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Why should you deal with work-related stress?

  1. For reducing sickness absence
  2. To benefit your business
  3. To comply with the law

Some stress in life is normal, and it can help us to perform effectively, - but excessive or prolonged stress interferes productivity, and can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion.  

As a manager or employer you have a legal responsibility to ensure that your employees do not get ill, either physically or mentally, because of work-related stress.


For your company can stress cause poor performance, a rise in sickness absences and high staff turnover, so it is important for you to learn to recognize the common causes of stress at work for being able to cope with it. Dealing with stress at work can reduce sickness absence costs, improve your company's bottom line, and have a positive affect on:

  • Employee commitment to work
  • Productivity
  • Staff turnover
  • Staff recruitment and retention
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Your company's image and reputation

It is in your best interest to keep overall stress levels at a minimum. Business owners have often significant capital invested in the company, and in these uncertain times it puts added pressure on their key decisions. Things can easily get out of proportion if  we have ignored the signs of stress too long. We must learn to recognize, manage and control our own stress before we are able to cope with stress at the workplace.  As manager and employer we should act as a positive role models, so we must retain a large measure of self-control and self-confidence by understanding and practicing emotional intelligence. But first - before we are able to help others - we must find out if are we experiencing stress ourselves.

Some of your stress warnings signs may be:

  • Eating on the run
  • Missing breaks
  • Poor judgment
  • Disorganised manners
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Doing several jobs at once
  • Bringing work-loads home
  • Irritation, aggression
  • Loss of sense of humor
  • Smoking or drinking excessively
  • No time for relaxation or exercise
  • Constant tiredness
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pains
  • Headaches
  • Migraine


BURNOUT which usually has its roots in stress can occure when you have been under constant stress over a long period. The earlier we recognise the symptoms of stress, the better chance we have for avoiding burnout.  Read More >


Beyond a positive attitude and a take-care approach, you can reduce stress in your life by taking better care of yourself. Your improved ability to manage stress can make the difference between success and failure in the workplace.

1. Take charge of stress

Are your methods of coping with stress not contributing to your greater emotional and physical health; you will need to identify and tackle the underlying causes of stress.

It may not be as easy at is sounds, but look closely at your habits and attitudes. Clarify things by writing down the reasons for;

  • What causes your stress?
  • Is stress an integral part of your life, or is it a part of your personality?
  • How do you feel when you are stressed, both physically and emotionally?
  • How do you response on other people's stress?
  • How can you response without becoming stressed?

2. Pay more attention to your physical and emotional well-being

The better you feel - the more energy you'll get - and the stronger and more resilient you become to stress.

  • Learn to recognize your own emotions
  • Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control
  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Get enough sleep
  • Improve your diet and eat regularly
  • Reduce nicotine, alcohol and coffee consumption
  • Plan regular daily breaks at work
  • Take a walk after lunch and dinner

3. Avoid bad habits and negative attitudes that add stress to work

  • Meet challenges with humor!
  • It is not what you say, but the way you say it by gesture, tone of voice or facial expression that impacts others
  • Gain control over yourself and the situation, do not over-commit yourself, take one thing at the time, and make positive choices

4. Prioritise and organise

  • Avoid regular long working hours
  • Make sure to take your holiday
  • Find the right balance between work and family life, daily responsibilities and social activities
  • Too often we underestimate time, so avoid scheduling too tight
  • Learn to say »no«

5. Improve your communication skills

  • Learn to listen, sense and understand other's emotions
  • Inspire your employees
  • Feel comfortable socially
  • Face conflicts fearlessly

Improved communication skills and a growing self-control will ease and improve your relationship with others.


Stress affects the mind, body and behavior in many ways, and the symptoms vary from person to person. For some can stress change the way they think and behave, for others it can break out in physical symptoms such as back problems, headache and skin outbreaks, or in emotional symptoms as hyper-sensitivity and crying.

When people have a lot of worries and responsibilities, they might have been running on stress quite a long time. The more stress is activated; the harder it is to break out of the stress pattern. Extended activation of stress response takes a heavy toll on the body. A prolonged or excessive stress response increases the risk of everything between depression and memory problems to obesity and heart attacks.


Emotional Symptoms

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Moodiness
  • Restlessness
  • Short tempered
  • Impatient, irritated
  • Cannot relax
  • Tensed, on the edge
  • Social withdrawal
  • Unhappiness, depression
  • Always worried
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Clear thinking problems
  • Poor judgment
  • Negative attitude
  • Anxious, racing thoughts
  • Loss of objectivity
  • Fearful anticipation


                                                    Common Physical Symptoms of Stress

  • Migraine
  • Tension and frequent headaches
  • Backaches
  • Muscle tension and stiffness
  • Muscle cramps and spasms
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Skin breakouts
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increased sweating
  • Shaking, nervous twitches
  • Poor blood circulation in fingers and toes
  • Increased hair loss
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Impotence
  • Infertility
  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Frequent colds and flues
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Insomnia

                                                      Common Behavioral Symptoms of Stress

  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping more or less
  • Permanently tires
  • Increased consumption of alcohol
  • Increased consumption of coffee
  • Heavy smoking
  • Use of drugs to relax
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Nail biting, pacing
  • Teeth grinding, jaw clenching
  • Poor concentration
  • Over-reactive, bad tempered
  • Excessive emotion
  • Feeling out of control
  • Paranoid
  • Overdoing exercise
  • Overdoing shopping
  • Lack of interest in other things than work
  • Decreased sex drive, libido
  • Note able to complete things
  • Not able to make any decisions


  • Fair of lay-offs
  • Organisational changes
  • Failure to keep employees informed about significant changes
  • Uncertaincy or worries
  • Increased demands for overtime due to staff cutbacks
  • Excessively high workloads
  • Unrealistic deadlines
  • Pressure to work at optimum levels
  • Insufficient workloads
  • Lack of control over work activities
  • Lack of interpersonal support
  • Poor working relationships leading to a sense of isolation
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Low self-esteem
  • Pessimistic attitude
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Blame culture
  • Poor, ineffective management
  • Multiple reporting lines for the employees
  • Poor physical working environment


The causes of stress are highly individual. What you consider stressful can be easy for others to cope with. Major life events can be stressful to us all, also to our employees. Sometimes people may suffer from stress that is not work-related – but remember, it can have a significant impact on their job performance.

Common external causes of stress include:

  • Debt problems
  • Death of a spouse or close relative
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Divorce, separation
  • Jail term
  • Serious illness or injury in the family
  • Marriage
  • Marriage reconciliation
  • Pregnancy
  • Caring for children or elderly relatives
  • Bereavement
  • Moving
  • Fired from job
  • Retirement

Regardless of an event is good or bad, the best thing you can do is to adopt a sympathetic and understanding approach. You have no legal responsibility to tackle external causes of stress among your employees, but in order to help them deal with their problems, you can suggest a more flexible working arrangement, or offer the employees paid time off. Remember; always respect your employees' confidentiality, whatever they tell you about problems they are facing.

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