Managing stress at work

Do all your emails require immediate attention?

Is there an overwhelming expectation from everyone to accomplish a greater number of tasks within a restricted time frame?

Are all Individuals approaching from various directions with immediate demands for your assistance?

Are you in a new position where you’re struggling to stay afloat?

The work pace is intensifying rapidly, and phrases like “what got you here will no longer keep you here” are frequently heard. Change occurs periodically.

Let’s understand first: What is stress? Stress can be described as the body’s adverse reaction to a stimulus, such as pressure or strain. Stress can lead to a range of mental, emotional, and physical issues, affecting personal interactions among workers. It can be influenced by both the inherent nature of work and the working conditions.

Is a little bit of stress good for you? Does it provide a challenge and cause people to stress themselves? No, stress and challenge are two separate things because challenges are energising and motivating.

Challenges turn into stress based on two factors

Individual stressor is overwhelming which leads to acute stress for example forced change in job duties. When the stressor is constant it leads to chronic stress.

It’s very likely that workers who experience high levels of stress are prone to making more mistakes. Highly stressed individuals often experience increased anger and find it challenging to detach themselves from work. Heightened stress levels can lead to increased disorganisation among individuals and they even struggle with concentration difficulties.

Early warning signs of job stress include

  • Mood and sleep disturbances
  • Upset stomach and headaches
  • Disturbed relationships with family and friends
  • Difficulties in concentrating
  • Short temper
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Low morale

Long term symptoms can include but are not limited to:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Back and upper extremity disorders
  • Psychological issues such as burnout

Studies are looking at the link between stress and workplace injuries, cancer, ulcers, and impaired immune function.

Some individuals have a high tolerance for stress and thrive in challenging situations. They may even boast about not feeling stressed. Paradoxically, they may create stress for others, and they may themselves feel stressed when things are too slow. Essentially, they experience stress because they perceive a lack of sufficient stress in their environment.

On the other hand, there are individuals who struggle in a stressful environment as they lack the capacity to effectively cope with stress. They exhibit immediate signs of workplace pressure and strain, which can be observed in their behaviour and work performance. This is called the ‘Worker’s characteristic view of stress’.

Another perspective on stress is the ‘Working conditions view.’ According to research, certain workplace conditions tend to be stressful for most individuals. Factors such as high workload, conflicting instructions, interpersonal conflicts, or poor supervision are expected to increase stress levels. Therefore, the emphasis should be on enhancing management practices, improving working conditions, and optimising job processes to mitigate stress and promote employee well-being.

Also, if we look at what statistics have to say about stress, between 26% and 40% of workers experience high levels of stress in the workplace. Approximately 75% to 90% of healthcare visits are estimated to be related to stress-induced conditions. A fourth of employees consider their job as the number one source of stress. Three-fourths of individuals believe that there is more stress in the workplace compared to a generation ago.

Stress has become an inevitable aspect of work today. Therefore, you have a choice: either learn to effectively manage it or allow it to negatively impact your health and overall well-being.

When it comes to anxiety avoidance is a good thing.

  • When you’re doing something to address a worry, even if you are not totally solving it, you’re making progress on it
  • Something isn’t just happening to you; you’re also making something happen
  • Create a separation from work time and personal time
  • If you absolutely have to worry about something, schedule time for it
  • Don’t ignore real problems, but it is ok to avoid something you’re anxious about
  • If it’s a relationship, avoid the person for a while
  • Let time take care of it

How to Handle Unavoidable Stress?

Working in an unstable setting can contribute to the challenges individuals face while interacting with difficult customers, and it may also result in individuals feeling apprehensive about potential physical harm, mistreatment, intimidation, or workplace harassment.

Leadership plays a crucial role in employee engagement, as supervisors are not only influential in a positive way but can also become significant sources of stress. Many of these issues fall within the control of supervisors. Stress arises when supervisors fail to provide adequate resources, hoard information leaving the team uninformed, maintain understaffed teams, set unclear performance expectations, exclude the team from decision making, micromanage and consistently find faults, fail to support their team members, take sole credit for team accomplishments, and exhibit a lack of effort while the team works hard. These circumstances create a recipe for resentment.

Organisations and supervisors need to adopt a realistic approach. Individuals can only handle a certain amount of workload. If they are consistently overloaded, they are likely to experience burnout. This can lead to disengagement and a decline in productivity. It is important to recognise that people have limits and pushing them beyond those limits can have negative consequences. It is crucial to find a balance and avoid overwhelming individuals, as they may eventually tune out and disengage from their work.

Now let’s understand how to handle stress at work?


  • It starts with how you decide to look at things
  • Get your positive “mojo” working, think positive
  • Look for opportunities to encourage others
  • Don’t invent any more stress than you already have
  • you can’t control what people say or think, focus on your performance
  • Put things into perspective


  • Get rid of the clutter. Sort things into action, reference and discard
  • Begin a personal planning process
  • Manage interruptions so that you can finish off your small tasks throughout the day
  • Do one thing at a time
  • Remember that stress is an infectious disease, and that some people are carriers
  • Don’t forget the word, “No.”

Many organisations now have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). This  is a work based programme that provides confidential support and assistance to employees who are facing personal or work related challenges. EAPs are typically offered by employers as part of their employee benefits package, and they aim to promote the well being and productivity of employees.

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to inform your team members of these programmes. Make sure they have all the information they need to take advantage of the service offered.