April marks Stress Awareness Month and has been recognised globally since 1992. It’s encouraged that during this month, employers have open conversations about how stress can negatively impact their workforce, and discover ways in which businesses can better support those who are facing unhealthy levels of stress.

According to a 2022 survey from YouGov, half of British employees say they feel some level of stress at work. And it appears that this can often bleed into our personal lives too, as 66% of those who said they felt stressed at work admitted they spend a lot, or a fair amount of time outside of working hours thinking about their job.

With this in mind, HR expert Neil Finegan from distance learning provider, DLC Training, shares key indicators that your employees may be facing unhealthy levels of stress and work anxiety as a result of their job, alongside considerations that can be made to support a less stressful environment.

How to recognise if an employee is facing unhealthy levels of stress

  1. Complaining of a lack of sleep

If you notice a member of your team is often complaining about struggling to get a good night’s sleep, it might be an indicator that they are facing increased levels of stress. Stress can impact our sleep patterns and in some cases can even cause insomnia. When someone is facing stress, a lack of sleep can make them feel more overwhelmed.

If you suspect someone in your team is facing this, open up a conversation about how they can be better supported to feel more rested. This might include working from home, or flexibility in working hours to allow them more time to rest.

  1. Changes in behaviour

When an employee is facing heightened stress, you might find that they experience changes in their behaviour. For example, someone who is usually very chatty and lighthearted may become more irritable and short-tempered.

  1. Working longer hours, or changes to working pattern

One of the main reasons people feel stress at work is because of increased workloads. If an employee is struggling to stay on top of this, it might lead them to work later in the evenings or at weekends to stay ahead. This can lead to feelings of burnout which can impact motivation and productivity levels.

  1. Isolating themselves from the team

If someone who regularly works from the office or attends staff socials starts to become absent, it might show that they are facing stress.

When you notice this, firstly consider if there may be any other factors influencing these decisions. Moving house, preparing for a baby, or illness can all cause someone to prefer to stay at home.

  1. Taking time off

Stress can have implications on both mental and physical health. When facing heightened levels, an employee may seek medical advice and take extended periods of leave to support their wellbeing.

When this occurs, it’s vital to allow your staff to take time to fully recuperate before returning to work. This includes avoiding contacting them for work-related issues or encouraging them to return to work when they’re not ready.

It’s also important to undergo a return to work assessment when your member of staff feels ready to return. In this, discuss ways in which you can support them day to day, such as managing their workload or allowing them to work more flexibly.

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.