7 tell-tale signs of work related stress

In a busy working environment, it’s natural to have overwhelming moments. But for many professionals, pressure points can snowball into more severe work related stress – affecting their performance and their mental health.

As an employer, it’s not always easy to identify somebody suffering from stress at work. Some people may seem like they’re coping well day-to-day; others may appear to be unengaged. Either way, scratching below the surface can reveal deeper issues that need to be addressed for the long-term wellbeing of your workforce.

To help your business identify the difference between staff battling a big deadline and those in genuine turmoil, here are 7 tell-tale signs of work related stress to watch out for:

1. Trouble concentrating

When someone’s workload is stacking up, they can often feel stressed out. And rather than helping them to focus on the tasks that need completing, the pressure can affect their concentration levels.

The reason overwhelmed employees have trouble concentrating is because stress activates the body’s fight or flight response. The brain is naturally looking out for surrounding dangers, which makes it difficult to tune out surroundings and turn your attention to work-related tasks.

Keeping an eye on people’s productivity will help you to address the subject of stress at an appropriate moment in time – such as an upcoming appraisal. You can also discretely and confidentially raise the subject with close colleagues, to see if anyone else has identified changes in their behaviour.

2. Working longer hours

If someone is finding it hard to concentrate, it’s unlikely they’ll get their workload completed in their contracted hours. Rather than admitting their struggles, many professionals will put in additional overtime to catch up – but this can increase their tiredness levels and contribute to feelings of stress and burnout.

Tracking staff overtime is an effective way to see who’s going above and beyond their standard day to get their task list completed. Even if it turns out they’re not feeling stressed, keeping a clear overtime record will help your business to identify unsustainable pressure points and plan future resourcing.

3. Dips in performance

We all have times of the day or week when we find it easier to get ‘in the zone’, and it’s natural for some tasks and projects to flow better than others.

However, if a dedicated employee doesn’t seem to be delivering to their usual standards, it might not be down to a dip in their attitude. It could be a sign that they’re under stress and struggling to find the motivation to maintain the pace they’ve set for themselves.

Setting clear tasks lists helps to define the responsibilities each team member is expected to complete. And with a clear workload and colleague support structure in place, it becomes easier to see who is struggling to pull their weight.

4. Stepping back

If a member of your team who naturally volunteers to take on new responsibilities to fade into the crowd, it’s worth investigating their stress levels. Sometimes highly capable people deal with personal difficulties by shutting down, because they can’t cope with another plate to spin.

It’s not just the work environment where employees under stress step back, either. Often people struggling with their workload and anxiety levels can withdraw from social situations – so keep an eye on how your employees are interacting with their workmates.

5. Becoming more confrontational

We all know how hard it is to maintain your cool when you’re feeling the pressure. So if a normally calm colleague flares up in a meeting or reacts badly to balanced feedback, it could be a sign they’re suffering from work-related stress.

Open, honest discussion can be beneficial to the workplace, but an employee struggling with stress may make unhelpful – even personal – remarks as their temper frays. Keeping an HR record of these incidents can help you to track behavioural patterns and identify whether problems stretch beyond just having a bad day at work.

6. Increasing negative feedback

Understandably, if someone’s performance is declining or they’re becoming hostile in discussions, fellow team members may become frustrated – and may complain about their colleague’s conduct. But rather than jumping straight to disciplinary action, consider non-confrontational ways to dig deeper into behavioural issues.

It’s also worth paying attention to what the employee themself says too. Someone who’s usually sunny natured may start to complain more under stress, bringing down the general workplace mood.

7. Surge in sick days and last-minute time off

Many employees try to hide their stress levels to keep up with the day-to-day demands of their job. But what happens when people just can’t face coming into work?

If someone has recently started taking more sick leave or booking last-minute time off, it could be a sign that they’re suffering from burnout. However, many companies find it difficult to identify these patterns because they’re not tracking sick leave and annual leave in a central calendar.

The more information you’re collecting on staff conduct, the easier it becomes to spot behavioural changes and provide clear evidence to senior colleagues and HR. From there, you can put support programmes in place that help struggling employees to manage stress better.

Many companies find WhosOffice a pivotal tool for workforce wellbeing, as our platform includes HR and annual leave management tools alongside our shift planning feature.

In addition to monitoring staff performance and creating a plan of action to lower work-related stress, WhosOffice can also enable your businesses to temporarily alter people’s working hours if they need time off to recover – allocating shifts to colleagues that feel able to cope with additional responsibilities.

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio of Pexels.com.