Stress Management in the Workplace: A Guide for Managers

Stress management in the workplace - Handshake, above and Business People in a Meeting for a Deal, Onboarding and Welcome. Happy, Interview and Corporate Employees Shaking Hands for Thank You, Support or Partnership in Group Discussion

Stress in the workplace is inevitable, from tight deadlines or conflict with a colleague over task completion. As a manager, looking for ways to identify when stress levels come too high and how we can help to mitigate the potential impact to create an atmosphere of positivity and productivity.  

This guide will provide insights into stress management in the workplace, the statistics, signs, and strategies for managing.

Remember, employers have a legal duty to safeguard their employees from stress levels under health and safety laws.


Statistics of Stress in the Workplace

  • 1 in 14 adults in the UK feel some level of stress daily.
  • The top cause of stress for employees is their workload (73% of respondents)
  • Over 50% of respondents agreed that a balanced amount of stress helps to motivate them to thrive in the workplace.
  • 33% of respondents indicated that high-stress levels impacted their productivity at work.
  • 76% of respondents reported experiencing moderate-to-high or high levels of stress at work.
  • Only 9% of respondents had no stress at work.
  • It is estimated ½ million employees in the UK feel overwhelmed and unable to cope due to work stress.

(Statistics sourced from Champion Health)

Why is Stress management in the workplace important?

Stress management is fundamentally linked to employees’ productivity. When stress levels are managed employees will make fewer mistakes with higher focus abilities and working more efficiently. Alternatively, employees will see productivity decrease in a highly stressful environment, causing lower focus and more mistakes.

By encouraging stress management in the workplace, managers can prevent low productivity and create a working environment that is supportive and positive. Stress puts strains on working relationships between colleagues as well as between managers and employees. Stress creates miscommunication, conflict, and reduces collaboration in teams.

Being proactive with stress management in the workplace may help in creating better working relationships at work, making it a more cooperative and collaborative space for employees. By not being proactive, companies may see an increase in employee turnover.

This will harm the business’s reputation and its ability to attract talented employees. Companies with poor reputations typically have to pay 10% higher salaries. Prioritising employee well-being will work in the business’s favour, having a positive outlook for potential candidates.

Under health and safety regulations employers have a legal obligation to manage stress levels. Being proactive with stress management in the workplace will assist with health and safety compliance. Minimising the risks of legal issues.

If you haven’t realised already, poor stress management in the workplace – is costly! Increased employee absenteeism and a higher turnover means more recruitment campaigns and wasted business hours from poor productivity.

Signs of stress in the workplace

  • Employees are struggling to meet deadlines or output has reduced.
  • High absenteeism, a sign stress is impacting employee’s well-being.
  • Mood swings, irritability, or short tempers from employees
  • Lack of communication or miscommunication
  • Employee complaints or grievances have increased.
  • Employees handing in notice without another job to go to
  • If employees are constantly tired or lacking in energy
  • Physical ailments such as headaches or backaches may be a sign of high stress.
  • Poor concentration and inability to make decisions.
  • Tension and conflict between employees
  • An increase in errors or accidents may be a result of high stress impacting focus and efficiency.

5 strategies for stress management in the workplace

Encouraging a healthy work-life balance

Managers should be encouraging employees to have a work-life balance. If possible, offer employees flexibility in their roles, from flexible working hours to hybrid working modules.  Have you noticed employees working before or past normal business hours? Conversations should be had to understand the employee’s workload, ensuring it is manageable.

No barriers to communication

 Do employees feel comfortable to communicate if they are under pressure? How do managers deal with this? Is it dismissed or is action taken? Creating an environment where employees can discuss any concerns or challenges, they are facing, is invaluable. As a manager having regular one-to-one meetings is key to addressing any possible issues.

Providing growth opportunities

If there is a lack of growth opportunities, or if an employee feels stagnant in their roles it can add stress to them. Furthermore, if an employee doesn’t have the correct knowledge to complete tasks this can be very stressful and cause reduced productivity.

Encouraging regular breaks

Are employees frequently working through lunchtime or not moving away from their desks all day? Encourage employees to take breaks from their desks. Is there a space where employees can go to get away from their desks and encouraging employees to get out for a quick walk to stretch their legs is good for a person’s mental health.

Stress management resources

Providing easy access to stress management resources helps reduce stress levels, whether this is mindfulness meditation sessions, workshops, or if is a stressful role access to counselling. Giving employees the tools to cope with situations shows the business is supporting their employees. EAP programs are also a great measure.

