Stress is a significant contributor to mental health, causing problems including anxiety and depression, and it has become an increasing concern for employers during the current pandemic. Each year, Stress Awareness Day, held on the first Wednesday in November, aims to increase public awareness about the importance of managing stress in our day to day lives.

According to ONS statistics, one in five adults in the UK (19.2%) were likely to be experiencing some form of depression during June 2020; this had almost doubled from around 1 in 10 (9.7%) before the pandemic. Although the physical health risks of Covid-19 are likely to be on everyone’s mind, the pandemic is also causing a massive toll on mental health.

Stress and poor mental health can have a significant negative impact on employee productivity and wellbeing if signs are not spotted and managed early. Sodexo Engage, the employee benefits specialist, is bringing the issue to the forefront with the four key signs employers need to look out for when dealing with stress in the workplace.

  1. Withdrawal

When people are stressed, they can begin to withdraw as a way of coping. In the workplace this could be a loss of interest in activity, lack of communication and wanting to limit interactions with co-workers. It is important that managers are regularly checking in with team members, particularly during a time when many people are isolated at home.

  1. Taking more time off work

We all have times when we need space to recharge, but when employees are taking more sick days than usual, it may be a sign of a bigger issue. Whilst employers shouldn’t demand an explanation for employees taking a sick day, it is important that employers look out for patterns and ensure they offer staff an opportunity to open up about any worries they have and where they can be better supported.

  1. Increased irritability

It isn’t always possible to bring your best to work every day, however, if an employee has shown a change in mood for an extended period of time, it could be a sign that they aren’t coping. Managers should be provided with the right training and tools to spot these changes in their team, so conversations can be had, and problems don’t snowball in to larger mental health issues.

  1. Physical

Headaches, indigestion, weight loss or gain, are all physical symptoms of work-related stress. Whilst this may be the hardest to spot, particularly for a workforce working from home, it’s something employers can encourage employees to recognise in themselves. This requires an open dialogue with the team and education on the less known signs of stress.


“Stress can be triggered from a number of work pressures including organisational change, long hours, bullying, excessive workloads, tight deadlines and lack of support to name just a few. Whilst workers in the UK are working harder and longer than ever before, particular during this pandemic, it’s clearly taking a toll on their wellbeing. As we move in to another nationwide lockdown, employers must do more and be on the look out for the warning signs. Not only is it bad for individuals but it will ultimately have a negative impact on the bottom line. Looking after our valued employees at such a critical time is absolutely vital”