Effectively handling stress in the workplace is vital.

According to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, or NICE for short, approximately 13.7 million working days are lost in the U.K every year to work related illness, leading to loss of productivity and having a negative impact on the economy as a whole.

Furthermore, an estimated 442,000 individuals who responded to a Labour Force survey for the Office of National Statistics in 2007/2008 believed they were suffering from work-related stress, at a level serious enough to make them ill, resulting in time off work.

These figures do not make good reading for anybody, never mind those who are in positions of responsibility for the health and wellbeing of the workforce, for example company directors, HR Managers and anybody who deals with the personnel of an organisation.

So how can we take a more responsible approach to ensuring our employees do not become ill through their work? What is the magic formula to achieving optimum production levels whilst keeping stress and burnout at bay? How are we supposed to be handling stress in the workplace?

Here at Wellspace we think we have the answers in how to balance productivity without compromising your employee’s health and wellbeing. Want to find out more? Read on…

woman at laptop looking stressed for blog on handling stress in the workplace

What Causes Stress in the Workplace?

First of all, let’s take a look at what causes stress levels to rise to unhealthy levels within organisations.

Of course excessive work levels are the first thing that spring to mind, and whilst setting achievable targets has to be part of the business environment, (otherwise how would you ever move forward?), having unrealistic goals and expectations can pile on the pressure, leading to stress and anxiety, which is never a good idea.

To counter that argument of course, if individuals do not feel stimulated in their working environment or have goals to work towards can lead to stress and anxiety in a slightly different way, (but nevertheless still have a negative impact), as their self-esteem suffers, and they feel undervalued or incompetent at work.

In addition, having an inadequate or ineffective management structure can lead to a lack of direction and discord; a culture of bullying and harassment can take hold, and employees become fearful, leading to a rise in absenteeism.

Other factors leading to anxiety and stress in the workplace can include a lack of job security, staff bringing personal problems in to work, an inferior working environment with no employee facilities and a lack of training or company appraisals.

person at computer typing for blog on handling stress in the workplace

So as you can see, there are many factors that can lead to stress in the workplace; there is not just one cause, and it is a permanent balancing act ensuring your workforce remains healthy, happy and productive.


What are the Symptoms of Stress?

Spotting that an employee is suffering from stress in the workplace is not always easy; people can hide their feelings very well, which again, is not healthy and particularly counterproductive. Oftentimes, managers only realise there is something wrong once the individual takes time off and the sick note appears on their desk on Monday morning.


Some of the early signs to look out for include;

  • Fatigue – employees being excessively tired, especially first thing in the morning when you should feel most refreshed.
  • Gastro problems or other physical symptoms – If an employee is constantly having to take time off for acute problems such as diarrhoea / stomach cramps / head aches / muscle soreness these can all be related to, and caused by, a deeper issue of stress and anxiety. Or, they could be a cover up for just not being able to face coming in.
  • Withdrawal from peer group – Any withdrawal from colleagues, or a person seemingly quieter than normal is one of the easiest signs to spot. Of course it could be that they just want time on their own for a little while. But observing your employee’s regular behaviour, and noticing any change is a good way to recognise when there may be underlying issues, causing them to retreat in to their own ‘safe space’.
  • Poor time keeping – If an employee is always late, or similarly, working late, these can be signs of home related issues or having an excessive workload, and can be a precursor to stress.

woman behind a stack of books for blog on handling stress in the workplace

There are lots of indications to be aware of, and the HSE have information and resources available to assist any employer or HR Manager recognise the signs and symptoms, hopefully before it’s too late.


How to Handle Stress in the Workplace


Once you recognise that stress in the workplace is a real and serious issue that contributes to absenteeism, there are ways of managing this issue, and you can put measures in place to counteract any factors negatively affecting your workforce:


  • Have a strong and united management structure-lead from the top with compassion and empathy.
  • Set realistic goals and targets-don’t overburden your team, it is counterproductive.
  • Hold regular 360-degree appraisals, where your employees are at liberty to appraise YOU. Encourage this in a positive manner, where you are working to achieving the same goals and it is seen as collaborative working, rather than a ‘them and us’ mentality.
  • Encourage break times, and a culture where people finish on time. This includes you. It’s no good looking like a martyr and working late every night when you are encouraging people to leave on time. If you are really that stretched, maybe look at taking on a temp or redistributing your workload.
  • Encourage an environment where staff feel like they can speak to a supervisor at any time, and not just about work-related issues. When people have problems at home, they generally can’t leave them behind, and this will be a distraction during the working day. Encourage an open-door policy, so people are not afraid to offload their troubles. This will have a positive impact on productivity.
  • Encourage a positive approach to physical and social health. Have a selection of healthy snacks available and encourage walking groups or other social events at lunches and breaktimes.
  • Invest in the Wellspace App. This highly effective portal is a perfect tool for Company Directors and HR Managers to support their employees through our three pillars of health There are exciting and informative ways to encourage health and wellbeing among company employees, and a reward scheme set up with leading retailers to inspire and motivate staff. This innovative scheme focusses on behavioural change and the company culture being more driven towards healthy minds and healthy bodies, which ultimately leads to reduced levels of stress and work-related illness and therefore reduces absenteeism.


Contact us


So if you are concerned that work-place stress is affecting your business, and is leading to illness and absenteeism, then why not give us a call on 0808 178 0748 or contact us here for more information. Our expert team will be delighted to chat to you and we can work together to make the workplace less stressful and a more enjoyable place to be!