What is Stress?
Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure. Some pressure is essential to everyday living but too much pressure on a person’s coping ability can lead to psychological difficulties including stress or, if prolonged, mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed upon them.
Signs of Stress
The following can often be indicators that an individual may be suffering with stress:
- Change to behaviours and attitude to work
- Change to relationships with colleagues/home life
- Poor concentration
- Timekeeping: coming in later or leaving earlier than usual
- Being distant
- Self-medication, e.g. drinking an increased amount of alcohol
- Decrease in productivity
- Sickness absence – Headaches, stomach complaints, neck and back problems
- Increased sickness absences
- Withdrawing from the social aspects of work
- Missing deadlines
- Difficulty making decisions
- Becoming argumentative with colleagues
- Emotional outbursts/mood swings
- Lack of motivation and commitment
Signs of stress in teams may become apparent, particularly before or during:
- significant changes in workloads
- prolonged periods of emotionally demanding work
- changes to roles/responsibilities
- changes to reporting lines
- the introduction of new work arrangements
- disciplinary or capability procedures
If you have experienced any of the above or feel that you might be suffering with stress or simply that too much pressure is being placed upon you, please talk to your manager. We have developed an Individual Stress Assessment (see further information below), which can be completed to help you to identify stressors. We recommend that you complete this assessment with your manager.
Spotting the signs that your team or an individual may be becoming overwhelmed is not always easy. In the first instance, the information on our pages can support you with this. Our Management of Stress and Mental Health in the Workplace workshops may also assist you to identify that stress is becoming an issue and advise you on appropriate measures that can be put in place.
Managing stress is an important consideration for both management and leadership. It can often involve having difficult discussions with staff but management intervention, particularly early intervention rather than inaction, can be the key to preventing sickness absences and facilitating a successful return to work.
We recommend that you are proactive in managing stress both within teams and with individuals and not wait until a staff member is off sick or a team’s performance has deteriorated.
It is understandable that you may feel that, as these are not work-related, they are outside of your responsibility. The counterargument is that if a member of staff is affected by what is going on in their personal life to the point that it is beginning to impact on workplace performance or attendance, then it is beneficial to both you and your team member that you intervene and offer support where possible.
Often this will involve signposting towards external organisations that may include organisations such as MIND Cymru, Money Advice Service, Citizens Advice Bureau, Cruse Cymru, drug and alcohol support services or Age UK.
When to Discuss Stress
It can be difficult to know when it is the best time to raise concerns with teams or individuals. Try to use your knowledge of how your team functions and the culture within your team as an indicator. Typically, these opportunities will be at team meetings, focus groups, away days, during appraisals or during more informal/ad hoc discussions.
How to Manage Stress
Many managers find it difficult to manage stress, often because there are many different signs and possible causes. We have developed an Individual Stress Assessment for both corporate staff and school staff that individuals can complete to help identify stressors, which we recommend is used in the first instance. We recommend that managers and employees complete the assessment together. Please see further information about this on the Individual Stress Assessment page.
Occupational Health can also assist by having our Wellbeing Support Practitioners undertake group or 1:1 wellbeing support sessions, drop-in sessions, education and advice. We would advise that the ISA is undertaken in the first instance and if further clinical advice is required, a referral can be arranged or you can contact the Occupational Health Centre on 01267 246060 for further information.
Page updated: 19/05/2022 15:30:06