How to spot signs of employees with stress

By Charlie Knight |

There are numerous causes of stress in the workplace. It can be incredibly detrimental. If your employees are stressed, they will not be able to work effectively or efficiently. Customer satisfaction levels may also decrease. Particularly, if employees are unable to deliver a quality service. As such it is crucial that managers understand the causes of stress and the symptoms.

One possible cause of stress in the workplace could be the worry of job security or wages. Employees who are concerned about their job will not be able to concentrate. They will be scared that any sign of poor work could result in a job loss. Ironically, this tends to lead employees lose focus and in some cases, lose their job.

Both personal issues and commuting may also cause an employee to feel stressed. If employees have to travel long distances to work, they might be tired before they get there. Or, they might have fallen behind due to arriving late, causing them to panic and stress. Personal issues can easily affect performance at work. The mind is constantly trying to cope with other issues rather than current work related tasks. These are just some of the causes. Now let’s consider the symptoms that you need to watch out for.

Illness And Attendance

Stress is not just a psychological issue. It may start out that way, but it does tend to cause physical symptoms to develop as well. One of the most common symptoms of stress is sickness or illness. If employees are constantly ill and off work, there is a good possibility they are stressed. Particularly, if they go off for short periods of time regularly. As a manager, you should be keeping a check on attendance levels and looking out for this warning sign.

Be aware that many employees will continue to work through stress-induced sickness. Rather than taking time off, they will still show up every day. Look out for employees who do this. They probably know that their illness is caused by stress and not a physical condition.

Typically, the physical symptoms of illness induced stress or not pleasant. Both vomiting and diarrhoea are common. If your employees are constantly rushing back and forth to the bathroom, this could be a sign of stress. Any sign of vomiting or sickness in public bathrooms may be cause for concern. More than one employee might feel stressed and worn down.


Hygiene is another area of the body that takes a hit under high levels of stress. Usually, this is due to a lack of care or attention to levels of hygiene. This can lead to the risk of further cases of illness. Dirty hands and yellow teeth may suggest stress because employees feel they have no time for these activities. Bad breath is another symptom for a completely different reason.

When we are stressed, we find it difficult to sleep. Rather than being able to lie peacefully, we toss and turn all night. Due to this, we develop bad breath as bacteria builds up in the mouth. If hygiene levels have deteriorated, the stench can be bad enough for employers and customers to notice.

Stress can have one other effect on the body. Levels of grooming commonly deteriorate to the point where employers look a mess and unkempt. Usually, this is because of a lack of sleep. The body is not given the time it needs to rejuvenate, and workers constantly look tired. Lack of time or inattention to detail also means they don’t brush their hair, clean their teeth or shave.

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological symptoms are trickier to spot, but they are usually there if you pay close attention to detail. You need to watch how your employees act and respond to certain situations. Someone who is stressed may not be motivated to perform. Their work might become sluggish, and they may lose their attention to detail. Due to fatigue from lack of sleep, they can find it difficult to maintain concentration. You may notice this in conversations with a customer or a colleague. They will likely have no interest in customer satisfaction.

People who are stressed may stop socialising completely. Instead, they will focus more of the time on work or perhaps personal issues. They will show no interest in going out with colleagues after work or speaking on anything other than a professional level. They may become detached from society with work and home being the only places they frequent. You won’t notice this, but you will be able to see if a once outgoing employee has become withdrawn.

Employees who are stressed may also exhibit changes in mood and personality. People who are stressed are not functioning at the same level they used to. They tend to have difficulty multitasking and can only focus on one issue at a time. Asking them to change their plans will result in irritability, and you might even see an angry outburst. Stressed employees tend to have very little control over their emotions. They might break down, yell or remain completely silent. Any odd mood swing could be a sign or high levels of stress.

Be aware that to deal with these changes employees may look for crutches or coping methods. This can include alcohol, drugs, and even self-harm. Many employees have a glass of wine after a long day at work. However, if they are stressed, they might become more dependent. You may notice this if they start to smell of alcohol. Or, if they appear to be under the influence of drugs at work. Self-harm can occur in many different forms including substance abuse. However, you might also notice scratches on the arm, burn marks, and even weight loss. Any one of these symptoms could be a sign that an employee needs help.

Employees dealing with stress might also try and stay on top of the situation by doing more than they should. Employees who stay late or arrive early may be trying to take on more than they can handle. They might even take work home with them to try and keep going. While this can work, it will be putting immense pressure on their personal lives and can make the situation worse.

What Can You Do?

As a business manager, you have a duty of care to your employees. If you see signs of stress, it is your duty to act. You may want to inform the HR sector of your business. They will be able to talk with the employee and assess whether they do have a problem. They may be able to provide them help or counselling.

We suggest that to avoid stress related issues, you have an open door policy. Your employees should feel comfortable about coming to you with any problems. This includes not being able to complete work to a certain deadline or even discuss personal issues. You must ensure that employees can come to you with problems like this otherwise it’s just going to get worse for them.

Be aware that stress can be a widespread problem. This tends to be due to how a company is being run and the pressure all employees are under. Establishing a competitive environment where employees are working to beat each other rather than as a team will cause a lot of stress. Employees will constantly feel as though they need to do more. Obviously, this can encourage higher quality work and increased productivity. However, you must ensure that burden of competing doesn’t become too much.

Regularly checking on your employees and conversing with them will ensure levels of stress don’t build up. Do this and you can guarantee you have a healthy and effective team of staff behind you and your business.

Charlie Knight

Written by Charlie Knight

Charlie has 3 years experience in digital marketing, helping B2B technology companies grow their businesses through inbound marketing before joining Vine Resources as Content Marketing Manager. In his spare time, Charlie enjoys travelling and the great outdoors, and he recently hiked from Mexico to Canada for charity.

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