How Does Stress Affect People at Work

Stress affects people in different ways

One question that is often asked is "how does stress affect people at work?"

Stress in the Workplace

Given the fast-moving priorities of modern business practices, workplace stress is increasingly common. Implementing a good stress management policy is key to providing a positive working environment and this includes understanding how stress manifests itself and how stress affects personnel of all levels.

Who Suffers from Stress?

The short answer to this is that anyone can suffer from stress. There is not a single demographic or profession that is immune from stress, although some professions are prone to burnout, and as such when looking for symptoms of stress or building a stress management plan it should cover all areas of the business from the most senior of managers through to the most junior of staff.

How Does Stress Affect People at Work?

Stress affects people at work in many different ways. If there were one single way of identifying it, then stress management plans and programs would be much simpler to operate. However, unlike a physical complaint such as a broken leg that is easy to spot and identify, stress can have a multitude of symptoms and affects different people in different ways. When asking the question"how does stress affect people at work" there are some key features to look out for. This list is by no means exhaustive and different work environments or other external local factors may result in different symptoms.

The effects of stress can be broken down into three core areas.


When people suffer from stress it is often their emotions that show the first signs that something is wrong. This might include people who don't normally cry becoming prone to tears or otherwise placid members of staff losing their temper or becoming irritable. While everybody suffers from a bad day every once in a while, ongoing changes in a member of staff's well being could very well be an indication of stress and the matter should be explored in more detail and any necessary action taken..


Sufferers from stress may find making decisions difficult or have an erratic thought process. Ordinarily dynamic staff may become apathetic or disinterested in their work. This is particularly common in stress cases where the stress comes from a feeling that 'it is all too much' and a person is feeling overwhelmed. Line managers are in a good position to recognize these symptoms and should be trained in stress management.


Changes in behavior can also be an indication of stress. This might include someone turning to drink or recreational drugs as a release, or extreme dieting or eating resulting in dramatic weight gain or loss. Sometimes the behavior can become destructive including cases of self harming in extreme cases. Self harming, fasting or other self destructive traits are often a symptom of someone trying to regain control over some element of their life.

Other Effects of Stress

There are many other symptoms that are an indication of stress in the workplace. These include tiredness which is a result of a stress sufferer not being able to sleep or having disturbed sleep, or someone becoming depressed. The good training of line managers and other staff can help in identifying the wide range of stress symptoms.

Identifying Stress

A good stress management program will ensure that all staff are aware of the stress management policy and know how to report cases of stress that they may personally be suffering, or that they suspect in a colleague. For this to be effective it is paramount that there is no 'stigma' attached to stress - that it is not seen as a sign of weakness - and that positive action is taken. Workplace presentations to staff, which explore the main causes of stress in more detail and perhaps stress reduction workshops are useful ways of communicating the stress management policy to staff.

Identifying the signs of stress allows for early intervention which is beneficial to all concerned.

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How Does Stress Affect People at Work