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HR Strategies for Dealing with Workplace Stress

Updated December 2 2019 - A certain amount of stress in the workplace is a good thing. Stress motivates us to perform and keeps us going when we have deadlines to meet. In small bursts, most people can cope with stress, but long-term stress leads to anxiety and reduced performance.

In most cases, stress is a reaction to overwork and excessive demands of the job, but poor workplace relationships, organizational change, a lack of management support, or outside pressures also cause stress. Unless you address the problem, the employee will become increasingly unproductive and may eventually burn out completely.

Employers and HR departments need to recognize the signs of stress and find ways to deal with employee stress and anxiety effectively. By implementing the following strategies, you can boost productivity.

What Causes Stress

A CareerCast Survey conducted in 2017 listed the main causes of stress:

  1. Deadlines (30%)
  2. Life of Another at Risk (17%)
  3. Competitiveness (10%)
  4. Physical Demands (8%)
  5. Working in the Public Eye (8%)
  6. Growth Potential (7%)
  7. Life at Risk (7%)
  8. Hazards Encountered (5%)
  9. Meeting the Public (4%)
  10. Travel (3%)
  11. Environmental Conditions (2%)
Recognize the Signs

You can't deal with a problem if you don't acknowledge it exists. Employers and HR professionals need to be alive to the fact that stress is a major problem in the workplace. Around 40% of sick days are because of stress related ailments, which is a lot of preventable time off work.

Monitor employee absence rates and schedule informal reviews if there is a regular pattern of sick days. Employees under stress will appear anxious, irritable, and less engaged. Their productivity will fall and they may make more mistakes than usual.

Encourage Employees to Report Problems with Stress

Management style is critical when dealing with stress. Telling employees to 'get on with it' is not helpful. Stress is an illness. Encourage employees to come to talk to a supervisor if they are struggling to cope, so you can get to the root of the problem.

Interdepartmental Approach

There needs to be good communication across different departments, especially when poor management is the root of the problem. Carry out regular employee surveys to help you spot any problems with individual managers or employees.

Spread the Workload

Make sure workload does not build up to unmanageable levels. If employees are regularly working late or not taking their vacation allowance, it could be because they are struggling to meet their targets. Talk to them to find out what the problem is and then make changes.


Provide coaching and staff training to help employees manage stress in a more productive way. Business coaching is a useful option for managers, as it can help them support their team and reduce workplace stress.

Assign a Mentor

Mentors provide support and guidance to junior employees. Stress and anxiety are often caused by a lack of guidance and help, especially when learning the ropes in a new position. Assigning each junior employee a senior mentor is a good way of boosting morale and creating a more supportive workplace environment.

Make sure employees are aware of any assistance programs and medical benefits provided by employers. Many medical schemes offer a counseling service as part of the scheme.

Time off work because of stress-related illnesses costs the business money, so it is in your interests to deal with the issue before it affects the company's bottom line.

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