Stress management at work, the only resource you’ll ever need

August 30, 2021 - 20 min read

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Stress at work shouldn’t be a regular thing

10 possible sources of stress at work

7 negative effects of being stressed at work

5 benefits of knowing how to manage stress at the workplace

How to navigate stress at work

How managers can help with stress management at work

Start embracing stress management at work

Work-related stress is a growing concern around the world.

The American Institute of Stress found that 75% of employees believe they have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago. While 1 in 4 employees view their job as the number one stressor in their lives.

Unfortunately, a culture of needing to feel stressed to appear successful has become the norm in modern workplaces.

But this shouldn’t be the case.

Now more than ever before, job stress poses a threat to the health of workers. This also puts the health and profitability of organizations at risk.

Let’s take a look at how to identify the triggers and effects of work-related stress. We’ll also cover the many benefits of adequate stress management at work.

Stress at work shouldn’t be a regular thing

The current culture of viewing workplace stress as normal is harmful to employees’ mental health. But its effects don’t stop there.

Chronically stressed employees suffer from a wide range of harmful effects, including:

  • Headaches
  • Exhaustion
  • Slow reaction times
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Research shows that extreme pressure in the workplace can hamper productivity and motivation.

Overly stressed employees may become reluctant to participate in teamwork. Poor work performance and impulsive actions are commonplace. As is an increase in the usage of substances like nicotine and alcohol in order to cope.

Long-term issues from workplace stress include cardiovascular diseases and immune deficiency. Poor mental health may also be triggered from chronic workplace stress.

Beyond being detrimental to employees, these issues can send a company’s health care costs through the roof.

It leads to more accidents and injuries in the workplace and increases absenteeism. This further reduces the overall efficiency and morale of a work environment.

It’s understandable why organizations are turning away from the culture of stress. Instead, they now favor more holistic approaches to workplace and team management.

10 possible sources of stress at work

Workplace stress can happen for a variety of reasons, including:

1. Poor relationships at work

Poor workplace relationships can leave employees feeling isolated.

Conflict with co-workers can leave employees feeling anxious and avoidant about coming to work.  

A non-inclusive ‘cliquey’ environment can also be a source of stress. Employees not included in social groups at work will weaken employee relations. This prevents team members from building a sense of belonging and feeling valued.

2. Lack of support

A lack of support, training, and direction from managers can lead to confusion at work. Uncertainty around employee responsibilities and duties can be a source of frustration.

3. Long hours and heavy workloads

Many jobs have placed growing pressure on employees to work longer and harder. Companies expect their employees to complete massive volumes of work in a short amount of time.

These high expectations and heavy workloads can contribute to significant employee strain.

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4. Changes within the organization

Structural changes can be stressful at the best of times. But they cause even more strain when they’re not properly planned and implemented.

5. Poor working environment

Workspaces in which bullying and harassment take place are hot targets for stressed-out workers. Team members in these environments may feel as though their input isn't valued. Feeling like they have no control over how they’re treated at work can be a stressor.

6. Job insecurity

Today’s economy is highly competitive and volatile. This is especially true in light of the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

These factors drive companies to lay off employees, creating job insecurity. Increased workloads for their remaining workers adds further strain.

7. Lack of autonomy

Employees given excessive responsibility without the ability to properly delegate may become demotivated and despondent. They have no decision-making power in their roles.

8. Workplace discrimination

Racial, gender, and disability discrimination have long been pervasive problems in the workplace. These issues cause significant stress to those experiencing them first-hand.

9. Outdated tools and technologies

Working with clunky, outdated technology can be stressful. Employees may struggle to be productive without functional tools at their disposal.

10. Unclear expectations from management

Vague instructions and expectations from managers can quickly lead to conflict at work. This places undue stress on all parties involved.

7 negative effects of being stressed at work

Let's look at seven ways stress negatively affects an organization and its employees:

1. Low morale and motivation

Stress is often brought on by pushing teams to meet tight deadlines and production goals. However, it has the ironic effect of reducing employee morale and motivation. This further affects the team's productivity.

2. Poor employee retention rate

Workplace stress leads to high employee turnover rates. Feeling too stressed at work will make employees look for less stressful and more engaging positions elsewhere.

3. Poor mental health

Stress can cause many mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. For employees with poor mental health, the effects of stress could make underlying struggles worse.

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4. Poor physical well-being

There are many well-documented links between stress and poor human health outcomes.

Stress can cause sleep disorders, weight gain and obesity, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. It can also cause other dangerous health conditions such as a weakened immune system, gastrointestinal problems and increased risk of heart attack.

5. Impacted personal and workplace relationships

Stress can prevent employees from devoting energy toward their relationships.

Workplace stress makes it difficult for employees to form positive workplace relationships. It can also chip away at existing bonds with peers.

Beyond workplace relationships, personal relationships suffer, too.

