Signs of Stress at Work to Watch For

Stress can take its toll at work without you even realizing that is happening. Read this article and learn to identify the signs of stress at work.

With the development of the work environment throughout the years, the concept of stress has also adapted into its manifestation in various forms. Since the pandemic, it has been established as a “new normal” in how teams and corporations work. With brand new changes that no one saw coming, especially when those changes came to stay permanently, some people may find it very hard to accept them.

There are many signs of stress that individuals feel while working, and today it’s time to explore what these signs are and how you can detect them.

The ultimate goal is to prevent potential mental illnesses and burnout and to offer peace of mind and stability when you go to work.

What’s work stress? 

Tran, C. T. H., Tran, H. T. M., Nguyen, H. T. N., Mach, D.N., Phan, H. S. P., Mujtaba, B. G. – Stress Management in the Modern Workplace and the Role of Human Resource Professionals says:

“Stress is the non-specific response of the body to persistent and uncertain demands for change (Selye, 1936). Some stress can be positive as it can motivate employees to focus on a task or to act and solve a problem (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2016). But if stress occurs too often by going beyond an optimal level or lasts too long, it may cause negative effects such as strain and burnout.” 

Stress can manifest in all shapes and sizes, from physical to psychological stress as well as through positive or negative connotations.

You might suffer from a toxic workplace or even get overwhelmed by tasks that are more than you can handle. Either way, work stress affects you, and you must look hard for the signs before it’s too late. If you ignore it, there’s no going back. You can get severely and permanently ill. 

Get to know how to be organized at work when overwhelmed to better manage your stress.

The 17 signs of stress at work

As stated in Occup Environ Med 2002;59:67-72 by S. Michie:

“Historically, the typical response from employers to stress at work has been to blame the victim of stress, rather than its cause. Increasingly, it is being recognized that employers have a duty, in many cases in law, to ensure that employees do not become ill. It is also in their long-term economic interests to prevent stress, as stress is likely to lead to high staff turnover, an increase in sickness absence and early retirement, increased stress in those staff still at work, reduced work performance and increased rate of accidents, and reduced client satisfaction.”

Occup Environ Med 2002;59:67-72 by S. Michie

Unfortunately, stress is all around us, from one company member to the whole team itself. It’s hard to detect the signs of stress, especially when you’re letting yourself focus on your pipeline and urgent matters in your day of work.

There are certain attitudes that you could consider as a simple episode that’ll pass, but most of the time, that will continue to happen. However, there’s a list of signs of stress that you can look out for.

It could help you diagnose the symptoms and confront them head-on in their early stages. Below you’ll find notorious stress signs in a worker and your team.

A exhausted employee due to stress

11 Signs of stress in a worker

  1. Taking more personal time: When you observe that your coworker is taking a lot of consecutive time off;
  2. Being late to work: Your coworker starts showing up long after the team’s arrival. Somes;
  3. Being nervous: If you notice that your colleague is feeling restless and impatient;
  4. Mood swings: If your team member displays completely different moods throughout the work day, one being euphoric and the other being defeated;
  5. Self-withdrawal: When your coworker starts isolating himself and not contributing with a single social interaction;
  6. Feeling unmotivated: When you’re aware that your colleague is feeling insecure, pessimistic, and unmotivated;
  7. Productivity: Usually, stress leads to a decrease in productivity;
  8. Exaggeration of emotions: If you notice that your team member is feeling more sensitive, unconsolable, and extremely sad;
  9. Work attitude: When your coworker starts being more careless about his tasks;
  10. Negative disposition: When you notice that your colleague talks negatively about your job requirements and your company;
  11. Intolerable: Is often resistant to changes around the company and throughout the team. 

Learn to differentiate these signs from signs of a lazy coworker.

A team of nine people stressed at work

6 Signs of stress in a team

  1. Creation of arguments: When you catch a heated argument without context between your team members;
  2. Staff turnover often happens: When team members do not stay for long, and new members will substitute for them;
  3. Dealing with reports of stress: When there’s a worrisome quantity of stress events that are being reported;
  4. Sickness absence’s growth: When you notice that a lot of team members are taking a sick absence;
  5. Performance not as good: When you calculate the progress of the team, you verify that their performance is not thriving;
  6. Filing more complaints: When you’re receiving multiple complaints from your team on several subjects.

How to reduce the signs of stress at work

Letting go is never easy, especially if you’re attached to your job and career, but when your body asks for help, you should listen. Nevertheless, you can still excel at your job and establish some limits to keep your mind and body sane.

Check out this list, and choose the ones that you could implement in a more balanced life:

  • Assign your workload to a total of eight hours per day, nothing more, nothing less;
  • Commit yourself to low-stress tasks and projects;
  • Make sure that your day feels like a routine, with no unexpected events;
  • Ask your manager for help. A good manager will help you;
  • Search for therapy that fits you;
  • Invest in your time through dinners with friends and family and more;
  • Maintain yourself healthy physically;
  • Make various pauses throughout your work day;
  • Don’t bottle up your emotions. Open yourself to someone you trust.

Read also:

Handle stress at work

Tips to avoid excessive workload


What are the main causes of stress at work?

Being unable to take care of all the job’s requirements and a toxic workplace are some of the leading causes of stress at work

How to deal with stress at work?

First, you need to find the source of the stress you’re experiencing, and then you should talk to your manager and ask them for help in that matter.

How does stress affect work productivity?

In the short-term, stress can give you the boost you need to execute your tasks, but it’ll leave you drained physically and mentally in a more permanent context.


In line with Management of Stress at Workplace by Smruti Rekha Sahoo:

“A culture of stress can soon develop with many damaging consequences for the organization. Where such a culture has developed there is no quick-fix solution for the organization.

The organizational consequences of stress are best avoided by adopting a stress management culture in the organization requiring the ‘buy-in’ of both management and staff.

It is hoped that this knowledge will motivate organizations to explore the stressors that are present in their own work environments, and to take steps to reduce and/or prevent stress in the workplace, thereby working to maintain the health and wellbeing of employees.

Organizational approaches coupled with individual strategies are the most effective way to address job stress.”

Management of Stress at Workplace by Smruti Rekha Sahoo

With this note, there’s the concept of having a proactive and preventive approach to the signs of stress at work for every team member. It’s better to prevent any mental health hazard than to apologize for letting it happen. 

It’s normal to feel a small percentage of stress while dealing with your work’s day-by-day routine. Within modern corporations, you have clients to please through your projects and management to impress through consistent “big ideas” or insights that could revolutionize a project or an outdated process. 

It’s a constant fight to manage expectations from all these different sources, and that’s not an easy task, especially when you have actual tasks to do. The heavy presence of an unexpected workload that’s urgent by definition or simply because it has to be done due to poor prioritization can take its toll. 

It’s very difficult not to succumb to the stress inflicted on you by these different channels. But first, it’s essential to acknowledge that you’re suffering from extreme anxiety and that you must pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you.

After your acceptance, you need to distinguish the signs and decide what you need to do to stay stabilized and productive. 

From asking management, practicing mindfulness, and looking for any sort of therapy, the range of options to ask for help is many. You just need to discover which is the right one for you, that’ll bring the results you need.

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