Work Related Stress: A Guide for Employers

Part 1 - Work Related Stress

Recent surveys have shown that work-related stress is becoming more widespread and is affecting all business sectors and industries. Whilst physical injuries to employees are easier to see, monitor and control, the effects of work related stress and other mental health issues on employees are often less easy to notice, supervise and manage.

The impact of stress at work on a company and employee can be substantial and have a dramatic effect on performance, output and physical well-being.

Part 1 - What is Work-Related Stress?
Part 2 - The Signs and Symptoms of Stress
Part 3 - The Benefits of Managing Stress
Part 4 - Employers' Responsibilities
Part 5 - Employees' Responsibilities

What is stress and how does it arise?

The HSE define stress as: "The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work."

While stress itself is not an illness, but a ‘state', if it becomes too excessive and remains for a long time, mental and physical illnesses are likely to arise.

Employers must remember that whilst pressure is essential in a workplace and can act as a positive motivating factor, stress will arise when this pressure gets too much.

The impacts of stress on a company can be wide-reaching such as:

  • High levels of sickness absence
  • High staff turnover
  • Increased human error
  • Low morale
  • Lower productivity and output
  • Lower efficiency

Balancing your organisational demands with employees' skills and knowledge:

When employees are put under excessive demands at work which exceed their capacity and capability to cope they are likely to become stressed.

In order for an employee to cope, they need to balance the demands and pressures placed on them (the job requirements) with their own skills and knowledge (their capabilities). As an example, if you give an employee a task to complete by a certain date but they do not have the skills or capability to complete that task, they will begin to feel under significant pressure which could result in work-related stress.

In contrast, employees can also feel stressed if they don't have enough to do. If an employee doesn't have something to do all of the time and seeks recognition, they may become bored and feel undervalued.

If an employee has no say about the work that they have to do, this can also cause them stress as they lack control over their own activities.

Part 2: The Signs and Symptoms of Stress