The workplace is an inherently stressful environment. It is estimated that in 2008 13.5 million working days in the United Kingdom were “lost” to stress, costing employers up to £381 million pounds per year. As well as being bad for business, stress also has a pernicious effect on employees: stress at work not only affects your productivity in the workplace; it leaches into your personal relationships and social activity. This post will therefore attempt to give some pointers to employees that are suffering stress in the workplace. We’ll therefore take a look at:
- What is “stress”?
- How do I know if I’m stressed because of work?
- What are the potential consequences of stress in the workplace?
- What should I do if I’m stressed because of work?
What is “stress”?
According to the Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) workplace stress occurs where the demands of work exceed an employee’s capacity and capability to cope, causing illness and disease.
How do I know if I’m stressed because of work?
First, you should look at your workload and your personal relationships at work. Is the amount of work that you’re expected to do worrying you? Are you being left out of important decisions? Are your co-workers making you anxious because of their behaviour towards you? If anything at work is causing you to become anxious or worried and you’re suffering work-related stress as a result then symptoms may include (among others):
- Anxiety, irritation, anger or feeling flustered;
- Poor concentration
- Difficulty making decisions
- Problems with sleep
- Depression; and/or
- Chest pains
The above is not an exhaustive list and its advised that you consult your GP if you think you’re suffering workplace stress.
What are the potential consequences of stress in the workplace?
Stress can have both personal and social consequences. Personally, you may find that relationships with family, friends and co-workers deteriorate. Further, your mental and physical health may become affected – too much stress can cause headaches, high blood pressure or even heart disease. Any of these factors may potentially affect your ability to do your job. It is therefore imperative to obtain help if you think you’re suffering workplace stress – your career, your health and your personal relationships may suffer if you don’t. Stress can also have adverse social consequences – people sometimes are driven to do things that are harmful to themselves (such as drugs) or society (for example, committing a crime) that they wouldn’t necessarily have done otherwise.
What should I do if I’m stressed because of work?
There are a number of things that you should do if you think you’re suffering work-related stress. First, consult your local GP – it’s best to obtain a medical opinion on the problems that you’re suffering. If your GP believes that you’re suffering work-related stress then they advise that you take some “sick leave” to attempt to remedy the problem. If you want to take an extended period of sick leave then it is definitely advised that you obtain an expert medical opinion on your problems. If you fail to provide evidence of work-related stress and take significant periods of leave from work then your employer may judge that you are incapable of undertaking your role. Second, let your line manager know that you’re suffering these problems. They may (and probably should) be able to help you rearrange and manage your workload in a less stressful manner. Third, if you’re suffering from work-related stress and have been subjected to a detriment at work or dismissed from your job as a result then it is advised that you obtain expert employment law advice. If you have suffered such consequences as a result of your physical or mental health then you may have a claim for unfair dismissal or discrimination.