Stress appears differently for everyone but never has it been more widespread or scrutinised. Do you, as a business or HR leader, know how your people are coping?

While a small amount of pressure can be positive and productive, excessive or prolonged stress overwhelms and can be damaging.

Proactively safeguarding your team’s well-being not only nurtures your workforce but also protects your business’ bottom line. Your business is only as good as your teams within it.

By recognising the signs your employees are experiencing stress, you can take practical steps to support them.

Here are some common indicators to look out for – and what you can do to help.

 How to identify stress in the workplace

  • Decreased productivity: Emotionally strained employees are often unable to concentrate, affecting the quality and efficiency of their work. You might notice missed deadlines as tasks take longer to complete.
  • Changes in mood: Employees who are usually easy-going may become irritable, short-tempered or anxious if struggling with stress. This behaviour can negatively impact relationships with others in the team.
  • Increased absences: A rise in sick days and unexplained absences could suggest an employee is struggling with chronic stress or burnout. Other team members may have to take on the workload of their colleague, affecting team morale.
  • Lack of engagement: You might notice an employee no longer participates in meetings, interacts with their colleagues or has a low mood generally.
  • Physical symptoms: Stress affects mental health but can also manifest physically. Ailments, including frequent headaches, fatigue and stomach issues, can all be stress related.

7 practical ways to proactively support your people.

Now you know what you’re looking out for, here’s how you can truly make a massive difference to the well-being of your employees.

  1. Cultivate an environment where your people feel safe to discuss their feelings. As a leader, promote open communication and speak up about the importance of looking out for each other. Arrange regular check-ins or 1:1s where employees feel able to discuss concerns and share how they’re feeling. As a manager or leader, don’t feel like you must be an expert – just listening without judgement and being ready to signpost for additional support if needed will make a world of difference.
  2. Consider adjusted working patterns. Offering hybrid or flexible working (so people have the option to work from home) doesn’t suit everyone. Often, though, this will enable people to balance their personal and professional lives in a way that feels more sustainable.
  3. Provide stress management workshops or awareness training. Educating your workplace helps create an open culture and breaks down the stigma that sometimes surrounds stress and mental health. Your team will feel equipped to tackle challenges at work and home.
  4. Promote a healthy work-life balance and establish boundaries. It’s key to lead by example by not sending emails outside usual working hours.
  5. Encourage people to take time away from their desks when having lunch and small breaks throughout the workday. A quick walk, some stretching or anything that takes them (and you) away from the daily grind will go a long way in helping to rejuvenate both mind and body.
  6. Provide access to support. Resources that offer counselling or wellness apps can be a real lifeline for those dealing with stress. There are so many options now, not just the traditional Employee Assistance Programme. It’s important to select the appropriate resources for your team.
  7. Recognise and reward your people! Show them that you appreciate their hard work and value their contributions. This isn’t about receiving a monetary reward. Celebrating small wins boosts morale and offsets feelings of being overwhelmed.

Stress is commonplace and should never be ignored or dismissed. By staying vigilant for the signs of stress and implementing our 7 tips, you’ll demonstrate that the wellness of your people is a priority for your business. Helping everyone manage stress prevents it from becoming chronic or leading to burnout.

Taking proactive measures to identify and address stress leads to a healthy work environment with improved productivity, reduced staff turnover and a more engaged workforce. You’ll empower your team to feel resilient, valued and supported. Everyone will show up for work both mentally and physically. And your business will thrive.