Stress is the way in which the body reacts to feeling under pressure. It can be motivating but it can also be debilitating and, to ensure engaged and motivated employees, avoiding too much pressure is key. Stress affects people differently and the experiences that cause stress can vary from person to person.

How do I recognise when an employee isn’t coping?

There are a few behaviours to watch out for in your employees. Are they irritable when that is not normal for them? Do they suddenly lack confidence? Are they avoiding certain tasks, colleagues or customers? Are they constantly tired or arguing with colleagues? Are they demotivated and no longer engaged? Has their sickness absence increased?


Causes of stress in the workplace

Stress can sometimes be caused by a poor manager or one whose expectations are too high and who doesn’t recognise (or care!) when employees aren’t coping. Training can be helpful in this situation but unfortunately empathy cannot be taught! Think about whether there is unacceptable behaviour such as bullying amongst the employee’s team. Could they feel unsupported at work? The less control an employee has over their work the more likely they are to suffer from stress – can you empower them to make some of their own decisions perhaps?
Employees can also be stressed by personal problems such as relationship or financial issues. You cannot reduce those stresses but you can be supportive therefore allowing the employee to work their way through a bad patch.


Training managers to recognise stress

Transparency and following through are essential to gain the trust of the team. A good boss will coach, encourage and listen to employees and show empathy. A strong leader will be available to their team.
A good manager will support employees in their work and take an interest in their development. They are good communicators and make expectations clear and achievable.
Training managers to recognise stress amongst their team can only be a good thing. Employees with a supportive boss are more likely to be productive, create a happy working environment and to stay working for you for longer.


Keeping employees engaged and productive

So as not to overwhelm individuals consider whether big tasks can be split amongst the team to avoid one person taking everything on their shoulders. Consider whether the employee has the capability to undertake the task.
Encourage employees to take proper breaks and to take their holiday. Employees need to take time to recharge their batteries. Productivity is always going to be better if the team aren’t exhausted.
Being available to your employees can also help to nip problems in the bud.



The manager is likely to be the person who can help the most with reducing a stressful workload. Encouraging employees to talk before they reach the point of being unwell is key as sickness absence or an underperforming employee isn’t helpful for the employee or employer and can cause a myriad of issues.
If an employee can admit to mistakes and is not afraid to ask questions that goes a long way to helping within a stressful environment.
It can sometimes be difficult to understand why an individual cannot cope with a stress level that you yourself could manage. It is important to understand that people have a different background and different experiences which can affect their ability to cope. Being open, approachable and understanding can greatly help when your employee comes to you for help or advice.

Get in touch

Contact Liz Jewer on 07803 007591 if you need advice about this topic or HR related services HR Think offer.