The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identifies stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them”.
The smart thing for employers to do is to support employees who are experiencing mental health problems, the mental health charity, Mind, points out. However, identifying these problems may not be straightforward.
How Easy is it to Identify Stress?
Charlotte Gallagher of P3 People Management in Hale comments, “One of the difficulties is that individuals may not know they are suffering from stress. One of the results of being stressed is that our focus narrows. This is what psychologists call a reduction in cognitive capacity. This can mean we don’t actually realise how much stress we’re under”.
In order to get rid of stress you have to first recognise that you are experiencing it. But when people become stressed, they lose sight of the bigger picture
“For the individual in the workplace, stress can advance by stealth, hidden in the form of other symptoms”, Charlotte explains. “Sometimes it has a very physical way of expressing itself, in the form of headaches or muscular tension. It may at first appear minor, if persistent, such as a twitching eyelid or a sore or dry mouth”.
People can become easily agitated and irritable or experience strong feelings of sadness or elation for no apparent reason. Classic hidden signs are likely to manifest themselves at work eventually, particularly if someone suffers from an inability to concentrate or remember details.
“Hidden symptoms can have a big impact at work, both from the employee and employer perspective,” Charlotte says. “There may be behavioural and performance issues arising. And individuals can end up feeling unable to get to grips with what is wrong with them”.
The body gives clues and telltale signs when an individual is anxious or stressed. There is a constellation of symptoms, but it may not be about someone consciously feeling stressed.
The answer lies with people being made more aware of what stress is and how its symptoms might present themselves, in a supportive workplace culture where employees can be open about how they are feeling.
“Businesses and organisations perform better when their staff are healthy, motivated and focused”, Charlotte concludes. “Identifying and managing stress, and hidden stress in particular, is a big part of this”.
If you would like to discuss how to identify and manage stress in your workplace, please call P3 People Management on 0161 941 2426.
Alternatively, to read more of Charlotte Gallagher’s views on these issues, please read her LinkedIn post, Why Workplace Stress is a Hidden Factor