Coronavirus: The four signs of a stressed workforce

Saleha Riaz
·2 min read
It is important that managers are regularly checking in with team members, a study suggests. Photo: Getty
It is important that managers are regularly checking in with team members, a study suggests. Photo: Getty

The four key signs of stressed workforce are increased irritability, physical symptoms such as headaches, taking more time off than usual and withdrawing as a way of coping, according to a report by employee benefits specialist Sodexo Engage.

Published to coincide with Stress Awareness Day (4 November) the report said stress and poor mental health can have a significant negative impact on employee productivity and wellbeing if signs are not spotted and managed early.

Employers should be taking this seriously particularly in the current climate, given that a second lockdown to contain the coronavirus brings with it the threat of redundancy and the strain of furlough.

According to ONS statistics, one in five adults in the UK (19.2%) were likely to be experiencing some form of depression during June 2020; this had almost doubled from around 1 in 10 (9.7%) before the pandemic.

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A loss of interest in activity, lack of communication and wanting to limit interactions with co-workers is one sign of stress. It is important that managers are regularly checking in with team members, the report said.

While employers shouldn’t demand an explanation for employees taking a sick day, it is important that they look for patterns and ensure they offer staff an opportunity to open up about any worries they have, Sodexo Engage said.

Another red flag is if an employee has shown a change in mood for an extended period of time. Managers should be provided with the training and tools to spot these, so issues don’t snowball in to larger mental health issues, the report suggested.

Headaches, indigestion and dramatic change in weight are all physical symptoms of work-related stress. While this may be the hardest to spot, particularly for a workforce working from home, it’s something employers can encourage employees to recognise in themselves, said Sodexo.

Sodexo’s director, Jamie Mackenzie, said employers need to be on the lookout for these signs, because “whilst workers in the UK are working harder and longer than ever before, particular during this pandemic, it’s clearly taking a toll on their wellbeing.”

He added that “stress can be triggered from a number of work pressures including organisational change, long hours, bullying, excessive workloads, tight deadlines and lack of support.”

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