Guidance on possible signs and indicators of work-related stress

The stress response occurs when the actual or perceived pressures on an individual are greater than their ability to cope. We all experience periods of pressure at home and at work. However, when the pressure is sustained and or excessive, without an opportunity to recover, this may lead to emotional or physical harm.

It is important to recognise the types of pressures that might contribute to feelings of stress in yourself and others. Pressures might come from:

Personal life

  • ill health
  • relationships
  • family problems
  • money worries
  • neighbour disputes

Work life

  • lack of control over the way work is done
  • too much or too little work
  • lack of role definition
  • unsatisfactory relationships
  • lack of feedback
  • lack of information
  • work is too demanding or lacks challenge
  • organisational change

The ways an individual responds to pressure can be influenced by personality type, coping skills, and the support systems they have. Being self-aware can help to identify where extra support and personal development can help in managing the effects of pressure.

Recognition of a problem means that appropriate coping mechanisms can be sought at an early stage, before a negative physical or emotional effect is experienced. Listed below are possible signs of stress that managers may recognise at an early stage. Remember the cause may be home, work, personal life, or any combination of these.

Work Performance

  • poor concentration
  • inconsistent performance
  • uncharacteristic errors
  • indecisiveness
  • inability to deal calmly with everyday situations
  • signs of tiredness or anxious behaviour
  • making complaints
  • irritability
  • lapses in memory
  • reference to time pressure
  • resistance to change
  • lack of holiday planning and taking
  • longer or excessive hours

Withdrawal

  • arriving late
  • leaving early
  • extended lunches
  • absenteeism or increased sickness absence
  • passivity or lack of commitment

Aggressive Behaviour

  • malicious gossip
  • criticism of others
  • vandalism
  • shouting
  • bullying, harassment

Other

  • increased drinking of alcohol and/or coffee
  • increased smoking
  • ‘comfort eating’