Recognise and Reduce Stress in the Workplace


What is stress?

The impact of stress on a business

Recognising problem stress

Common causes of stress

1. Workload

2. Workplace conflict

3. Personal matters

Reducing stress in the workplace

Recruitment and retention

Workplace culture

Reduce stress by improving your employee experience with Sodexo Engage



Wednesday, 2nd November, is National Stress Awareness Day, and from Monday, 7th November, an entire week will be dedicated stress awareness internationally.

It’s essential to keep the information flowing because, as a society, phrases like ‘you’re stressing me out’ are a standard part of our vocabulary, and we’re at risk of becoming desensitised to something that can have severe consequences. 


What is stress?

Stress is the body's reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It's very common, can be motivating to help us achieve things in our daily life...


When you read this description provided by the NHS, stress doesn’t seem serious or harmful. We’ve said ourselves that stress could drive you to meet targets. However, when stress becomes too frequent and too high, further problems arise, and that’s why we can never lose sight of the impact stress can have.

But too much stress can affect our mood, our body and our relationships – especially when it feels out of our control. Every Mind Matters


The impact of employee stress on a business

Stress isn’t a personal problem, and it’s not solely the responsibility of the employee to manage. Every employer has a duty of care to protect the wellbeing of their employees, and since stress can lead to further health problems, such as burnout, it needs to be monitored and managed.

Employers play a role in this, whether it’s through regularly checking in with their workforce, assessing workloads, or providing employee assistance and wellbeing programmes.

Taking these steps doesn’t just benefit the employee; it protects your organisation’s bottom line. Sickness absence costs the UK economy £14 billion annually, and mental health illness caused by work-related stress makes up 48% of the absenteeism contributing to that figure.



Recognising problem stress

At the beginning of this article, we mention that stress within the workplace can be a motivator, driving employees to meet targets and deadlines. It requires balance, and it’s important to recognise when the scales start to tip into dangerous territory.

It’s tricky to manage because even if you have regular check-ins, you’re relying on effective and confident communication. Some employees may fear that admitting to being overwhelmed will be negatively received. Unfortunately, these are likely to be the employees most impacted by stress, so it’s crucial for managers to get to know their teams and recognise symptoms and behaviour changes that can be caused by stress.

Physical symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Muscle pain

mental or emotional symptoms

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Inability to lead or make decisions
  • Forgetfulness
  • Worrying

behavioural changes

  • Changes in sleep patterns (more or less than usual)
  • Irritability
  • Change in eating habits
  • Increase in the amount of alcohol consumed
  • Smoking more than usual


You can find more detailed information on the NHS website, and we’d recommend that you and your managers familiarise yourselves with it. Early intervention is crucial to avoid burnout and further mental and physical health issues.


Common causes of stress

Your employees are individual and unique, which means several factors may cause stress. Below are the most common:



1. Workload

Some industries and roles are more demanding and stressful than others, and in some cases, it’s expected. An employee pushing for a promotion, for example, would appreciate that with increased pay and responsibility comes an increase in workload.

What about when the pressure increases through reasons beyond your employees’ control? Everyone gets sick and has holiday entitlement, so it’s not unexpected that employees will occasionally have to cover another role. However, when one or more employee is repeatedly absent, or roles within a business go unfilled for long periods, it’s a different matter. Business needs remain the same, regardless of how many people are on a team. As such, a reduction in your workforce will lead to an increased workload for those remaining.

This increased workload may not be harmful in the short term, but prolonged periods of unmanageable pressure could lead to a stress-related illness.


2. Workplace Conflict

Many different factors can cause conflict in the workplace, and it’s essential to recognise it when it arises. A 2021 ACAS study found that conflict costs UK businesses £28.5 billion annually and that 10 million employees reported suffering conflict at work. Over half of those 10 million (56%) suffered from stress, anxiety, and depression because of workplace conflict.

Ensure you train your managers to recognise and resolve conflict before it becomes a real problem, bringing in external support if necessary.


3. Personal Matters

Although employees may demonstrate symptoms of stress whilst at work, the workplace may not be the cause. Your employees have a life outside of the office, and stress can come at them from many different sources – relationships, work-life balance, physical and mental health, and financial concerns caused by the cost-of-living crisis.

This doesn’t mean the employer can remain uninvolved because stress is like a virus. It may start at home, but personal stress will spread to the workplace. Issues, once manageable, may escalate, performance and engagement will reduce, and this will all impact your business.


Reducing Stress in the Workplace

Whilst no employer can wave a magic wand, you can take steps to help. If you take a holistic view, you’ll see how every area is interlinked and how you can provide meaningful support when you focus on employee wellbeing initiatives.


Recruitment and Retention

Let’s take the example of the excessive workload due to issues in recruiting and retaining employees. If you improve your employee value proposition by focusing on your employee benefits offering and incorporating an inclusive reward and recognition strategy, you’ll find it easier to acquire and keep your talent.


Workplace Culture

Once you improve your employee offering and focus on rewarding excellence, you’ll cultivate a happier workforce and a positive workplace environment. Will some conflict arise? Of course. You’re working with human beings, but when you take active steps to show your employees they’re appreciated and supported, conflicts will reduce.


Reduce stress by improving your employee experience with Sodexo Engage

Sodexo Engage has been focusing on employee wellbeing for over 60 years, and we’re thrilled to see employers understand the importance of supporting their employees beyond the workplace.

Take a look at our Financial Wellbeing Guide for a host of information on cost-effective ways to provide meaningful financial assistance to your employees and their household.

We’ve got physical and mental wellbeing covered too! With our Whitepaper on ‘How to Cultivate a Culture of Wellbeing in the Changing World of Work’ at your fingertips, you’ll have all the information you need to provide meaningful support to your employees and do your bit to help reduce stress.

For help making your employee benefits stretch further and get more for less, speak with our engagement experts today.



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