Why Workplace Stress Affects Productivity

8th April 2019 | 5 min read

Stress is a natural part of life, and a little stress can be good for you. It gets the blood pumping and brings a new focus to your thinking, allowing you to work more confidently and efficiently. However, when stress begins to permeate your daily life it can cause long-term health effects and severely impact how you do your job, and that’s not good for anyone.

Doing more to reduce stress in the workplace is hugely important and should be a key priority for all businesses. Whether you’re the CEO of a growing start-up or a freelancer hot-desking every day, it’s important to keep workplace stress to a minimum. But why might you be stressed at work, to begin with? We’ve put together a guide for all you need to know about why workplace stress affects productivity.

Pressure to Perform at Optimum Levels – All the Time!

Whatever job you do, you know what you do matters – to your team and to your customers. It’s only natural that you would put a certain amount of pressure on yourself to consistently deliver first-class results, even under conditions that are less than ideal.

High expectations of self are a major contributor to workplace stress. Knowing how to take care of your own mental health can equip you with the personal skills to manage your role better. As such, you will benefit from the relief that comes with stress avoided, and it won’t be long before you’re accomplishing your work goals with a new, positive mindset. (Who knew that lightening your emotional load would lead to greater productivity?)

Lack of Clear Direction

If you feel like you’re in a job that’s hit a bit of a dead end, you’re not alone. Around 15% of workers in the UK between the ages of 18 and 34 cite feeling they’ve become directionless as the reason for leaving their jobs.

Particularly when you’re early in your career, it can be easy to feel like you’re not going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you should just give up. Speak to someone in your organisation’s human-resources department or a manager about internal prospects and make it clear where you see yourself within the company in the future and how you plan to achieve this growth. If nothing else, this’ll show you mean business and can be taken seriously, which is always a good thing.

More Overtime

There are only so many hours in a day; it’s a tall order to expect a promising employee to complete tasks well past their contracted hours. Unfortunately, more overtime is a popular strategy among businesses these days, and it’s stressing people out.

When one person stays late at the office, it shows they’re keen. But if more and more people are choosing to stay late to complete work, your company will need to investigate this. A culture of perpetual overtime is not good for employees or organisations. You can’t hope to get the best out of your employees if they’re burned out all the time and don’t feel they can communicate with you about it.

Change

Any change is always scary. It takes time to get used to, but unfortunately, the transition can cause some to spiral and – through no fault of their own – become very stressed indeed.

From upgraded software to a whole new seating system, the slightest disruption to the flow of the working day can cause unnecessary stress at work. This being the case, it would be good for decision-makers to get into the habit of implementing any changes gradually, or at least talk to staff about them first. Communication is key to getting things done, while at the same time de-stressing the people who make a business function and prosper.

Strained Interactions and Relationships

Because we spend so much time with our colleagues, it’s important to cultivate strong relationships with key influencers. But what happens when those relationships aren’t all fun and good times? Stress, that’s what.

At work, it’s certainly easy to develop heightened sensitivities to any and all forms of criticism, as well as resentment toward co-workers who seem to have everything under control. But if these feelings arise, you must learn to keep them in check. Try talking to a close friend or relative about it. And if needs must, seek help from a trained professional. Work relationships are never straightforward, especially if you throw office romances into the mix, but learning to manage them in a professional way is key to removing the stress from this area of your working life.

Inadequate Working Environment

If you feel like your work environment is sub-par, this can often correlate to stress. Not enough space to get into the zone with your tasks? Short of necessary equipment? Is someone stealing your milk? It’s no wonder you’re stressed out!

You’d be surprised how far an etiquette refresher can take your team and how much good office design can improve productivity. Of course, it may not be in your power to prompt any drastic in-house changes, but it surely matters to your company that you are happy and productive at what you’re doing in their space. And where possible, you should always declutter your desk to help promote efficiency. It’s often the little things that make the biggest difference when it comes to stress in the workplace.

Fear of Being Fired

With the rise in zero-hours contracts, part-time and low-paid jobs and insecure work, an increasing number of people feel uncertain in their position. Anxiety related to the prospect of being laid off is very real, and its affecting workplace productivity in ways that we’re just beginning to understand.

Beat workplace stress relating to your job status by reaching out; talk to someone in your company that you trust and can provide you with clarification. Getting support – especially face-to-face – can be a highly effective way of regaining your sense of calm. The other person doesn’t have to ‘fix’ your problems; they just need to be a good listener, and that’s often enough to significantly reduce someone’s stress levels.

We hope our guide has given you some ideas on why workplace stress may be affecting productivity in your business. Most of our time is spent at work, so we should do all we can to make it as stress-free as possible.