Is your office getting stressed out?

Mark Freire

11th December 2017

Most managers know that a little bit of pressure can be a good thing. It sharpens performance, creates focus, drives the achievement of objectives, and helps teams to pull together.

Yet when pressure turns to stress the effect can be completely the opposite. Productivity can plummet, arguments begin, focus is lost, and retention becomes the number one issue. According to a report by Citation, more than one third of the working population have left a job due to the stress it caused them.

The loss of a key individual can then pile additional stress onto those remaining, and a vicious circle emerges which can destroy teams, departments and even whole businesses. What’s worse, the same report reveals that more than 50% of people are afraid to show signs of stress at work, believing that it shows weakness and might affect their chances of success at work.

So, what can you do if the pressure has turned to stress in your office?

Here are our top 5 causes of stress at work, and the practical action you can take to manage the problem.

1. Workload

Too much to do, and too little time to do it in. We have all been in this position, but if the quantity of work is becoming counterproductive to productivity then it is time to take action. Communicating with your team is a vital first step. By understanding which demands or projects are causing problems allows you to prioritise the right solution.

There are multiple answers to workload issues including; rebalancing the workload across different team members, breaking the projects down into smaller tasks, looking for automated solutions, hiring in temporarily help, or forming individuals into small projects teams so they can take ownership of the problem. However, sometimes it is necessary to admit to yourself and to your boss that a job just isn’t going to get done and strike it from the list – at least until other priorities have passed.

2. Working Long Hours

Employees working long hours are a sign that something is wrong. Numerous studies have shown that additional hours are killers of productivity and morale. In the UK we work some of the longest hours in Europe, yet boast some of the lowest rates of productivity.

So if your team have a culture of staying behind after work, then the lack of downtime could be contributing directly to stress levels. Demanding people leave on time can be counter-productive but actively promoting the benefits of a healthy work-life balance may encourage individuals to reconsider their priorities.

3. Manager’s Expectations

Could it be that you are causing the stress? Many workers are focused on meeting the KPIs and deadlines set by their managers, so if these are unrealistic they could be driving a stressful atmosphere. Many managers have the habit of systematically increasing the expected levels of performance as they think that this will help team members improve. If somebody meets their quarterly KPI, then they are made a little harder next quarter, but this approach can put achievements out of reach and create increasing stress levels – especially if KPIs are tied to financial reward.

Taking a regular review of the targets you set, preferably in consultation with staff, can make sure your expectations remain realistic and inspire positive motivation rather than negative stress.

4. Not Enough Breaks

Stepping away from work, just for 5 minutes, can make a positive impact on stress levels. Even though you may not have intentionally created a ‘workhouse’ atmosphere, it’s easy for the pressures of work to tie staff to their desks. You may also be setting a bad example. If teams don’t see their managers step-out for a few minutes, then the implication can be that they shouldn’t either.

Simply breaking the cycle and actively encouraging people to step away from work can be enough to diffuse a stressful atmosphere. Of course, taking a break yourself and vocally praising its benefits will also help normalise this important stress-busting routine.

5. Unregular Review Meetings

Never underestimate the importance of a frequent and timely review process. Many staff members will wait until a formal 1-2-1 meeting before raising concerns about workload so cancelling or moving these meetings can compound on existing stress levels. The approach to these meetings is also important. If you start in a rush and talk only about the impending doom of deadlines, then it is unlikely any member of staff will open up about their own struggles.

Creating an open environment, switching off your phone and asking lots of questions will help you discover if stress if becoming a destructive force in your department.

Take action before stress starts to eat into your business. A proactive hiring personal or development strategy can ensure you have the skills and resources in place to meet upcoming challenges.

JITR work closely with businesses to prepare them for what’s around the corner with contract and permanent solutions covering entry-level to senior level recruitment. To discuss your skills needs please contact us on 020 7426 9835 or