Many employees face stressful situations at work on a regular basis, and whilst often these are short lasting and isolated incidents, for some the effects are long lasting, and start to affect the employee’s life, both in and out of work.
The symptoms of stress can be very varied but can include:
- Physical symptoms – Headaches, muscle tension or pain, stomach problems, chest pain
- Mental symptoms – Difficulty concentrating, struggling to make decisions, worrying or anxious, feeling overwhelmed, being forgetful
- Changes in behaviours – being irritable, change of sleeping habits, change of eating habits, drinking or smoking more
Stress can manifest itself differently in everyone, which makes it all the more difficult to spot in your employees, but given this can impact on their work, there are a few things that are useful to look out for including:
- Changes in their behaviour – are they acting differently around the workplace, or towards other people
- Increase in sickness absences
- Poor timekeeping
- Drop in performance
Signs of stress should never be ignored and are best dealt with as early as possible. Therefore, trying to create an open environment, where the employee can come to you if they have an issue is often the quickest way to start providing support to the employee.
If you do notice signs of stress, or an employee comes to you with this issue, the first course of action would normally be to have an informal, private, conversation with them, away from distractions, ensuring that you have adequate time for the full conversation. In this see if you can help the employee identify the causes of their stress and allow them to express what they are experiencing.
You should also consider if there are any temporary adjustments that you can put in place which may help the employee cope in the short term whilst they are dealing with the cause of the issue. This might be allowing them to have some short notice time off, reduced hours or a change of work environment. If the cause of the stress is work related, then you should consider what you can put in place to remove or reduce this cause, such as a redistribution of work tasks or additional training.
You may also be able to put in place initiatives in the workplace to try and help reduce stress for all employees. These can include encouraging a healthy lifestyle such as healthy eating and exercise, having a positive culture in the workplace, and having an Employee Assistance Programme which offers impartial advice and support as well as counselling services and referrals, so that employees have an option to talk to someone outside of the business.
Having a policy dedicated to stress can also help to show your employees that this is something that you take seriously and that you are here to support them. We can help you put a stress policy in place for your workplace. Therefore if you would like to put a stress policy in place, or would like some help on supporting a stressed employee, then please get in touch with us on 0800 953 4020 or firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to help.