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Workplace Stress – A Practical Guide for Managers

Posted on Thursday, 30 June 2016, in Occupational Health

workplace stress


stress 50 percent

How often do you talk to your employees about their mental health?  The likelihood is, probably not very!  There is still a strong taboo around the subject and many of us are more comfortable burying our heads in the sand than starting an honest conversation. 

But the truth is at least 50% of the most common mental health conditions (stress, anxiety and depression) are thought to be caused by factors in the workplace, so mental health in the workplace is a very real concern for all.


In this workplace stress guide for managers we are going to look at:

workplace stress help


Just how big a problem is workplace stress?


stress 43 percent

The statistics about stress in the workplace are pretty staggering.  For instance, did you know that the average amount of time taken off during a period of stress related leave is 23 days?  Stress accounts for 43% of all days taken off from work (over 12 million a year[1]), costing around £7bn.  But it’s not just the time taken off work that’s the problem – ‘presenteeism’ or being at work whilst unwell with stress, is estimated to cost the economy over £15bn a year in lost productivity.


Who’s most at risk of work related stress?


workplace stress professionalsworkplace stress public sectorworkplace stress menworkplace stress womenworkplace stress blanksandethnic   


Causes of workplace stress

Stress is a physical reaction to an external stimulus – a flight or fight reaction that we have all experienced at times and one which is useful for getting us out of harms way.  Stress becomes a problem when our body has a stress reaction to things that aren’t harmful. 

Our stress adaption process should stop us having a stress reaction to things we have learnt are actually ok[2] which allows us to manage our daily lives more or less smoothly.  However, at times this process can go wrong and become overloaded, meaning their stress reaction seems permanently switch on.  As a result the individual can feel extremely tense, overloaded and on the edge of a breakdown.  You can read more about the stress process here.

Workplace stress isn’t simply due to heavy workloads, levels of responsibility or tight deadlines as you might expect, although they are some of the most common reasons.  Other causes of stress include:

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Signs of stress all managers should watch out for

The signs that your staff member has stress aren’t always that clear and of course will be differ between individuals.  People with stress often behave differently to their ‘normal’ but the following signs are commonly experienced:

absences from worklack of energy and motivationno participating increased irritability and angerreduced productivityphysical complaintsoverwhelmed
workplace stress osterich
  • Talk about it – it can be hard to know how to start a conversation but simply asking ‘How are things?  Are you ok’ might be enough to show your employee you are interested.  It might be that something simple is wrong, which can be simply fixed but showing an interest and opening up the conversation shows you care.
  • Do something – you might want to bury your head in the sand and hope things magically get better, but the likelihood is things won’t get improve unless something changes.  Ignoring the situation could make things much worse as your staff member may feel undervalued and increasingly isolated.  Talking about the issue, getting support and referring to occupational health are all good steps to take.
  • Seek help – You may not know what to do to help a staff member who is experiencing stress and you aren’t necessarily supposed to.  Seek help from experts who understand this complex situation instead.  Often the stress can be accompanied by other conditions such as depression or addictions, so an occupational health specialist will be best placed to give your employee the support they need.


If you have a member of staff who you think is suffering with stress, Clinical Partners can help.  Clinical Partners Occupational Health team is a private, nationwide innovative OH service that can help deliver, fast, flexible, cost effective OH services to your company.  Read more about the services we offer here.



[1] HSE

[2] Mitchie, S. (2002) Causes and Management of Stress At Work in Occup Environ Med 2002; 59 67-72


Emilie Head

Emilie Head Business Development and Content Editor BA(Hons), ACMA, MBACP

Emilie has three main roles at Clinical Partners – managing our NHS Partnerships, developing the services our Clinicians offer and writing and editing web content.

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