Employee Wellbeing, Part 2 - Recognising the signs of work-related stress

In our previous blog, we took a look at some of the statistics around mental health in the workplace and why it is in a company’s interest to try and tackle workplace-related stress.

Karen Credie KMC Human ResourcesAs well as the potential for lost productivity and staff absence that’s related to work-related mental health issues, did you realise that as an employer, it is your responsibility to look after your employees' wellbeing and protect them from stress in the workplace?

In fact, if you employ more than five people you are legally required to carry out a risk assessment and put policies in place that act to minimise stress to employees.

Mental health is by no means a simple issue and there are many ways in which stress, anxiety and other disorders can manifest themselves. Here are some of the warning signs that together, may be a red flag for workplace stress.

Acting out of character

Employers or line managers that know their staff well should be able to predict how an employee would react in a certain work-related scenario. Where an employee’s behaviour consistently differs from expectation, or they otherwise demonstrate out of character behaviour, such as being unusually quiet, impatient, frustrated or withdrawn, it may be that workplace stress is getting to them.

Decreased performance

When you feel under too much pressure, it can be difficult to perform to your normal level. A reduction in output isn’t always easy to monitor, but if a staff member is taking an unduly long time to complete tasks or the standard of their work deteriorates, it may be because they are finding it difficult to focus or that their workload is too demanding for them to meet.

Signs of fatigue

Tiredness can be caused by many factors but where an employee is taking work-related stress home with them, they may be struggling to sleep, leading them to be fatigued during the working day.

Increase in absence

Changes to an employee’s pattern of sickness absence could be an indicator that there is a deeper-rooted problem. Employees who are experiencing mental health problems may simply feel they cannot cope with coming into work when they wake up in the morning – therefore leading to an increase in ‘calling in sick’.

Not taking holidays

If an employee feels under excess pressure, they may feel unable to take their allocated annual leave. It is important to encourage all staff to take the holidays they are entitled to and investigate any situations where they do not.  It is proven that employees function better in the longer term if they have quality time away from the workplace and achieve an acceptable balance between their work and personal life.

No single one of these factors should be taken as a reason to suspect work-related stress as there may be other driving factors altogether. However, if a number of these signs appear simultaneously, it could be worth considering the possibility that the employee is experiencing some sort of stress, depression or anxiety. If an employee is struggling with mental health issues, the impact on their work is likely to be evident irrespective of whether the cause is work-related or not.  Having a staff welfare programme in place will benefit both the company and the employee.

Tips to help spot stress earlier:

  • Conduct regular one-to-ones
  • Conduct return to work interviews following sickness absence
  • Ensure line managers are trained to spot the signs of stress.
For further help and advice in relation to workplace mental health and wellbeing management, please get in touch with us.