For most people this does not need to be a big exercise – just note the main points about the significant risks and what you decided.

There is a link from the HSE that will enable you to carry out a risk assessment


Workplace stress

Help for workers on stress at work

Spotting signs of stress

If you are stressed you may notice changes in the way you think or feel, for example:

  • feeling negative
  • being indecisive
  • feeling isolated
  • feeling nervous
  • being unable to concentrate

You may act differently, for example:

  • eat more or less than usual
  • smoke, drink or take drugs ‘to cope’
  • have difficulty sleeping

If you are feeling signs of stress at work, it is important to talk to someone, for example your manager. If you talk to them as soon as possible, it will give them the chance to help and stop the situation getting worse.

If the pressure is due to what your line manager is doing, find out what policies are in place to deal with this. If there aren’t any, you could talk to your:

  • trade union representative
  • worker representative
  • HR department
  • worker assistance programme/counselling service if your company has these or
  • GP

Countless employees find themselves feeling stressed and overburdened as a result of too much pressure at work. In an attempt to appease the demands of your superiors and advance your career it can be tempting to bite off more than you can chew – especially in a busy, understaffed environment.

A simple yet effective solution is to set boundaries. What exactly is a boundary, though?

Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.

In the context of the workplace, a boundary lets your employers know what they can and can’t expect from you. If you tell them categorically that you can’t work weekends, a firm boundary will ensure that they don’t ask you to. It’s important to set boundaries to ensure that, whatever the demands of the company you work for, they know that you have needs to be met, too.

Spend some time considering what kind of boundaries would suit your working life. Which boundaries could you put in place in order to reduce your stress levels? Which ones, if put in place, would improve your mental wellbeing?

Once you’ve decided, have a conversation with your management team about putting those boundaries into action. Be honest, friendly and open about it. They should understand your concerns and take measures to make things easier for you.


Work shouldn’t be your life. It’s a part of your life, but there’s more to life than simply working all of the time. That being said, it’s a good idea to consider how you spend your time when you’re not at work.

Your morning routine, for instance, will have a profound effect on your emotional health throughout the rest of your day. If you sleep in late, eat an unhealthy breakfast and leave yourself having to rush to work with no time, you’re likely to feel stressed before you even make it to work.

Practising yoga can help relieve stress after a long day at work

Instead of maintaining unhealthy habits, think about some ways in which you can incorporate stress-reducing activities into your time at home. Yoga, for instance, is a great way to de-stress after a long day’s work whilst also improving joint health and preventing the spinal damage associated with desk jobs.

Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to provide a wide range of benefits, ranging from stress reduction to neural recomposition. Incorporating it into your working life can help to bring peace, clarity and more enjoyment into your day-to-day routine.

Although most of us have heard of mindfulness, not everybody knows exactly what it is. Mindfulness, simply put, is the act of being present. Instead of losing yourself in your thoughts or worrying about your deadlines, being mindful is about focusing on one thing and one thing only. That is, right now.

Work-related stress is often chained to fears about the past or the future. We might worry that yesterday we didn’t meet the demands of our manager, and that tomorrow we have a twelve-hour shift to complete.

Mindfulness can reduce stress and increase clarity of thought

When those worrisome thoughts arise, just become aware of them. Notice that they’re pulling your focus away from the present moment and then reconnect to the things going on around you right now. Soon, your anxious mind will begin to quieten and your stress levels will lessen in intensity.

keeping healthy


Caffeine is a stimulate that can impact stress levels negatively

Unhealthy habits such as excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, eating junk food and not exercising will all impact your stress levels negatively. Even caffeine is a stimulant that can magnify underlying stress – so make that catch-up coffee a decaf. While these things might appear to help in the short-term, they’ll only create more stress for you in the future by harming your physical health.

Instead of relying on such habits as coping mechanisms, seek to replace them with healthy activities like exercise or meditation. Doing so will not only arm you with far more effective methods than those listed above, but also improve your overall health, wellbeing and peace of mind.


Reducing stress in the workplace isn’t just essential to the mental health and efficiency of employees, but it’s critical to the functioning of the company as a whole. Taking measures to mitigate tension at work will ensure that members of staff remain happy, motivated and pleased to work for the company they’re a part of.

Placing rigid requirements on employees and expecting them to work long hours at unsociable times is only likely to cause them unnecessary stress. Striking a balance between meeting both your organisation’s demands and the capabilities of your staff is one of many ways that employers can protect the mental wellbeing of their employees.

If your company model enables employees to have more flexibility, like the choice to work from home, for instance, then give them option. Even if it’s only for a couple of days each month, that opportunity could work wonders on their stress levels and overall happiness at work.

No workplace should feel like a prison cell. Understanding your employee’s needs and working to accommodate them whilst moving your company in the right direction will ensure that your staff remain happy, healthy and productive.

As well as that, hosting social events outside of work, expressing sincere appreciation to your employees and investing time and money into reducing stress in the workplace are all ways that employers can boost morale and improve mental health amongst staff members.


There’s no doubt that stress is an unwelcome guest in the workplace. Whether from the perspective of the employee or employer, excess pressure isn’t good for anything and will only detract from the happiness, healthiness and overall efficiency of members of staff.

By making use of the measures outlined above, reducing workplace stress is something that’s within all of our capabilities. Let’s start with learning how to recognise the symptoms of stress, then move on to identifying the root cause of the problem before finally taking action to address it. If this approach is embraced by all employees and supported by their employers, it could go some way to stamping out work-related stress once and for all.

Many workers are unwilling to talk about stress at work, because of the stigma stress has. But stress is not a weakness and can happen to anyone.

I hope you have found this blog useful, please contact us if you need any further support, thank you Jo