Signs of Stress at Work 

I was reading an article by Citation this week and it outlined some signs that your employees might be suffering from stress which I thought was worth passing on: 

Working Later Hours 

Employees working later, or starting earlier than usual, could be struggling with their workload - especially if this is out of character. 
This could be counterintuitive for employers, who might think someone working extra hours is a good thing, however, if the consequence is burnout, then the short-lived benefits could be an expensive trade off. 
Life/work balance is so important to maintain healthy stress levels and if our workload is more than we can cope with, something will eventually fail and that can often be our health. 

Taking Time off 

A reluctance to take time off could also be a sign that employees are afraid of getting behind on their workload; this is a similar indicator to working longer hours as mentioned above. 
On the other hand, employees starting late or taking more time off than usual, could also be a sign of stress; perhaps trying to avoid their ever-increasing workload, or suffering stress-induced ill health.. 

Being increasingly Irritable 

Snapping at others, irritability and bad moods might indicate an employee is suffering from too much stress, particularly when it is out of character. Especially when responding out of proportion to little things, which are normally like "water off a duck’s back". We all have bad days, but this could be a sign of stress. 

Being Overly Sensitive 

Being overly emotional or sensitive, perhaps to light-hearted comments, or jokes about performance could be a sign that an employee is feeling the pressure of work; particularly if it wouldn’t normally worry them. 
Decreased self-confidence and lack of self-worth may be an indicator of stress, potentially causing an employee’s adverse reaction to a comment that’s not even about them, as they think any negative comments relate to them. 

Social Withdrawl 

When stressed, employees might shy away, to avoid drawing any attention to themselves. Again, this is something to use your better judgement on as some people are naturally more extroverted than others and some people are naturally quiet. Look out for changes to the normal pattern of behaviour. 


Poor sleeping patterns are common symptoms of stress, so an employee that is regularly looking tired, could be stressed. Of course, if they have young children, this could equally be why, so always consider all possibilities, before making any judgement. 
We often have no idea what is going on with employees at home, and any stress issues they are coping with outside work, may well also affect them in the workplace. 
Being constantly stressed is tiring, both mentally and physically, so if someone who is normally full of energy, now seems lethargic and picks up every little bug that comes along, it could be a sign of stress which can compromise the body's immune system. 
Don't forget the stress response is part of the body's self-defence mechanism and is working in pretty much the same way as it was when we were living in caves, responding to threats (real or imagined) accordingly. 
The body sends all its energy to the places where it thinks it is needed, the heart pumps blood around the body (so we can react quickly) and to our brain (so we think clearly and decisively); if the body can't outrun the current danger (whatever is causing the stress) why attempt to prevent catching a cold ? 

Concentration/Memory Lapses 

An uncharacteristic lack of concentration could be due to being distracted by stress. An employee who is normally very decisive but starts finding it hard to make decisions, or is confused, could be suffering from stress. 
When we have huge worries, they tend to dominate our thoughts, and no matter how hard we try to put them to the back of our mind, they keep intruding, making it much harder to concentrate on the job in hand. We go onto auto pilot, as our minds drift elsewhere and our subconscious tries to find a solution to our problems. You may relate to this, if you have ever pulled into your driveway after a long journey, switched off the engine, and then realised you have no memory of the last 20 minutes of your drive – this is both scary and dangerous! 


Ok, an excuse to slip in a David Bowie song, but it sums it up well. It is the changes in someone's behaviour personality that you need to watch out for. Someone who is normally really loud, gregarious and confident, becoming withdrawn and unsociable. Someone who is normally the last in and the first out of the door, starting early, working all through their breaks and finishing late to "just finish up". 
All these are potential signs that someone is under increasing amounts of stress. 
Also bear in mind the cause of stress may be from work, or outside work – someone starting early and finishing late might be avoiding troubles at home, that they don't want to face up to. However, problems at home may affect performance at work, as we are often inclined to carry out stresses around with us, and they can impact on every part of our life. 
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