In this guide, we will discuss the “effects of stress in the workplace.
Also, we will see how individual differences can impact the way we deal with stressful situations and the physiologica, emotional and behavioral consequences of stress.
In the end, we will discuss some helpful tips that can be implemented at your workplace to help you manage stress.
Effects of stress in the workplace
Some of the effects of stress in the workplace can be reflected in:
- Higher absenteeism rates.
- High labor turnover.
- Poor timekeeping and meeting deadlines.
- Low performance and productivity.
- Low morale.
- Lack of motivation.
- Increased complaints from employees.
- Increased accidents or incidents.
Stress is not bad per se, the problem is when uncontrolled stress affects or impacts negatively the overall health and wellbeing from an employee.
We all have felt stressed at some point, due to a project with a tight deadline or having too much work you barely have the time to sleep.
You may have also experienced some of the symptoms such as insomnia or frequent headaches.
Moreover, we can see how stress not only impacts employees but also organizations.
For instance, in a study performed by FirstCare in 2018, workplace absence cost the UK economy £18 billion in lost productivity each year.
But why are we so stressed?
On many occasions, our environment becomes very demanding to the point we can’t actually take care of everything at the same time, as we sometimes think we ‘must’ do or are expected from us.
We all deal and cope with stress differently, even if the same event is presented to two individuals simultaneously and with the same specifications.
Our brain receives the information and produces an input according to our abilities, resources, and coping skills.
Bickford (2005) indicates, “Stress is a normal, adaptive response to stressors in our environment. Our bodies are designed with a set of automatic responses to deal with stress. This system is very effective for the short term “fight or flight” responses we need when faced with immediate danger.”
Moreover, “…The problem is that, physiologically, our bodies have the same reaction to all types of stressors. Experiencing stress for long periods of time, such as lower-level but constant stressors at work, activates this system. For many people, everyday stressors keep this response activated so that it does not have a chance to ‘turn off’.”
What happens to our bodies when we do not have the chance to turn off stress?
Let’s see some of the physiological responses.
Physiological responses to stress and consequences
Stress has been associated with an increased blood pressure, increased heart rate and faster breathing rate, increased cholesterol and fatty acids in your blood for energy production, increased production of blood sugar for energy, among others.
This is expected since our body is on “alert mode”.
This means it needs to use all of the resources to fight or flight from a potential threat or something that could harm us, but this is just a false alarm.
When our bodies are continuously being triggered with this response, it will start manifesting physical symptoms such as migraines, chest pain, muscle aches, among others.
Along with it, our mental health gets impacted to the point we can even develop signs of depression and/or anxiety, having mood swings, feeling defensive, sad, irritable, angry, etc.
Therefore, our behavior and attitudes also change.
Someone who is exposed to prolonged stress can have a change in their appetite, either eating more than usual or losing appetite.
Also, some people are more prone to using (and abusing) substances such as alcohol or drugs.
Personally, it can impact your relationships with people around you such as your family and colleagues, but also can make you isolate from others or have a poor job performance.
What can I do to deal with workplace stress?
There are many ways or stress management techniques you can implement to reduce the impact of work-related stress but most of them include making changes to your habits and way of doing things.
Tip 1: Knowing when to reach out or ask for help
Sharing your stress with someone you trust or someone who is close to you can help as a stress-reducer.
Communicating your frustration, your worries, and sharing some thoughts can help you as a stress relief strategy.
However, remember the other person is not there to fix all your problems but to listen to you and might even give you some advice.
If you are working and you feel too stressed or overwhelmed, try to turn to a colleague for support.
We know sometimes making close friends at work can be difficult so try to take steps to socialize more with them during your breaks or lunch hour.
Tip 2: adopt healthy habits
We know how little time for yourself you may have, especially with all the deadlines and amount of work you may have been in charge of but when work becomes the no. 1 priority, we tend to neglect ourselves.
Make some time, even a few minutes during the day to support your health.
Small things will make the difference and with this said, we are not asking you to go get a gym subscription and invest hours on end at the gym.
For instance, implementing aerobic exercises can actually help you lift your mood and make you feel more energized.
Try dedicating at least 30 mins of your day to physical activity such as walking or running but if you definitely do not have the time, try to break it in segments.
