How Does Stress Affect Workplace Productivity?

5 minute read | 24 October 2018 10:27:39 BST

red stress writing

Stress and anxiety are two of the biggest threats to workplace productivity. When crippled by this double-act, few can function to their full potential leading to a drop in productivity, often affecting the company as a whole. Alarmingly, one-quarter of people feel that their job is the most stressful part of their life, demonstrating just how big the problem is!

As hard as it is for managers, supervisors or even employers to hear, a plummet in productivity can all too often be down to pressure. With stress and anxiety as an increasing threat in the workplace, it pays to recognise the damage stress can inflict on even the biggest businesses.

When it comes to minimising stress in the workplace, the best managers are those who can identify the tell-tale signs and better still, act on them. That said, knowing what to lookout for can be a challenge in itself. Take a look at these five tell-tale signs that your staff may be suffering from stress or anxiety.

1. Absenteeism

According to research, employees suffering from stress are prone to a sharp rise in sick days. The Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals discovered that stress, acute medical conditions and poor mental health are the most common causes of long-term absence within the workplace.

Those struggling with the typical symptoms will find themselves susceptible to health problems ranging from headaches, difficulty sleeping, a high blood pressure or noticeable weight gain/loss.

Symptoms like these can really start to take their toll on staff. Those with near perfect attendance may begin to take more and more time off work which of course, reduces productivity and at times, morale in the workplace.

2. Staff Turnover

When stress is present throughout a company it can lead to restlessness and the want for something new and perhaps, less stressful. This creates an obvious problem with increased staff turnover meaning a business is forced to plough more money and time into recruiting and training new members of staff.

While the occasional departure may be expected, a string of resignations – particularly from high-pressured roles – suggests the demands are too great.

3. Punctuality

Nearly all companies contain a small number of people who from time to time, struggle with timekeeping. However, when traditionally punctual employees start getting sloppy with their timekeeping – even by a few minutes – it may be an indicator that stress is at play.

Unfortunately, those suffering with stress or anxiety may find it harder to get up in the morning or to keep track of time. This could be due to a lack of sleep, restlessness or the inability to relax due to taking workplace stress home at night.

4. Relationships

It is a sad reality that stressed workers often avoid interacting with others, whether this is colleagues, friends or even family. Often, this is due to being in a secluded world of their own with little energy to make polite conversation or even small talk.

This lack of relationship building and communication impacts productivity in roles that require staff to communicate. Staff members that are suffering become less likely to put forward ideas, make suggestions or take part in proactive discussions.

Similarly, stress can bring a heightened sensitivity which can cause trouble of its own. When crumbling under the weight of stress, people tend to lash out at those close by, which may include other members of the team. Clearly, this is not productive for the workplace!

5. Quality of Work

Ironically, stress can bring out the best in those who thrive from additional responsibility. However, this isn’t the case for everyone and at times, pressure and added stress can lead to members of a team crumbling, meaning the quality of their work is decreased.

Some may choose to suffer in silence while failing to reach certain milestones, deadlines or quality checks. This of course affects the individual in question but can have a huge impact on those around them as they come under increased pressure to make up for the drop in productivity.

How Can You Help?

Clearly, stress comes in a variety of forms, all of which damage a company’s productivity and even profitability. It is crucial that those who manage a team become aware of the signs of stress and are able to recommend ways to help team members.

This might come in the form of simply having a chat to discuss what the cause of stress is. Group sessions can also be helpful and encourage teams to communicate. If there is a particular individual demonstrating signs of stress, discuss how other team members might be able to help them.

Promoting the benefits of exercise, regular breaks and a good diet are also great ways to minimise stress in the workplace.

Astutis will soon be offering a new Online Stress & Wellbeing ToolKit, helping leaders within businesses to shed light on internal pressure points and identify those who may be suffering in silence before stress becomes a problem. Having easy access to a tool like this means businesses are helping people to manage their stress effectively, and this in turn will create a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.

Find out more on Astutis' online Stress and Wellbeing Toolkit so you can help your colleagues to take control and manage their stress whenever they need to.

Find out about the Stress & Wellbeing Toolkit

Sian Thomas

Sian is the Human Resources Manager at Astutis and has over 19 years experience in the health and safety training environment. She is responsible for all the HR needs of the Astutis team and has implemented a number of new initiatives to improve workplace wellbeing.