April is Stress Awareness Month

How to detect and prevent stress in the workplace

Stress awareness month is held every April to raise awareness about workplace-related stress issues. It was introduced in 1992, and even though we are nearly three decades into the education campaign, the problem still seems as great as ever.

Figures released by the Mental Health Foundation show that 74% of UK people felt ‘overwhelmed or unable to cope’ in the past year. Moreover, 32% of adults said they had experienced suicidal feelings because of stress, and 16% of adults said they had self-harmed because of stress.

By any measure, these are shocking statistics.

We have written extensively about stress on our website in the past because it’s an issue that affects both businesses and the effectiveness of their people. It’s a subject we at APeopleBusiness are passionate about.  We know that by identifying and addressing sources of stress within the workplace environment, we can help make the world a better place.

What is Stress?

Stress is the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or being placed under excessive pressure. Moderate amounts of pressure can be positive and motivate us to meet the demands placed on us by work and family life. Problems arise when the amount of pressure becomes too much to deal with. This is now stress and creates negative consequences including anxiety and depression. It can also result in physical health problems, including insomnia, heart disease, and immune system problems to name a few.

The impact of stress and related symptoms impacts employers and business productivity. According to the HSE, 51% of all work-related ill health cases, and 55% of all working days lost are due to work-related ill health.

Clearly, stress is an issue that affects millions of people and needs to be taken seriously by employers. Failure to do so lets down employees, reduces their effectiveness and ultimately reduces overall business profitability.

Signs of Stress

We all know what stress is because at some point in our lives we’ve experienced it and seen its effects on friends, loved ones and colleagues.

But what are the exact signs of stress? We’ve listed typical signs of stress that impact people both psychologically and physically in the chart below. It’s not a definitive list but gives a good indication of things stressed people experience.

It’s important to note that as individuals,  we react differently to stressful situations. Not all people will experience all the symptoms listed.

Some people may have only one or two symptoms, but for others, the symptoms may be more severe.

If you’re feeling under stress it’s good to talk to friends, colleagues and loved ones to get their advice, but if you feel unable to cope you should seek professional help from your GP or other medical professionals. Whatever you do, don’t ignore the signs of stress as this will just make things worse.

  • Physical Symptoms

    • Headaches or migraines
    • Feeling pain or tense muscles
    • Chest pains and palpitations
    • Tiredness and fatigue
    • Change in sex drive
    • Upset stomach
    • Problems sleeping

  • Emotional Symptoms

    • Feeling anxious
    • Restlessness
    • Feeling unmotivated
    • Feeling overwhelmed
    • Anger and irritability
    • Feeling sad
    • Depression

  • Behavioural Changes

    • Eating more food than usual
    • Eating less food
    • Emotional outbursts
    • Drinking too much alcohol
    • Legal and illicit drug misuse
    • Smoking as a means of comfort
    • Withdrawing from social contact
    • Exercising less frequently

Workplace risk factors

The sources of stress can come from anywhere – home, work, social environment”. At APeopleBusiness, our research shows us that employers need to understand sources they can act on. These include the following 12 sources of stress at work, and 5 sources of potential stess at home:

  • Workplace Stressors:

  • 1: Not understanding my role & responsibilities

    2: Poor role fit, competency & training

    3: Unsatisfactory appraisal system

    4: Inadequate peer co-operation

    5: Responsibility without authority

    6: Poor communications with my leadership

    7: Unreasonable expectations

    8: Unable to cope with demands & deadlines

    9: Mismanagement of change

    10: Bullying & harassment

    11: Poor control of my work

    12: Not understanding my purpose or the strategy

  • Home / Domestic Stressors

  • 1: Financial worries

    2: Personal relationship issues

    3: Personal & family health problems

    4: Personal time

    5: Other home issues

What can employers do to reduce workplace stress?

The first thing business leaders can do to address workplace stress, is to acknowledge that there may well be issues within the workforce, even if they are not immediately apparent.

As an employer, senior manager or C-suite executive your day-to-day focus will be on running the business, strategic planning and keeping things on track. You will expect your employees to implement the tasks assigned to them and deliver results on time and in a professional manner.

However, you might not be aware of the capabilities and limitations of the people to who you have assigned these tasks or the wider ramifications on the teams they work with.

What you believe are reasonable requests might be too much for some individuals and cause them undue stress. There’s a fine line between placing reasonable pressure on your people and demanding too much from employees, resulting in undue stress and distressing consequences.

As a business leader, it’s imperative that you understand, and can quantify, the mental state of your employees and workforce. A subjective, intuition-based approach will not give you the insights you need to fully understand the stressors within your business. Also, relying solely on middle-level management, for example, HR, can lead to problems remaining under the surface for far too long. The danger is that these concerns will only come to your attention once they become a major issue. This can cause you wasted time, potentially a loss of business reputation, and needless stress to the people who rely on your leadership.

As a business leader, you need tried & tested tools to detect any underlying issues within your organisation. Fortunately, such a tool exists called StressFactor™  developed by APeopleBusiness; this specialist business consultancy helps organisations increase business productivity by improving employee wellness and reducing risk.  StressFactor™ provides a clear, easy-to-understand dashboard, that complements and enhances any other business analytical tools you might be using. With StressFactor™ you will be able to fully understand the workplace stressors that negatively impact your employees.


Stress awareness month comes around every year as regular as clockwork. It’s intended to encourage businesses and organisations of all sizes to take on board their responsibilities towards their employees and actively reduce stress within the workplace. The HSE clearly states,  “Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it ”.

Don’t let another year go by with the same old problems hanging around in the background. It’s time to take action, to address the hidden workplace stressors and positively impact your employees’ quality of life. This will lead to a happier workforce, you’ll have fulfilled your due diligence, chances are your business will be a better place to work in, and ultimately your business will be more productive. Why wait any longer? Contact APeopleBusiness now for your free consultation.

Useful Resources

  • NHS Looking after your mental health Link
  • Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland: What are the management standards for work-related stress? Link
  • Mental Health Foundation: Stats Link