In addition, you can combine your physical activity with eating healthy.
As indicated by helpguide.org, “Eating small, frequent, and healthy meals, for example, can help our body maintain an even level of blood sugar. This maintains your energy and focus and prevents mood swings. Low blood sugar, on the other hand, can make you feel anxious and irritable, while eating too much can make you lethargic.”
Tip 3: watch out for your sleeping habits
You remember the last time you had a good night’s sleep or does it feel like it hasn’t happened in ages?
Reducing considerably the amount of time you invest in your sleep can actually affect things such as concentration, creativity, and motivation.
It makes perfect sense, the better rested you are, the better you will be at dealing with your job responsibilities.
Simple changes to improve the quality of your sleep can include avoiding drinking coffee or smoking right before going to sleep, ensuring you get enough natural light in the morning or simply going to sleep and getting up at the same time.
Tip 4: time management
Have you noticed how the day seems to be too short or you don’t get to finish everything you need to during your work hours?
This could be due either to excessive workloads or time management.try to prioritize the tasks in order of difficulty or sense of urgency.
Moreover, you could learn how to say “No” to coworkers. If you have enough on your plate and you know you are too busy with your pending tasks avoid saying “yes” to every time they ask you to help them out with their work. Of course, if you get to have some time available helping a colleague will do no harm.
Try using sticky notes or an agenda where you can keep track of your daily responsibilities and deadlines.
Tip 5: breaking bad habits
You may be familiar with the fact of how negative thoughts have the ability to make us act a certain way.
For instance, thinking about failure and how it is inevitable will only make us lose motivation and how no matter what we do the outcome would be the same.
This only affects your mood and opens the door to depression and anxiety.
In addition, avoid trying to control everything. Many things at work are beyond your control and particularly how other people behave.
Instead of focusing on what is wrong with them and trying to make them change, evaluate how you can change your approach to the situations beyond your control.
Why is this blog about the effects of stress in the workplace important?
We have seen how negative stress can be and the potential effects not only on an individual level but also on what it can do to an organization.
Also, we know stress is not bad in nature, at the right balanced amount can be beneficial but when the levels rise and are uncontrollable, that’s when we start having and manifesting problems.
There are a lot of stress management techniques that you can use to cope more effectively with stress at your workplace.
Just take the time to evaluate those that you can easily commit to and implement.
Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the effects of stress in the workplace
What is workplace stress?
“Workplace stress then is the harmful physical and emotional responses that can happen when there is a conflict between job demands on the employee and the amount of control an employee has over meeting these demands (ccohs.ca)”
How does stress affect workplace safety?
Stress can affect workplace safety by contributing to the higher probability of an employee having an accident.
In this sense, employees who have higher workloads may be forced to work long shifts or do overtime to deliver work on time.
This leaves less time to get some rest or sleep the recommended amount of hours.
If an employee is tired or fatigued, their concentration towards a task gets reduced, which contributes to a higher rate of accidents.
What are the effects of stress on the human body?
Some of the effects of stress on the human body include feeling tired, having frequent headaches/migraines, gastrointestinal problems (i.e. upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation), muscle tension and pain, chest pain, shortness of breath, insomnia, frequent colds and infections, loss of sexual drive, to name a few.
What are 5 emotional signs of stress?
Some of the emotional signs of stress include:
Feeling depressed or anxious
Anger and/or irritability
Lack of motivation
Trouble going to sleep or sleeping too much
Problems with concentrating or your memory
How do I stop stressing at work?
If you want to stop stressing at work you could consider the following tips:
Keep a journal where you can track your triggers or stressors.
Develop health habits such as exercising regularly and eating healthy.
Establish boundaries and learn to say no.
Learn to manage your time more effectively.
Learn relaxation techniques.
Have open communication with your supervisor.
Bowness, A. (2017, Aug.) Life As We Know It: The Impact Of Stress In The Workplace For Your Employees. Retrieved from saba.com.
Bickford, M. (2005) Stress in the Workplace: A General Overview of the Causes, the Effects, and the Solutions. Canadian Mental Health Association. Newfoundland and Labrador Division.
Helpguide.org: “Stress at Work”