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7 Signs That An Employee Is Suffering From Stress


In a small business environment, pressure can mount up. This can have a detrimental effect on you as the business owner, but also on your team members. It’s important to consider your employees’ wellbeing for the good of them in general, and somewhat cynically, for the good of your business.

In this article, Rapid Formations, the UK’s simplest company formation service, looks at the 7 signs indicating an employee suffers from stress. Catch these early and then take the necessary steps to help your employee.

1. Periods of absence.

Whether it’s a day here and there or a prolonged period of absence, a surefire way to tell that an employee is experiencing stress is that they start missing work. This can be through legitimate or false illness.

When it comes to the former, it’s important to consider that stress can cause physical sickness, so even if an employee has obvious symptoms that align with a bug or virus (perhaps they’ve even been able to present a fit note), you shouldn’t immediately rule out stress as the cause, especially if the employee seems to be continuously ill.

If you suspect that they are feigning illness, whilst this is troubling from a disciplinary perspective, you must consider why the employee is trying to avoid work. Yes, of course, there will be instances where they’ve just not fancied coming in to work that day, but it could also be a sign that they’re trying to avoid their role.

2. Quality of work is suffering.

There are several reasons why an employee’s standard of work could be poor. There may be an issue with comprehending the task, it could be that the task provides no job satisfaction, or maybe the employee is simply not adept at doing it.

All of these can be causes of stress in themselves (and you must work to address these as soon as possible). However, bad work could also be a result of stress brought on by another work-related matter or something outside of the business. For example, new role responsibilities could be adding pressure on them or an issue in their private life could be the problem.

This is easier to spot for you if the employee has previously demonstrated that they can do the job to a sufficient standard.

3. Change in personal appearance.

When an individual is suffering from stress, the time and effort they put into looking after themselves can diminish (consciously or unconsciously), which can lead to a change in how they present themselves at work. This isn’t about a new hairstyle or updated fashion sense, but more of a general disregard for personal appearance.

Perhaps a previously clean-shaven employee is now showing some stubble, or once immaculate hair is now unkempt. Maybe an individual’s clothes have stains on them, or they’ve been wearing the same outfit for several days in a row. Someone might even be giving off a body odour.

If you do believe that an employee is suffering from stress, any discussion that you have with them about the situation has the potential to be awkward, but this particular reasoning for your suspicions will be problematic. We therefore suggest that you do not discuss this specific issue with them, and instead make a note of it and look for other signs of stress that you can bring up more comfortably.

4. Working extra time.

Do you have an employee who regularly comes in early, works through their break and stays on late after closing time? You might even notice that they’re often online at the weekend or during scheduled time off.

On the face of it, this is the type of dedication that a business owner might love. However, such conduct could indicate that an employee has too much work on their hands, they’re struggling to get it done in regular hours, and feel they need to work overtime to complete it. Simply put, they’re feeling the pressure.

Furthermore, this type of behaviour will lead to further stress as an employee is starved of necessary rest time away from work. Their work-life balance is entirely off-kilter which will make any stressful situation worse.

There will be times when working out of regular hours is necessary but if you notice that an employee is consistently operating out of hours, it’s likely that they have too much on their plate and are feeling stressed.

5. Isolated from colleagues.

Company culture is now at the forefront of most business owners’ minds. As entrepreneurs seek to get a competitive edge and recruit the best people, they strive to foster an environment where employees feel inspired and, dare we say it, have fun. Great for employees, great for the business, great for LinkedIn.

Of course, for some employees, the thought of team-building events, summer parties and Friday night drinks is fear-inducing, and they would rather do anything else than ‘get involved’. This is fine, such events aren’t for everyone. A key component of company culture is, after all, diversity.

But it’s also possible that an individual’s withdrawal and isolation from colleagues and company culture as a whole is a sign of stress. The workload on them might be too much, meaning any ‘extra-curricular’ activity simply isn’t feasible, or the role is generally too stressful and any unnecessary involvement with it is deemed unbearable.

Stress that shows itself in this form will be tricker to notice in employees who have always been perceived as slightly aloof, but it will be easier to see if they were once someone who thrived within the company culture.

6. Confrontational or emotional behaviour.

Perhaps the most extreme sign of stress in an employee is the emergence of aggressive behaviour towards you and other members of your team. On the other scale, an employee may consistently become visibly emotional and upset.

Seemingly innocuous feedback may result in shouting and a fierce email. A small error could lead to crying and a request to go home. Collaborative work might end with an argument and a demand to be removed from the project. All of this could be a sign that your employee is going through a period of stress.

This scenario is unfortunate for all parties involved. If you do find yourself in this situation, work with the employee to help them, but in instances of aggressive behaviour, also consider the other team members who have been affected.

7. A general disinterest.

If an employee suddenly becomes disengaged from their work and the business, your immediate conclusion may be that they have grown weary of the role and will eventually be seeking employment elsewhere. In most cases, you’re likely to be correct, but don’t discount stress as the reason for this disinterest.

People who are stressed will often struggle to focus, find it difficult to make decisions and, most significantly to our point, experience sleep problems. These are all factors that could make an employee appear tired, uninterested, and detached when in fact, they could be experiencing a great deal of emotional turmoil.

As demonstrated by all of our points so far, the signs of stress can frequently be misinterpreted as an overall lack of passion for the job. When you do encounter an employee whose commitment is in question, consider all possibilities regarding their situation and don’t immediately assume they are a poor member of staff.

Thanks for reading

So, there you have it, that was 7 signs that an employee is suffering from stress. Noticing these indicators is one thing, dealing with them is altogether different.

If you do think that an employee is stressed, the first thing you should do is initiate a private conversation with them to get a sense of what they are feeling. Listen to what they have to say, and if stress does appear to be the problem, seek professional guidance.

We hope you have found this post useful!

Rapid Formations can help you register your own private limited company in as little as 3 – 6 working hours and from only £12.99. If you have a great idea for a business and are ready to take the plunge, they’re the perfect jumping-off point. Take a look at their different company formation packages now.