How to overcome occupational stress

With it being International Stress Awareness Week (1-5 November), Alex Hattingh shares five tips for overcoming occupational stress, a huge concern across every business.

Every business should be diverting a significant amount of energy towards ensuring their workplace and culture is a healthy and happy environment for their employees. Happier employees mean increased productivity, less turnover and absenteeism.


The working world must adapt to how mental health and wellbeing can affect business. Recent research from Employment Hero found that British businesses are facing a mass exodus of staff, with 55% of people planning to move jobs in the next year. Two key reasons are being feeling underappreciated (31%) and feeling overworked (26%).

There’s no time like the present to learn more about occupational stress and employee wellbeing to make sure you are doing everything in your power to help your employees.

What is occupational stress?

Occupational stress refers to the ongoing and progressing stress an employee experiences due to the responsibilities, conditions, environment, or other pressures of the workplace. Work-related stress can be a response to an employee being presented with work demands that are not matched to their knowledge or skillset. When the pressure builds and gets too much – that’s when your employee’s wellbeing could be at stake.

Signs to look out for

Always be vigilant with your employees, and look out for any signs that they are under occupational stress of any kind. 

  • An employee who is lacking the motivation to complete basic tasks in their working day
  • They are constantly missing deadlines; whether they’re important ones or BAU deadlines
  • Employees displaying frequent feelings of general stress, chaos and confusion
  • Physical signs such as anxiety, abnormally high blood pressure, noticeable changes in diet, sleeplessness and irritability
  • Abnormal feeling of depressions amongst your worker; listen out for an alarm bells ringing in conversations with them
  • Inability to perform or communicate in a productive manner
  • Feelings of excessive burnout 

Tips on overcoming occupational stress

1. Control your working deadlines

By maintaining a diligent, reasonable work pace, employees can prevent procrastination and consistently finish the tasks they begin. This means that they won’t feel overloaded, overworked or overwhelmed with the number of unfinished tasks they have left to do.

2. Learn to push back

A lot of time people dealing with stress at work will take on too much and this makes the situation worse. Make sure your employees feel comfortable and confident enough to push back on tasks that they just don’t have the capacity to do.

Employee wellness is linked to productivity at work, so you should aim to create an environment that promotes employee well-being at all times. A good place to start is by letting your employees feel comfortable in having an open conversation with you as a manager, leader or HR professional. It’s good for them to have a place where they can clarify what’s expected of them, ask for any necessary resources or support from other colleagues or enriching their job to include more challenging or meaningful tasks.

3. Take a break

Make sure your employees are taking regular breaks and getting outside for some fresh air for at least 10 minutes in the day. It’s also important to that everyone takes the time to recharge.

To avoid the negative effects of occupational stress and burnout, humans need time to relax, destress and return to work with a fresh outlook and mindset. Switching off from work by having periods of time off, when you are neither engaging in work-related activities or thinking about work, is really important in making sure work-related stress doesn’t take over. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself.

That might mean making a rule not to check email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner. Your time off is important and should be valued.

4. Track stressors

Make sure you are taking notes to identify which situations create the most stress and how you responded to that stress.

Record any thoughts, feelings and information about the environment, including the people and circumstances involved. This will give you a better understanding of how you deal with certain situations and what you can do better in the future.

5. Ask for support.

Accepting help from trusted friends, family or even other co-workers can improve your ability to manage stress. Your employer may also have stress management resources available through an employee assistance program.

If you continue to feel overwhelmed by work stress, you may want to talk to a psychologist, who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behaviour

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Employment Hero are an ambitious group of people on a mission to make employment easier and more rewarding for everyone. It prides itself in its inclusive, innovative culture that rewards and recognises our team for great work.

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