How can stress affect people in the workplace?

4 minute read | 05 November 2018 09:35:10 GMT

Stress affects people in the workplace

Stress is an inevitable part of everybody’s life. There can be a wide range of triggers such as a change in circumstances, financial worries, illness or loss of a loved one. Stress can negatively affect individuals’ behaviour, relationships and performance at home and of course in their job leading to long-term absence from work. The first step in managing stress at work is for Managers to be aware of initial signs of stress in their staff and how it can affect their performance.

Early signs of stressSigns of stress at work

Memory lapses: when you are tense and your mind is overstimulated or distracted, your ability to remember can suffer. This means that you maybe more forgetful

Organisation skills: people with stress often have many ‘worry’ thoughts, which can be overwhelming. This may mean they find it difficult to organise and prioritise their workload effectively.

Time management: when people are tense or anxious, they can end up feeling fatigued. This results in people becoming less efficient in managing their workload and taking longer to complete tasks.

Concentration: individuals can get distracted very easily by their thoughts and what is going on around them. This may make it hard for them to concentrate for long periods and may increase fatigue.

Uncharacteristic errors: individuals who are anxious can lack concentration and focus leading to them untypically making more mistakes in their work.

Listening and taking notes: because stress affects concentration and other skills, listening and taking notes can be difficult for someone with stress. They may need information provided in short chunks.

Communicating verbally: people who are suffering with stress will find it hard to communicate. This may influence team relationships and increase the individual’s experience of stress.

Indecision: stress can directly affect good decision- making at work. People suffering from stress can lack confidence in their own ability to make rational decisions in contrast to their typical behaviour.

How to support team members suffering from stress

Check with your human resources to see if you need to carry out a risk assessment of the individual suffering from stress.

Excessive workload is a known cause of stress so find out from your team member how they are managing their workload and help them to prioritise the tasks so they feel more in control.

Discuss with your team member any triggers in their job that may increase their stress levels for example giving them tasks to do at short notice. Find out what they would have preferred to happen instead.

Find a quiet space when you feel anxious to relax

Have a quiet space where your team member can go if they are feeling stressed or anxious and they can use their relaxation techniques.

Develop a code word/phrase that your staff member can use when they need to leave the room and take 5 minutes out to keep on top of their stress.

Make sure that as their manager you have met any reasonable adjustments that may be required for example they take regular breaks during the day.

Remind your staff member of any available help offered at work and how to access it for example a counselling service, the company occupational health team or training your such as cognitive behavioural therapy to deal with their stress effectively at work.


Identifying any early signs of stress and enabling employees to manage it effectively will help prevent issues getting out of control. Companies that develop a strategy to manage stress and wellbeing of their employees are automatically investing in a healthier future for their employees and their business growth.

Find out more about this learning experience that offers a practical guidance to how you can take control of your stress effectively using tried and tested cognitive behavioural therapy techniques.
Find out about the Stress & Wellbeing Toolkit

Dr Abi Lucas PsychD; PhD; CPsychol; AFBPsS

Abi is a highly qualified Clinical and Research Psychologist who has worked with psychological distress and management in a clinical, occupational and community setting for over 10 years. She works in the corporate sector providing one-to-one therapy and workshops on resilience and stress management. Abi has also provided neurodiversity assessments for these cases for work-placed reasonable adjustments to be made. She works to encourage and facilitate positive physical and emotional wellbeing of an individual both at work and in life.