Spotting the signs of workplace stress is not always easy as everybody copes differently – But you can play an active role in helping your team manage stress before it becomes a long-term health issue.

Asking your employees whether they are stressed offers no guarantees that they would actually tell you how they are feeling.

Nevertheless, you can empower them to feel confident in talking about workplace stress.

After all, if your team is suffering from it, then this can affect the level of productivity.

In light of research suggesting that up to 40% of workplace sickness in the UK is stress-related, we have identified five key signs to look out for and how to tackle them:

Working Hours Getting Longer

Working extra hours and taking work home in the evenings and at weekends is a clear sign that an employee is struggling with the workload and as a result, is probably finding it hard to switch off.

Watch out for your staff members forgetting to take lunch or breaks throughout the day too.

Managing a healthy work-life balance is not an easy thing to achieve. 

Some people feel it may negatively impact their career if they are not seen to be working long hours, a factor that greatly influences this balance.

Introducing flexible working patterns can help achieve a better work-life balance, increase productivity levels and happiness.

Encourage your team to turn off emails in the evening and at the weekend, while urging them to raise concerns and flag capacity issues straight away.

Increasing Sickness Levels

Have you noticed an employee taking more time off than usual due to sickness? If so, they’re not alone.

In the last 6 years, the number of working days lost to stress, depression, and anxiety has increased by 24%. 

Rest is proven to be an indispensable part of maintaining positive wellbeing and reducing stress levels.

As well as ensuring your team takes regular breaks during their working day, it is essential that they should always use their full holiday entitlement.

Recent research from The London Economic (TLE), suggests that the average Brit is only able to relax for 11 days a year.

This is because many workers use their annual leave to complete chores and take personal appointments that cannot be done whilst at work.

Encourage employees to allocate some of their annual leave towards an extended break, such as a week off work relaxing.

Ensuring that they take their holiday not only helps with staffing levels, but it can give your team a boost in morale if they have a break to look forward to.

Irrational Behaviour

Is your employee acting out of character? Are they suddenly becoming irritable or overly quiet?

Perhaps you’re noticing them overreact in certain situations or becoming absent from social conversations.

Stress can make people feel isolated and lead them to keep things bottled up, which can only makes it worse.

Depending on your relationship with your team, you could encourage them to get involved in activities that may help them cope better.

For example, taking regular exercise often helps people see their concerns more clearly as well as deal with them more calmly.

Maybe think about organising a team away day for your employees?

Low Morale

Has there been a notable change in morale or productivity among your employees?

Seeming less energetic and enthused about work are indicators of low morale, which is a tell-tale sign that a person is suffering from stress or anxiety.

Talking to your team about this is the first step in helping them.

However, if you don’t feel comfortable having these discussions or feel the individual needs professional advice, encourage them to seek help from HR or their GP.

You don’t have to be a stress counsellor, just a good listener – and allowing them to talk things through could help them find a solution to their problems.

High Staff Turnover

1 in 4 people consider resigning due to workplace stress, therefore if you’re experiencing high turnover of staff in your business and some of the above are also ringing true, it could be due to workplace stress.

Why not try a suggestion box in the office and allow your team to propose ideas on how to make the office a happier environment. 

With work dominating the lives of many, it’s not surprising that stress at work is a common complaint, so it’s important we all learn how to spot the signs, in ourselves and in others.

Post By – Richard Jenkins, behavioural psychologist and wellbeing consultant, CABA

Updated – 23rd June 2019