Home Mental Health & Well-Being Stress Awareness Month: HR Experts Share Key Indicators That an Employee May Be Facing Unhealthy Levels of Stress

Stress Awareness Month: HR Experts Share Key Indicators That an Employee May Be Facing Unhealthy Levels of Stress

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April marks Stress Awareness Month, which has been recognised globally since 1992. It’s encouraged that during this month, employers have open conversations about how stress can negatively impact their workforce, and discover ways in which businesses can better support those who are facing stress.

According to a 2022 survey from YouGov, half of British employees say they feel some level of stress at work. And it appears that this can often bleed into our personal lives too, as 66% of those who said they felt stressed at work admitted they spend a lot, or a fair amount, of time outside of working hours thinking about their job. 

With this in mind, HR expert Neil Finegan from distance learning provider, DLC Training, shares key indicators that your employees may be facing unhealthy levels of stress and work anxiety as a result of their job, along considerations that can be made to support a less stressful environment. 

Neil said: “It’s expected that during busy periods, employees may feel increased levels of stress, and for the most part, this is normal. 

“For some, added pressure and busyness can make us feel more motivated and driven. However, this won’t be the case for all, and for some, stress and pressure can greatly impact an individual’s motivation, mental health and well-being. 

“For businesses, it’s important to recognise when an employee may be facing more stress than they feel comfortable with, and learn ways in which they can ease pressure.”

How to recognise if an employee is facing too much stress

Neil highlights five key indicators that a member of staff may be struggling with stress levels.

1. Complaining of a lack of sleep

If you notice a member of your team is often complaining about struggling to get a good night’s sleep, or they appear to be visually tired, it might be an indicator that they are facing increased levels of stress, either at work or at home. 

Stress can impact our sleep patterns and, in some cases, even cause insomnia. When someone is facing stress, a lack of sleep can make them feel more overwhelmed. 

If you suspect someone in your team is facing this, Neil suggests opening a conversation about how they can be better supported to feel more rested. This might include working from home or having flexibility in working hours to allow them more time to rest.

2. Changes in behaviour

When an employee is facing heightened stress, you might find that they experience changes in their behaviour. For example, someone who is usually very chatty and lighthearted may become more irritable and short tempered. 

Neil explained: “An obvious change in someone’s behaviour is usually a good indicator that they aren’t feeling like themselves. While there may be other factors influencing this, if their behaviour seems to change when facing a particular task, or day of the week, it might show that they are facing stress.”

3. Working longer hours, or changes to working pattern 

One of the main reasons people feel stressed at work is because of increased workloads. If an employee is struggling to stay on top of this, it might lead them to work later in the evenings or at weekends to stay ahead. This can lead to feelings of burnout, which can impact motivation and productivity levels. 

4. Isolating themselves from the team

When facing stress, employees may isolate themselves from their team. Neil said: “If someone who regularly works from the office or attends staff socials starts to become absent, it might show that they are facing stress.

“When you notice this, first consider if there may be any other factors influencing these decisions. Moving house, preparing for a baby, or illness can all cause someone to prefer to stay at home.”

5. Taking time off

Stress can have implications on both mental and physical health. When facing heightened levels, an employee may seek medical advice and take extended periods of leave to support their well-being. 

Neil suggests that when this occurs, it’s vital to allow your staff to take time to fully recuperate before returning to work. This includes avoiding contacting them for work related issues or encouraging them to return to work when they’re not ready.

It’s also important to undergo a return-to-work assessment when your member of staff feels ready to return. In this, discuss ways in which you can support them day to day, such as managing their workload or allowing them to work more flexibly. 

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