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How well do you manage employee workplace stress?

Over 11 million working days are still being lost because of stress at work. As an employer, it is important to take responsibility for ensuring your staff are happy and healthy. 

You should appreciate that some stress isn’t a bad thing, as it is known to improve productivity and employee focus. However, when stress starts to negatively impact your staff’s performance, health and wellbeing or their home life, you should quickly identify the cause, and the steps needed to be taken to reduce stress the workplace for your staff. 

What is workplace stress?

Workplace stress is defined as the harmful reaction that people have to undue pressure and demands placed on them at work. Our report, Mental Health in the Workplace, revealed that more than four in ten employees have suffered from stress.

In the last five years, over half of those employees interviewed said that their jobs have become more stressful. With a clear correlation between stress and mental health conditions, identifying the main causes of stress in the workplace is the important being able to offer support.

How much do you know about workplace stress? Take our quiz!

What are the causes of stress at work?

With 70% of employees suffering from a mental health condition, identifying the leading causes of stress in the workplace is important so, as an employer, you can take proactive steps to minimise or eliminate the risk all together. Our research found that the most common cause of stress included:

1. Increased workload 

Employees today feel that a good work-life balance is more important than salary, which is why a survey found that 61% of workers would quit their jobs or consider doing so because their job didn’t offer them the flexibility. In our mental health report, we found that increased workloads were the biggest cause of stress, with 38.2% of employees citing this as the main cause of mental health issues in the workplace. Increased workload is associated with reduced levels of productivity, higher levels of fatigue and a higher risk of employee burnout.

2. Financial concerns 

For the first time ever, businesses can be employing up to five generations of staff. However, regardless of what generation, money is a important to everyone. For some, the worry of money can be a big part of day-to-day life. For younger generations, there is a constant struggle to overcome student debt, that’s higher than ever before, while trying to save for life milestones like buying a first home.

For some, that first home can take up to ten years to save for. Older generations however tend to have a higher number of debts including mortgages, car payments and credit cards, but can also face family financial burdens. Some older employees can be squeezed through having elderly parents who require their financial support for care while also supporting dependent children who are either still at school or at university. Financial concerns can dominate an employee's mind and lead to a lack of concentration, poor productivity and also affect their short and long term health and wellbeing.

3. Hitting deadlines 

When an employee is facing multiple tight deadlines, it can put an extreme level of pressure on them and sometimes the cause is something completely out of their control. Many roles can have deliverables which are important for other internal stakeholders and in a culture of “my work is the most important” it can be very easy for an employee to become overwhelmed and unnecessarily stressed by constant chasers and follow ups from colleagues. Employees can also have feel like they have an obligation to work late or over weekends in order to complete all of their work. This can put a strain on relationships at home and compound the problem.

4. Workplace bullying 

Also known as a "silent epidemic", many organisations do not have a clear approach for addressing and tackling the problem. Workplace bullying can take many different forms, however employers sometimes struggle proving that it has taken place. Some more common examples include: 

  • Spreading harmful or hurtful rumours

  • Deliberately excluding someone socially

  • Threatening behaviour

  • Physical abuse

  • Changing roles and responsibilities maliciously or with no reason

Employees who are suffering from workplace bullying are likely to be feel helpless, have a lower level of confidence, and may even show signs of anger towards colleagues through frustration. However, workplace bullying has been associated with more serious conditions such as depression, PTSD and even heart attacks. As an employer it is essential that you learn to identify the warning signs that an employee might be suffering from bullying from a colleague and put an action plan in place to address it as quickly as possible. Learn more about how to tackle workplace bullying in our full article.

How to identify if your employees might be suffering from workplace stress

Each employee will handle stress in their own way, but there are some key signs that as an employer you should look out for:

1. Working long hours 

Employees who are stressed through an unmanageable workload will likely work longer hours than normal. As their manager, you may see emails consistently being sent after hours or on weekends.

2. Higher levels of absenteeism 

Staff who are over stressed are more likely to be susceptible to suffering from both physical and mental illness. Stressed employees may not be getting a good balance of rest and relaxation which can lead them being more likely to pick up sickness bugs and general infections. Stress can also be a precursor to more serious mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

3. Higher staff turnover 

Companies that have a high level of workplace stress are more likely to see higher turnover rates than organisations that offer more flexible working. As an employer, you can gain some insight by investigating exactly who is leaving. It might be that one department has a higher turnover than another, or that the leavers are all coming from one particular team.

How to help manage employee stress at work

As an employer, it is important that you have a strategy in place to reduce your employees stress at work. Here are four things you can do to reduce stress at the work.

1. Offer support 

Due to the complex and sensitive nature of some of the side effects of employee stress, it’s not uncommon that you might feel ill equipped to offer the level of support you feel the member of staff requires. There are specialist organisations who employers can turn to who will be able to offer the support and advice that your staff need. When looking for a provider of this service, you might want to consider whether they offer 24/7 telephone support as the team member affected might feel more comfortable raising an issue anonymously than raising it through their manager.

2. Encourage flexible working

For many, a typical 9 – 5 day is no longer suitable for everyone with child and caring commitments for many. Flexible working can grant your staff the ability to manage their own time and offer them a greater sense of control over their working day. This will likely lead to a higher level of productivity.

3. Respect your employees' personal time 

As an employer it is important to recognise your employees need time away from work. This might be ensuring that they always take time away from their desk for their lunch, encouraging 10-15 minute walks throughout the day, or promoting leaving on time. There might be times where this isn’t always feasible however it is important that you promote a culture of flexibility and a balanced working day as the norm.

4. Start an exercise class at lunchtime

As well as being great for your physical health, exercise has also been shown to reduce stress at work due to reduced fatigue, increased alertness and concentration and a higher level of cognitive function. As an employer, you should encourage your staff to exercise as much as possible. Some businesses have found success through staff run exercise classes, including group runs, circuit training and yoga and Pilates. Not only is this great for team building across departments, it also helps your staff stay fit and healthy.


Our business healthcare

Benenden Healthcare for Business provides an affordable, high quality, private healthcare solution to support all your employees. With easy setup and no exclusions on pre-existing medical conditions, we want to help make healthcare a standard of employment for everyone, rather than just a perk for the few. See how we can help you develop a healthcare solution that works for your whole business.