Overly stressed employees might find it difficult not to bring those negative feelings home. This can blur the healthy boundary between your job and personal life. Having work-life balance gives you the time to invest in strong, healthy relationships.

6. Poor quality of work

Stress decreases our ability to focus, reason, and make rational decisions. All of which are vital to producing consistently high-quality work.

7. Work-life imbalance

Stressed, overworked employees work too many hours to meet tight deadlines.

Unrealistic production expectations can leave them with little time for friends and family members. Having a poor work-life balance and not taking time for their personal lives further exacerbates their stress levels.

5 benefits of knowing how to manage stress at the workplace

Learning how to manage stress at the workplace is essential for protecting your mental and physical health. Plus, it ensures that you can work to the best of your ability without burning out.

Here are five benefits of stress management in the workplace:

1. Greater job satisfaction

Employees that have the skills to manage stress at work are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs. This job satisfaction will cause employees to stick around long-term.

2. Reduced employee turnover

High employee turnover can be extremely costly to organizations. Happy employees are far less likely to leave their jobs in search of kinder environments. This will help to minimize employee turnover and its associated expenses.

3. Improved work quality

Calm employees are better equipped to communicate effectively with managers and their peers. They're also more likely to produce high-quality work that meets their employers’ expectations.

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4. Improved self-worth

Employees who can handle stress in the workplace are more likely to respect their peers. And they’re more likely to feel valued and respected in return. This will improve their self-worth and encourage them to contribute to collaborative projects.

5. Overall better physical health

Proper stress management at work leads to better health outcomes.

Protecting yourself from stress can lower rates of disease. It also gives you more time and energy for health-promoting physical activity.

How to navigate stress at work

Navigate and conquer workplace stress with these tips:

1. Learn what triggers workplace stress

Does conflict or yelling send your stress levels soaring? Do tight deadlines and unclear instructions leave you struggling to cope?

Learning what triggers your stress is the first step in stress management at work. Make a note of each situation you feel is increasing your stress. Try to recognize any patterns so you can tackle those specific stressors.

2. Create work-life balance

It’s crucial to look after your own personal needs and set aside ‘me-time’ regularly to prevent burnout. Spend time with your loved ones outside work, and prioritize time for rest.

3. Seek professional help

Reach out to a coach or counselor if you feel that your stress levels are out of control. They’ll help you identify your stress triggers and provide professional relaxation techniques. For example they can teach you how to start a gratitude practice to feel more grounded and connected to the world around us.

4. Stay organized

Create schedules for yourself and work on your time management skills. Divide large tasks into smaller, more manageable sections. This will help you feel in control and keep stress at bay.

5. Practice mindfulness

Mindful breathing has a number of health benefits, including reducing stress. Take at least five minutes every workday to focus on your breath.

6. Raise your concerns with HR or your manager

If you feel that certain factors are contributing to high levels of stress, make your voice heard. A manager or HR personnel can help make changes at work to prevent stressful situations.

7. Get plenty of sleep

Experts recommend enjoying at least eight hours per night of uninterrupted sleep. Sleep hygiene will help you get enough high-quality sleep to keep your stress under control.

8. Eat a healthy diet

Nutrition and mental health are closely linked.

Include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and water in your daily menu. Eat regularly, and bring a healthy meal to work each day. This can help reduce the temptation to eat unhealthy snack foods.

9. Maintain close workplace relationships

The more you interact positively with your peers at work, the more you'll feel included. This kind of social support helps employees feel respected and valued in the workplace.

How managers can help with stress management at work

It’s your responsibility as a manager to equip your team with the tools they need to thrive in the office. Here are some ways you can do this:

Check in with employees to determine levels and sources of stress

Get as much information as you can about what causes your employees to feel stressed at work. As a manager, this will better equip you to address those stressors.

Intervene where necessary

Your teams may look to you to intervene and manage certain stressors.

For example, workplace discrimination or verbal abuse may need a manager’s mediation. Step in when you feel it's necessary, and reinforce your organization’s culture and code of ethics.

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Provide stress management training

Stress management training will provide your employees with the tools they need to manage their stress. Hold regular training sessions that teach employees how to identify their stress levels. Give them tips on what they can do to effectively lower them.

Establish employee assistance programs

Employee assistance programs offer extra support to employees suffering from stress-related mental health problems.

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to inform your team members of these programs. Make sure they have all the information they need to enroll themselves.

Start embracing stress management at work

In today's rapidly changing world, more people than not are experiencing high levels of workplace stress.

It’s crucial for every one of us to learn how to cope with bad stress and embrace good stress.

Learning how to manage stress at the workplace can help you identify your stress triggers. It also ensures you have the right tools to protect your mental and physical well-being for years — even while you are under pressure.

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A BetterUp coach can teach you life-changing stress management techniques. Contact us to learn how you can transform stress into something productive.

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Published August 30, 2021

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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