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Employee stress: the good, the bad and the ugly

Some media outlets reported yesterday that employee stress is taking a heavy toll on the mental health of bank workers in the UK.  Almost three-quarters of bank workers said they were suffering from anxiety attacks, insomnia, headaches and depression, according to a recent survey by the trade union Unite.  Most cited heavier workloads as the cause of the stress, with 72 per cent considering quitting their jobs.
With many UK employees worrying about job security and heavier workloads, what does employee stress mean to you and your organisation? How can your colleagues manage their own stress levels?
Stress is how a person reacts to pressure, but is commonly used to describe both the external stressor and the feelings of not being able to cope with that pressure.  The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction a person has to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed upon them’. This demonstrates the difference between ‘pressure’, which can be positive if managed correctly, and ‘stress’ which can be negative to health.
Some stress is good for you and a certain level of pressure can help you prepare for events and challenges. However, too much stress, especially over longer periods of time, can cause physical, emotional and social problems, and impact your quality of life.
Equally, insufficient pressure can lead to under-stimulation and boredom and because everyone has different thresholds for coping with different types of pressure, it is important to recognise the symptoms of stress, so you can learn to manage the pressures that intensify your stress levels.

Symptoms of stress can include physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioural adaptations and include the below:

  • Memory loss and lack of concentration
  • Moodiness, irritability and agitation
  • Chest pain, loss of libido, frequent colds, nausea and dizziness
  • Changes to eating or sleeping habits and increases in additive behaviours i.e. smoking, alcohol

Stress arises when individuals perceive that they cannot adequately cope with the demands being made on them or with threats to their well-being.

Encourage colleagues to manage pressure to reduce employee stress:

  • Try to preempt stressful situations and think about how you’re going to manage them and try to change your thoughts and behaviour towards the situation.
  • Don’t wait until things get too difficult to cope with; seek advice and help at an early stage.
  • During periods of anticipated stress, make time for exercise and healthy eating and don’t drink too much alcohol or caffeine, or use illegal drugs as a way to cope – in the long term, these things will only make you feel worse.
  • Find time to meet and talk to friends and have fun –a problem shared is a problem halved!

If you would like further information or support on employee stress and mental health, please visit:

Employee stress
Employee stress


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