7 Hidden Signs of Employee Stress in the Workplace

Stress arises naturally from time to time from normal events both at work and at home, but it isn’t always a negative thing. A low-level amount of stress can be healthy. Sometimes referred to as eustress, this minor pressure can increase engagement, performance, and productivity. 

However, prolonged high levels of stress will begin to affect the employee’s physical, mental, and emotional health. You may be missing the hidden signs of employee stress in your workplace. 

Do your staff members seem unengaged? Is productivity suffering? Do they often arrive late for work, or frequently take sick time? Have you noticed employees seem irritable and more prone to argue amongst themselves? If you answered yes, then you are seeing signs of employee stress in your workplace. 

According to the American Institute of Stress, workplace stress is the leading cause of stress for adults in the U.S. Furthermore, over the past twenty years, it has escalated, and it is continuing to do so. The main causes of workplace stress, broken down by percentage, are:

  • Heavy workload: 46%
  • People issues: 28%
  • Balancing personal/work life: 20%
  • Poor job security: 6%

Handling employee stressors should be a priority within your company. Failing to do so can be dangerous to the health of your workforce and can affect the efficiency and productivity of your company. Typically, employees who are highly stressed tend not to eat, exercise, or sleep regularly. They are also more prone to health problems and work injuries caused by distraction. 

You and your HR team should always watch for signs of employee stress in a work environment. By catching these signs early on, you can prevent bigger problems down the road. 

Read More: 5 Modern Strategies to Improve Employee Retention

1. Lack of Interest and Productivity Issues 

Typical signs include:

  • Boredom
  • Missed deadlines
  • Reduced quality of work
  • Procrastination

Failing to address lack of interest and employee productivity will very quickly cost your company money. The more your workers’ productivity drops, the higher the percentage of profit you will lose. Employees who are not engaged in their work cost U.S. companies between $450 and $550 billion annually. 

How can you address this situation? Here are four suggestions:

  • Be clear about performance expectations
  • Be appreciative of stress and initiation a discussion
  • Ensure that you are not overburdening employees
  • Talk to and listen to employees to keep them engaged

2. Social Withdrawal

Typical signs include:

  • Reluctance to participate in team activities
  • Employees keep to themselves and don’t mix with other workers
  • Employees do not offer feedback 
  • Employees do not participate in company-based after-work activities

Social withdrawal can be a big problem in the workplace because it can lead to arguments, bullying, and disengagement. It also has a negative impact on employee loyalty. 

You can help to address this situation by:

  • Getting to know your employees
  • Establishing a clear company ethos
  • Boosting team morale
  • Providing employees with rewards and incentives

Read More: The Top 5 Complaints You Hear in Every Office

3. Irritable, Restless, Depressed or Anxious Actions

Typical signs include:

  • Hostility towards other employees
  • A toxic attitude
  • Body language (including shuffling/tapping feet, restless hands, etc.)
  • Difficulty participating
  • Difficulty breathing

It’s crucial to deal with these issues in the workplace and to understand where they are coming from. Employees who are dealing with depression or anxiety may be having difficulty feeling that they fit into the workplace. You should do everything you can to dispel the stigma surrounding mental health before it leads to discrimination within your company. 

You can help employees who may be feeling anxious or who are struggling with depression by doing the following:

4. Tiredness, Difficulty Concentrating or Making Decisions 

Stress often manifests itself in employee fatigue. 

Typical signs include:

  • Showing up late for work
  • Missing deadlines
  • Procrastinating
  • Not showing up for meetings

If unaddressed, these types of issues in the workplace can quickly lead to several mental health problems. One of the main ones is that tiredness and difficulty concentrating can easily lead to workplace accidents. Lack of punctuality and procrastination can cause resentment among other workers who do show up on time and whose performance is negatively affected by stressed employees.

You can help to address this situation by:

  • Discussing the issues with employees
  • Listening to what they have to say
  • Addressing the underlying issues that are causing them stress
  • Offering them stress counseling

5. Problems at Home or Other Personal Issues

Stress at home very often carries over into the workplace. 

Typical signs include:

  • Employees are distracted and unable to focus on tasks
  • Employees are late for work
  • Frequent absence from work
  • Withdrawal from other employees

It can be very difficult for employees to talk to employers and HR staff about problems they are having at home. This can be for many reasons – they may feel that the workplace is not the right place to discuss these issues, they are worried that they will be judged, or they are concerned about confidentiality. 

You can help to address this situation by:

    • Providing an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
    • Offering confidential counseling
    • Promoting support groups and other programs
    • Offering wellbeing programs such as personal time off or mental health days and good benefits

6. Overbearing Workload

Carrying a heavy workload is a very common cause of employee stress. 

Typical signs include:

  • Irritable behavior
  • Missed deadlines
  • High absence rates
  • High employee turnover
  • Poor team mentality

When members of staff are overburdened at work, this begins a vicious cycle. Because they have too much to handle by themselves, they begin to fall behind, miss deadlines, and have difficulty beginning new projects. This causes further stress, anxiety, inability to concentrate, and a lack of engagement. Make sure that you are not burdening your employees with too much responsibility. If you’re seeing a trend in employees struggling with their workloads, it may be a good idea to assess your staffing and consider bringing in additional help.

You can help to address this situation by:

  • Check job descriptions and make sure you are not expecting too much
  • Make sure you are providing adequate training
  • Ensure supervisors are providing sufficient support
  • Encourage feedback from all employees

7. Financial Issues

Financial wellbeing is crucial for your employees because when they are stressed about money at work, it can cost your company. Up to 59% of employees surveyed admitted that financial concerns cause them more stress than any other matters. 

Typical signs include:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Irritability
  • Time off work or frequent, minor illnesses
  • Reduced productivity

You can help to address this situation by:

  • Talking to and listening to your employees
  • Offering financial counseling
  • Offering employee loans

How to Help

You can ease your employees’ burden of financial stress by offering them assistance through TrueConnect. TrueConnect offers a simple and effective solution to help employees manage their personal finances in times of need by providing them with a safe, regulated bank loan up to $3,000. This provides a much safer alternative to payday loans and costs your company nothing. 

If you are recognizing signs of employee stress in your workplace, you can take steps to improve the situation by taking the individuals aside and talking to them in confidence. Explain that they are valuable assets to your company and ask them how they feel you can help them reduce their level of stress. If your employee does not feel comfortable discussing his or her stress issues with you, work with your HR team to come up with resources for the employee. 




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