Workplace Stress

What is Workplace Stress?

There is a difference between stress and pressure. We all experience pressure on a daily basis, and need it to motivate us and enable us to perform at our best. It is when we experience too much pressure without the opportunity to recover that we start to experience stress.

The HSE definition of stress is ‘the adverse reaction a person has to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them’. We can all feel stressed at times when we feel as though everything becomes too much, when things get on top of us, or when we feel as though we are unable to cope.

Stress affects us in different ways at different times and is often the result of a combination of factors in our personal and working lives. Work-related stress can be tackled by working with your employer to identify issues at source and agreeing realistic and workable ways to tackle these.

Signs in an Employee

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

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  • being withdrawn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

Signs of Stress in Teams

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

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

How you might feel

If you are starting to suffer from unmanageable stress in the workplace, you might experience feelings of one or more from the list below:

  • irritable, aggressive, impatient or wound up
  • pressured and over-burdened
  • anxious, nervous or scared
  • like your thoughts are racing and you just cannot switch off
  • unable to enjoy yourself
  • depressed
  • uninterested in life
  • like you have lost your sense of humour
  • a sense of dread
  • worried about your health
  • neglected or lonely.

Physical signs

There are also a number of physical signs attributed to unmanageable stress in the workplace, you might experience on or more from the list below:

  • shallow breathing or hyperventilating
  • you might experience a panic attack
  • muscle tension and fatigue
  • blurred eyesight or sore, weepy eyes
  • problems getting to sleep/insomnia, staying asleep or having nightmares
  • sexual problems, such as losing interest in sex or being unable to enjoy sex
  • tired all the time
  • teeth grinding or jaw clenching
  • headaches and increased migraines
  • chest pains and palpitations
  • high blood pressure
  • indigestion or heartburn
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • feeling sick, dizzy or fainting.