CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) says that too few employers understand what stress is. It identifies workplace stress as a growing problem for individuals and employers, and for government. But actually identifying stress itself can be difficult.
The body can give off clues and certain telltale signs when an individual is anxious and stressed. These become a constellation of symptoms, but it does not follow that the individual will feel consciously stressed.
Charlotte Gallagher, of Hale-based P3 People Management, explains, “Stress can narrow someone’s focus so that they do not actually realise how much stress they are under. Psychologists refer to this as a reduction in cognitive capacity. When we are stressed, we lose sight of the bigger picture”.
What are the Signs of Stress?
“There can be hidden stress symptoms as relatively minor as a twitching eyelid, or a dry mouth. If a symptom appears regularly don’t ignore it. Don’t assume that because you don’t feel stressed that you aren’t”, cautions Charlotte.
There are overt signs of stress such as dizziness, mental exhaustion and lack of energy, but the classic hidden signs of being stressed can be less immediate. However, stress then advances by stealth, manifesting itself in ways that are, ultimately, physically or psychologically disruptive, or both.
People may become easily irritable or feel agitated. They can experience exaggeratedly intense feelings of happiness or sadness. They may find they can no longer concentrate or they easily forget details. People can end up making bad decisions and become disorganised. Alongside these symptoms are physical signs such as lack of quality sleep, stomach problems, weight loss or gain, rashes and recurring infections.
“Clearly these kinds of symptoms are likely to have an impact in the workplace”, Charlotte states. “The likely impact on businesses and organisations will come in the form of increased sickness absence, decreased performance and productivity and greater staff turnover”.
Along with these issues there may be higher rates of injury, workplace conflict and a decline in employee relations with a corresponding rise in disputes. There may also be reputational damage if an employer is seen to be managing stress in the workplace inadequately.
“Also, don’t forget there is an ethical case for managing stress, under the terms of corporate social responsibility”, Charlotte points out.
The answer lies in gaining an understanding of stress, from both an employer’s and employee’s perspective, and for individuals throughout a business or organisation to be made aware of how the hidden signs can appear.
“Seek professional guidance”. Charlotte advises, “Stress is stealthy but outwardly damaging to individuals, businesses and the economy as a whole”.
If you would like to discuss how to identify and manage workplace stress, please call P3 People Management on 0161 941 2426.
Alternatively, to read more of Charlotte’s views on these issues, please read her LinkedIn post, Why Workplace Stress is a Hidden Factor