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Chris Mooney (Chartered MCIPD)

Right Trax Training Ltd

Learning & Development Consultant

Read more from Chris Mooney (Chartered MCIPD)

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How Is Stress Affecting You?


It’s now the leading cause of workplace sickness and affects one in five of us. When will organisations realise that they or their people can no longer afford to ignore stress?

In 2014/2015, stress accounted for 35% of all work related ill-health cases with 9.9million working days lost and with less than three out of five organisations taking a proactive approach to identify and reduce stress in the workplace. This is clearly an important issue for organisations to address, when we further consider that a recent CIPD 2015 Absence Management report states:

‘Workload remains the most common cause of stress, followed by non-work relationships, family, management style and relationships at work’(*3).

What constitutes ‘stress’ and what does it do to us?

Essentially, stress is a physical response by the body when it feels under attack or threatened. In these situations, we experience the ‘fight or flight’ response, where a combination of hormones and chemicals are released to prepare the body for action. This in turn causes a number of different reactions, from heart-pounding to clammy hands; all of which is the body’s way of protecting us.

When does stress become unhelpful and damaging?

It doesn’t matter if we’re stressed at being stuck in traffic or facing a life-threatening situation, the body will react exactly in the same way. Therefore, if you are frequently experiencing ‘fight or flight’ in your daily life it will start to impact upon your physical, emotional and mental health.

What are the impacts of stress for organisations?

  • High employee absence / presenteeism rates.
  • Workloads and resources stretched too thinly.
  • Increased accidents and mistakes.
  • Increased workplace conflict and grievances.
  • Damage to brand and reputation.
  • Damage to goodwill, motivation and engagement.
  • Increased liability for personal injury.
  • …and the list goes on!

How can you recognise the signs of stress?

There are four potential symptoms to look out for:

  • Cognitive: E.g. memory problems, inability to concentrate, poor judgment, seeing only the negative, anxious or racing thoughts, constant worrying.
  • Emotional: E.g. moodiness, irritability or short temper, agitation, inability to relax, feeling overwhelmed, sense of loneliness and isolation, depression or general unhappiness.
  • Physical: E.g. Aches and pains, diarrhoea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, loss of sex drive, frequent colds.
  • Behavioural: E.g. Eating more or less, sleeping too much or too little, isolating yourself from others, procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities, using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax, nervous habits.

The symptoms are not extraordinarily difficult to recognise, however prevention is better than cure. From the research and evidence being presented, it’s clear that many organisations need to be much more proactive to create a healthy environment where their employees can be effective and productive.

Author Profile Picture
Chris Mooney (Chartered MCIPD)

Learning & Development Consultant

Read more from Chris Mooney (Chartered MCIPD)

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