Stress in the Workplace

The legal definition of workplace stress is “the harmful physical and emotional response that occurs when an employee is not able to cope with the job demands. It is due to the mismatch between the job demands and the capabilities of the worker”. Over 11 million days are lost at work a year because of stress at work. As well as lost workdays, work related stress can result in lower productivity and a higher turnover of staff.

While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with productivity and performance as well as impacting physical and emotional health as well as affecting relationships and home life. Signs of stress may include feelings of anxiety, loss of confidence, tiredness, trouble concentrating etc.

In today’s climate, with more and more pressure being placed on organisations to run more efficiently and effectively, the pressure is being pushed onto employees who need to work harder, quicker etc. Redundancies and restructures are common place in most organisations and employees are required to adapt to frequent change.

Some common causes of workplace stress can include:

  • Fear of being made redundant
  • More overtime due to staff cutbacks
  • Pressure to perform to meet rising expectations but with no increase in job satisfaction
  • Pressure to work at optimum levels—all the time!
  • Lack of control over work

What can employers do to reduce workplace stress?

  • Employers should encourage employees to communicate and explain how they are feeling during one to one meetings, group meetings and informal / social interactions. The act of talking it out and getting support can be a highly effective way of de-stressing.
  • Employers should be mindful of the wellbeing of staff throughout their work life. Employers should encourage employees to take breaks away from their desks, adequate exercise (for example, lunchtime running clubs, onsite gyms), good nutrition (for example, providing healthy food in an office canteen, free fruit) etc. Larger organisations sometimes go one step further and offer massages, chill out areas, reflexology, meditation sessions etc.
  • Employers should also give employees the opportunities to participate in decisions which may affect their jobs. If they are involved, they are more likely to be committed and feel like they have control over the situation.

Workplace stress is not limited to one type of industry or one size of organisation. All Employers need to be mindful of their employees and their wellbeing. Communication is key in terms of talking to employees about how they are feeling and if they are feeling supported by an organisation when it comes to workplace stress.