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How to Help Your Employees Cope with Workplace Stress

By Angela Knox | Jan 3, 2022

Whether or not someone likes their job, most people would agree that work in general is extremely important for giving our lives structure, direction - even meaning.

A certain amount of pressure at work drives us to excel and perform to the best of our abilities.

But if the demands from colleagues, management and even ourselves become too much, it’s all too easy to enter a vicious cycle of stress, anxiety and diminishing mental health.

At the time of writing, the new year is upon us - bringing a host of new plans, intentions, and accompanying pressures, all of which can impact on employees and managers alike.

So let's consider what causes workplace stress

As an employer, it’s important to understand the myriad causes of workplace stress in order to identify when they have manifested in your own organisation.  These are some of them:

  - Excessive workload

  - Restricted opportunity for growth or advancement

  - Bullying, harassment and lack of social support

  - Low pay

  - Work that is unengaging or insufficiently challenging

  - Fear of redundancy

  - Conflicting demands and unclear performance expectations

  - Too little control over one's own directions and decisions

  - Continually unrealistic deadlines

  - Weak management and uninspiring deadlines

  - Difficulties of adjusting to working from home (especially post-covid)

  - Stresses caused by the covid pandemic, health worries, and increased workload due to incapacity of colleagues

How to spot signs that your employee is stressed

No matter how good your relationship is with a member of staff, they may still avoid confiding in you when they’re struggling.

It’s therefore well worth learning how to identify stress if you feel an employee has begun to act differently. Some telltale signs may include:

  - Irritability, mood swings and short temper

  - Loss of confidence

  - Procrastination and low level of concentration

  - Indecisiveness

  - Noticeable decline in motivation

  - Rushing, lateness and overall poor time management

  - Heighened emotional sensitivity, argumentativeness and perhaps tearfulness

  - Overt tiredness and fatigue

  - Skipping breaks and lunchtime

  - Not eating

  - Significant gain or loss of weight in a short period

  - Uncharacteristic mistakes and underperformance

  - Social apathy and self-imposed isolation

  - Not using full holiday entitlement

  - Continual overtime

  - Absenteeism and reported sickness

  - Less care taken over appearance and general demeanour

  - Increased smoking breaks (or taking up smoking)

Work-related stress doesn’t magically dissipate when you head out of the office at 5.30 - whether or not that office is external or at home.

Chronic stress takes over not only one’s working life but one’s personal life, too.

It can contribute to the development of serious health conditions such as obesity, depression and cardiovascular diseases, as well as cripple performance at work, devastate productivity and lead to a workplace that is tense, volatile and thoroughly miserable.

What measures can you implement to combat these abject consequences?

Here are some practical suggestions on how to manage stressed employees

Whether an individual has quietly confided in you that they’re struggling with stress or an entire team seem utterly burned out, there are a multitude of ways to address workplace stress. 

Here are a few ideas:

Clarify expectations

You might just be amazed at the weight that can be lifted off an employee’s shoulders by simply and unambiguously outlining for them what their role is, as well as what is their responsibility - and what is not within their remit.

Try to offer variation

If an employee has been completing the same tasks for weeks or even months on end and you know their skill set is not being leveraged to the full, suggest trying something new and taking on additional responsibilities.

Not only can this inject some much needed variety into their day, but it can also motivate them to prove themselves.

Just be sure that they are up for the challenge and that you aren’t unwittingly piling on even more pressure.

Encourage exercise

Getting the heart pumping is an incredible way to boost energy, enhance mood and sharpen focus - and it doesn’t have to be for long.

Consider introducing daily or bi-daily exercise breaks of no longer than 10 minutes, involving every employee standing up, stretching and perhaps engaging in light exercise. 

An easy way to do this is to enrol them in our Keep Fit Eat Fit programme and point them to the Keep Fit module, which includes a range of video based exercises, many of which are designed to be completed in a work from home or office environment.  The results of such a simple measure can be astounding.

Keep an eye on workload

If an employee is getting behind, it could be because they’re underperforming or ill-equipped to be doing that job - or it could be that management and their colleagues have assigned them an impossible volume of work.

Check in individually with workers to see how they’re coping and whether they need anything from you to alleviate their mounting stress.

Be humane with time off

This one might seem a little more extreme, but sometimes just being at work full stop (whether home or office based) can be the final straw if an employee is already functioning on a knife edge.

Suggest or even recommend that your employee take a break.

They could use up some holiday, or you could even grant a temporary leave of absence.

If you can afford to lose the people hours for a time, this can be a highly effective way of enabling a stressed-out employee to recharge and return refreshed and with a more positive outlook on their job.

To sum up, it's an indisputable fact that a stressed workforce can seriously impact productivity

Tight deadlines, long hours and excessive workloads can leave even the toughest and most resilient employees feeling drained, overwhelmed and depressed.

Add to that the pressures caused by the pandemic and there is little wonder that stress is continually on the rise.

These effects in turn can have devastating effects on your organisation, depleting morale, sapping productivity and exacerbating staff churn.

As a manager, it is both your responsibility and in the interest of your employer to administer measures designed to address, tackle and reduce workplace stress.

No matter your company, organisation or industry or the roles of the people working for you, there are always steps that can be taken.

Keep Fit Eat Fit can help you in this task – it's a complete digital wellbeing platform suitable for any organisation, providing easy to follow materials covering the entire range of physical, mental and financial health and wellbeing.

This resource can really help your employees manage workplace stress, deal with negative thoughts and develop bespoke preventative measures in their lives - both in the workplace and beyond.

Angela Knox

Angela Knox

I am a co-founder and director of Keep Fit Eat Fit Wellbeing Ltd and have come from a business and marketing background over many years, with a particular interest in everything to do with health, fitness and overall wellbeing. Having worked in offices for decades, I know the pitfalls of too much sitting at a desk, the challenges of fitting the gym around other commitments, and all the issues addressed within our website. The personal experiences of me and my partner Mark were the original inspiration for the concept of this website. Enjoy!