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Why You Should Worry About Workplace Stress

Wednesday November 07, 2018


Posted on: Wednesday November 07, 2018

Stress is ‘the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure‘(NHS Inform).

Stress, in itself, is not an illness, but prolonged periods of intense stress can lead to a number of mental health issues, and even physical illnesses. Workplace stress can increase staff illness absences, reduce their productivity and lead to performance issues.

The Top Causes of Workplace Stress

There are six primary causes of workplace stress as defined by the HSE.

  • The demandsof the job - staff can become overloaded if they cannot cope with the amount of work or type of work they are asked to do
  • Lack ofcontrol over work - staff can feel disaffected and perform poorly if they have no say over how and when they do their work
  • Lack of supportfrom managers and colleagues - levels of sickness absence often rise if staff feel they cannot talk to managers about issues troubling them
  • Bad co-worker relations - a failure to build relationships based on good behaviour and trust can lead to problems related to discipline, grievances and bullying
  • Not having a clearly defined role - staff will feel anxious about their work and the organisation if they don't know what is expected of them and/or understand how their work fits into the objectives of the organisation
  • A lack of communication about change - change needs to be managed effectively or it can lead to huge uncertainty and insecurity.

What Effect This Has on Employers

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees.  This means that employers are required to conduct risk assessments for work-related stress and take actions to prevent staff from experiencing a stress-related illness because of their work. However, legal obligations aren’t the only reason why employers should pay attention to the issue of workplace stress.

Stressed employees are in danger of becoming disengaged, and disengaged employees come with a whole host of issues.


Engagement is intrinsically linked to employee happiness and disengaged, or ‘unhappy’ employees often simply go through the motions of their role.

Authors Andrew J. Oswald, Eugenio Proto and Daniel Sgroi explain in their report, Happiness and Productivity, (2014), that this may be because ‘background unhappiness acts to distract rationally-optimising individuals away from their work tasks’.

Higher levels of workplace stress is often associated with lower productivity. Employees with lower stress levels and jobs they enjoy are simply better at their job.

Decreased Productivity

Stressed and disengaged employees are also less likely to impart discretionary effort – effort that goes above and beyond what is required for their job role.

Personal Group discussed levels of discretionary effort in disengaged employees with Jane Griffiths, Global Head of Actelion at Janssen Global, when researching their ‘Business of Engagement’ report.

Griffiths explained that “If you’ve got a big crisis or an urgent launch, something that’s great but requires many more hours than people are contractually engaged for, you’ll [only] get that from people when they’re fully engaged.”

Bad Customer Service

Unsurprisingly, stressed out employees have a negative impact on customer service. These negative consequences of stress and disengagement can severely hinder a business’ bottom line.

Attrition and employee turnover increases when staff are stressed out and disengaged. This can be a huge cost to the business’ financial performance. Therefore, knowing and reacting to employee stress levels is crucial when it comes to a productive and profitable business.

This doesn’t just apply to work related stressors. Employers can also help combat stress that occurs from life events outside of work, for example, changing an employee’s working hours temporarily to help reduce stress produced by transport or childcare issues.

If you would like to know more about workplace stress, check out our handy infographic, or contact us below to find out how we can help streamline your employee experience as a whole.

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