Are you suffering from Work Related Stress?

What is stress?

According to the Health and Safety Executive, the formal definition of stress is:


The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work


It is important to realise that stress NOT an illness, but a state. However if it becomes prolonged then it is possible for mental and physical illness to develop.

While well-organised and structured work is considered good for people, it can also be an enormous source of stress and anxiety to others. It is important to recognise that there is a distinct difference between pressure and stress. Pressure can be positive and a motivating factor, while stress occurs when this pressure becomes excessive. Stress is the body's reaction to too much pressure.

What factors cause stress?

Stress affects people in many ways. While one person could find a certain situation stressful, another may not. With each new situation a person will decide what the challenge is and assess whether they have the resources to cope. If they decide that they do not, they will often begin to experience stress.

How do different individuals deal with stress?

How people deal with stress depends on a number of different factors. These include:

  • their background and culture
  • their skills and experience
  • their personality
  • their personal circumstances
  • their individual characteristics
  • their health status
  • their ethnicity, gender, age or disability
  • other demands both in and outside work

Managers have a duty to ensure that work stress does not make their staff ill. It is important they are trained to recognise the signs of stress, and then know what to do to reduce it.

What are the signs of work related stress?

Government issued guidelines help workers and managers alike recognise the symptoms of work related stress:

Emotional symptoms

  • Negative or depressive feeling
  • Disappointment with yourself
  • Increased emotional reactions - more tearful or sensitive or aggressive
  • Loneliness, withdrawn
  • Loss of motivation commitment and confidence
  • Mood swings (not behavioural)


  • Confusion, indecision
  • Can't concentrate
  • Poor memory
  • Changes from your normal behaviour
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Increased smoking, drinking or drug taking 'to cope'
  • Mood swings effecting your behaviour
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Twitchy, nervous behaviour
  • Changes in attendance such as arriving later or taking more time off.

Some stress statistics

  • In 2008/09 an estimated 415 000 individuals in Britain, who worked in the last year, believed that they were experiencing work-related stress at a level that was making them ill (prevalence), according to the Labour Force Survey.
  • The 2009 Psychosocial Working Conditions (PWC) survey indicated that around 16.7% of all working individuals thought their job was very or extremely stressful.
  • According to self-reports from the LFS an estimated 230 000 people, who worked in the last 12 months, first became aware of work-related stress (incidence), depression or anxiety in 2008/09, giving an annual incidence rate of 760 cases per 100 000 workers
  • Estimates from the LFS indicate that self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for an estimated 11.4 million lost working days in Britain in 2008/09
  • LFS survey data suggests the incidence rate of self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety has been broadly level over the years 2001/02 to 2008/09, with the exception of 2001/02 where the incidence rate was higher than the current level.
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