Stress management activities for employees

  • Mindfulness and meditation sessions
  • Fitness facilities on-site or a great employee benefit is subsidised gym membership.
  • Hosting workshops and seminars on stress management
  • Team-building activities help employees relax and create better friendships.
  • Quiet rooms where employees can take breaks, relax or meditate
  • Employee assistance programs (EAP) giving employees access to counselling services
  • Flexible working arrangements

It’s never one size fits all, figure out what works best for your business and employees to see the benefits. HR consultants can provide advice on managing stress in the workplace.

How should managers handle stress management in the workplace?

Managers play a key role in managing stress in the workplace, they should be leading by example. Whilst in a management role you will expect some level of stress, this should be manageable and not overwhelm you. As a manager you should demonstrate healthy work habits from work-life balance, taking breaks, and managing stress constructively.  

Expectations and feedback should be provided to employees, this includes expectations, goals, and objectives. This will prevent any misunderstandings and unnecessary stress. Constructive feedback can help employees know where they are performing well or areas of improvement.

Hard work and achievements should be recognised in the workplace, this can boost morale and reduce stress. Verbal appreciation, awards or other incentives are a great method of employee recognition.

Managers may find it beneficial to seek constructive feedback from employees, helping them to understand where they need more support in and any incentives they believe will reduce stress. This strategy will assist in creating a more collaborative team.

FAQs for Stress management in the workplace

  1. Identify Stressors: Knowing what triggers stress is crucial for managing it. Managers can encourage employees to identify stressors through mindfulness practices like keeping a journal​.
  2. Promote Collaboration: Creating a collaborative culture can significantly alleviate workplace stress​​.
  3. Realistic Workloads and Deadlines: Managers should strive for realistic deadlines and workloads, ensuring that employees have the necessary tools and methods to efficiently execute tasks​​.
  4. Work-Life Balance: Encouraging work-life balance, recognizing good work, and avoiding after-hours communications are vital steps towards reducing stress​4​.
  5. Regular Breaks: Managers should ensure that employees take regular breaks to prevent burnout​.

Managing stress in the workplace is crucial for both the well-being of employees and the overall productivity of the business. When stress is properly managed, employees are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and satisfied with their work, which in turn can lead to higher retention rates and better team dynamics.

Furthermore, a low-stress environment fosters creativity, problem-solving, and effective decision-making. On the other hand, unmanaged stress can lead to burnout, absenteeism, health issues, and a toxic work environment, which ultimately can harm the company’s reputation and bottom line.

By actively managing stress, managers contribute to building a positive, healthy, and high-performing workplace.

Appropriate stress management involves recognising and addressing stressors healthily and constructively, both on an individual and business level. It encompasses a variety of practices such as maintaining a balanced lifestyle, practicing mindfulness, and ensuring a supportive work environment. It’s about creating resilience, promoting clear communication, and providing resources to cope with stress.

Additionally, appropriate stress management includes creating a work culture that values work-life balance and offering flexibility and understanding in the face of personal or work-related challenges. Through such proactive and supportive approaches, individuals and businesses can mitigate the negative effects of stress, thereby enhancing overall well-being and productivity.

  1. Excessive workload
  2. Lack of control
  3. Job security concerns
  4. Workplace relationships
  5. Work-life balance
  6. Unclear expectations
  7. Change management
  8. Insufficient support
  9. Feeling underpaid or underappreciated
  10. Lack of challenge or variety in work can lead to boredom and frustration

Excessive stress can manifest through a variety of symptoms spanning the emotional, physical, cognitive, and behavioural domains:

  • Emotional Symptoms:
    1. Irritability or anger
    2. Anxiety or nervousness
    3. Depression or sadness
    4. Feeling overwhelmed
    5. Lack of motivation or focus
  • Physical Symptoms:
    1. Headaches or migraines
    2. Muscle tension or pain
    3. Fatigue
    4. Sleep disturbances
    5. Digestive issues
  • Cognitive Symptoms:
    1. Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
    2. Memory problems
    3. Negative thinking
    4. Constant worry
  • Behavioural Symptoms:
    1. Procrastination or neglecting responsibilities
    2. Changes in appetite—either not eating or eating too much
    3. Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
    4. Nervous behaviours like nail-biting or pacing
  1. Severe Anxiety or Panic Attacks: Experiencing intense anxiety or panic attacks, which may include rapid heartbeat, sweating, shaking, or a feeling of impending doom, can be an alarming sign of unmanaged stress.
  2. Chronic Insomnia or Other Sleep Disorders: Persistent trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restorative sleep due to racing thoughts or anxiety can be indicative of excessive stress.
  3. Depression or Persistent Sadness: Prolonged feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities can also be alarming signs of stress, and may require professional intervention to address underlying issues.
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