Stress at Work

Employee Guide Managing Stress at Work 

What Is Stress?

Pressure is a fact of life.  It can arise at home or at work.  There is no such thing as a pressure-free world. In itself, pressure is not harmful.  It is a driver to do everyday tasks.  Where it can become harmful is when demands go beyond your ability to cope – the scales of the balance tip over and that is when pressure results in a stress type reaction.

People have differing abilities to deal with pressure, some actually thrive on it.  But everyone has a point where the pressure becomes overwhelming.  That’s when there is a feeling now called ‘stress’. You are not alone if you feel stressed; as many as one in five people, at any one time, could be feeling the same.

How Do You Recognise Stress at Work?

stress at work
Stressed employee

If you have prolonged pressure and think you are not coping, one of the first things you might notice is some changes in your health, small at first which can get worse if you don’t do something about your situation.  The changes can vary from person to person.  Many of the health and behaviour changes are not just because of stress and can occur in other medical conditions. 

Psychological signs of Stress

  • Lack of concentration
  • Difficulty in making a decision
  • Making frequent mistakes
  • Forgetfulness
  • Anxiety over small issues
  • Irritability and over-reaction to small problems
  • Emotional outbursts or crying

Physical signs of Stress

  • Tension in the muscles of the neck, back or upper arms
  • Frequent headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping, early morning waking
  • Changes in appetite
  • Stomach problems, heartburn
  • Chest pains

Behaviour Changes because of Stress at Work

  • Increased drinking or smoking
  • Arguments with close relatives or work colleagues
  • Lateness or absenteeism from work
  • Poor performance at work
  • Can’t be bothered

It is important to spot the symptoms of stress at an early stage because it is usually possible to changes the situation before any serious problems arise.  The longer someone goes on without taking action, the more likely they are to damage their health and the more problems they are likely to face at home and at work.

What To Do If You Have a Problem

If you think you are developing a problem which relates to stress at work and you can’t see a way out of it, it is important to seek help.  There are a number of people at work who can help you out, such as your line manager, safety professional or Human Resources/Personnel.  It may be helpful if you have an appointment at Occupational Health (if you have this service) or ring any counselling or employee assistance programmes for unbiased advice. If you prefer to talk to an independent health professional, you can talk to your own doctor.  All health and counselling professionals will listen to your problems in confidence and give practical advice to help you.

If you want more health information go to the NHS website which gives loads of genuine information to decide if you are stressed and then what to do if you are.

In any event, don’t sit around and let things build up –- seek help.

What you can do about Excessive Pressure and Stress at Work 

There is no way around this one – you must tell your Manager if you have a problem with workload or time pressures; also

  • Think of some practical solutions to the problems that you can discuss with your line manager
  • Support others at work who may be experiencing stress – advise them to talk to their Manager
  • Ask for further training to help with your job e.g. computer training, assertiveness or time management

What you can do about Stress outside of work

The following will not prevent work-related stress but may help you to take care of yourself:

    • Eat healthily
    • Do not smoke/drink or smoke/drink more than usual; although it may temporarily calm you down, it will have a negative effect on your long-term health.  Also, alcohol is a depressant.
    • Watch out for increase coffee and tea consumption as they contain caffeine – this may give feelings of anxiety
    • Ensure you take some physical exercise to use up the stress hormones which build up when you are under pressure
    • Talk to family and friends for help and support

Returning after sickness due to Stress at Work 

  • Work with your Manager to address the stress issues as soon as possible·
  • Do not sit at home and brood on the issues
  • Remember what caused the problem and, upon return to work try not to let the same thing happen again by discussing strategies with your line manager and, if possible, changing your way of working.

Further Information and Help for Stress at Work

Try relaxation techniques – here is a podcast you can listen to help




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