Workplace Stress

First published on Wednesday, Jun 24, 2020

Last updated on Friday, Oct 14, 2022

Burnout as a result of workplace stress can create significant issues for employers across Canada. As an employer, you must minimize the risk of workplace stress within your company to fully maximize productivity.

Stress and burnout in the workplace can impact your workforce negatively. In some cases, it may even lead to legal claims against you if not addressed properly. It is important to identify and tackle workplace stress within your business.

In this guide, we’ll explain what workplace stress is, what causes it, and how employers can address it.

What is Workplace Stress?

Workplace stress can be defined as the harmful, physical, or emotional responses that occur due to conflicting demands of the job. The lack of control of the situation or the high demands of the job may lead to employees becoming stressed.

Workplace stress develops over time and can affect employers and employees alike. However, it can also be caused by a single incident.

Stress in the workplace is okay in moderation, however, when it goes beyond the limit of control, it can affect an individual physically and emotionally.

What are the Causes of Stress in the Workplace?

Generally, there is more than one source of stress in the workplace. Every employee is different in their profession and how they perform their work. Additionally, every employee’s personal lives bring a different perspective into their employment that may dictate how they react to workplace stress.

However, there are some common factors that are causes of stress in the workplace. Examples of stress in the workplace may include:

  • Being overworked and underappreciated by management.
  • Feeling isolated due to poor relationships with co-workers.
  • Lacking support from co-workers or management.
  • Poor work/life balance.
  • Lack of career development.

How does Workplace Stress Affect Physical and Mental Health?

You must identify the signs that an employee may be dealing with workplace stress. Although each employee may handle stress differently, employees may experience a decline in physical well-being. Some examples include:

  • Frequent headaches.
  • Fatigue.
  • Weakened immune system.

Moreover, employees may experience a decline in mental well-being due to stress. Some examples include:

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • insomnia.

Workplace stress can impair an employee’s judgment and may lead to them engaging in poor emotional behaviours such as increased outbursts of anger or frustration, lack of concentration, and neglecting work responsibilities.

How to Reduce Stress in the Workplace

You must implement workplace supports to reduce stress. This includes upholding both the physical and mental well-being of your employees. Some immediate actions that you can implement to reduce stress in the workplace may include:

  • Encouraging employees to take breaks during the day as long as it does not interrupt work productivity.
  • Changing work hours to accommodate personal lives when necessary.
  • Engaging in open communication with employees.
  • Providing a safe work environment.
  • Supporting employees when needed.

Strategies to Manage Workplace Stress

As an employer, you have an integral part to play with stress management in the workplace amongst employees. There are various strategies for managing stress in the workplace that you can implement.

For example, when the workplace is too loud and is impacting an employee’s ability to complete their tasks, you can implement controls to minimize the noise (eg. policies on conversations within the office).

Not all strategies to manage workplace stress may be physical. Some other examples of managing workplace stress may include:

  • Treating all employees in a fair and respectful manner.
  • Being aware of signs or symptoms that an employee may be dealing with workplace stress.
  • Ensuring that staff are properly trained and provided the necessary resources.
  • Making sure job demands are reasonable by providing manageable deadlines.

Some employers may have workplace health and wellness programs implemented. This is a great way to guide employees in managing stress. If you do not have such workplace health and wellness programs, there are various government-based programs that you may suggest to your employees.

When implementing strategies, it is good practice to work with your employees to come to a solution. This will make your employees feel that their opinion is important when implementing company policies and procedures.

You should not ignore the signs of workplace stress. Workplace stress can create a poor working environment and, in some cases, result in employee resignations. If an employee resigns due to workplace stress that the employer has failed to address, an employee may be able to claim constructive dismissal.

Can Employees Take Time-Off due to Workplace Stress?

Eligible employees may take time away from work under applicable employment standards legislation. For example, eligible employees in Ontario may take up to three days off per year due to personal illness, injury, or medical emergency under the Employment Standards Act.

In addition to employment standards legislation, human rights legislation requires employers to accommodate employees to the point of undue hardship. They also do not tolerate discrimination based on disability.

If an employee requires additional time away from work to manage workplace stress, you have a duty to accommodate them to the point of undue hardship so if the employee has medical documentation supporting their condition.

Employees may also have additional benefits under their employment contract for “short term” or “long term” disability leave if coverage is provided by the employer.

How to Report Stress in the Workplace

You have an important role in the reporting of workplace stress. If an employee reports feeling overwhelming stress in the workplace, you must have a plan in place to meet with them to discuss the issues.

You should work to develop a plan to remedy the situation. Always ensure that discussions between you and your employee are confidential.

Get Advice on How to Handle Workplace Stress with BrightHR

Employers should be aware of the signs that their employees are dealing with workplace stress. You have a duty to your employees to maintain a healthy and safe work environment.

Workplace stress can ultimately reduce productivity within your company if not properly addressed.

If you need assistance with strategies to handle workplace stress in your company, our BrightAdvice service allows you to receive quality advice on any employment issues you may have.

Contact us at 1 888 220 4924 or book a demo today.

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