What are the Signs of Stress at Work?

What are the Signs of Stress at Work?

The signs of stress at work are anxiety, depression, short temper and tiredness. These fall into three categories: physical, psychological and behavioural.

Stress affects everyone at some point in their life, so it is important to know the symptoms of it. This especially applies to organisations, for effective management and prevention.

Signs of Stress at Work

Stress and general emotional tension are complex problems. Workplace stress can arise from a variety of causes, meaning signs are diverse. As a result, symptoms of stress are important to spot, as the faster something is identified, the quicker the issue can be sorted. These issues are interconnected, and one can lead to another really quickly.


According to the NHS, anxiety is “a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe”.[1] It is a type of psychological effect.

It can result from poor workplace relationships or constant criticism. As a result, you don’t feel confident in your own work, and you always worry that it is below par. Other symptoms of work anxiety include[2]:

  • Constant perfectionism
  • Loss of interest in the work you do
  • Fear of making mistakes
  • Avoiding people who receive/review your work

Anxiety can have other psychological and even physical health effects, including a high blood pressure and depression.


Work depression is another psychological sign of stress at work. It is vital to learn about the signs, as they may not be that obvious to begin with.

The most obvious sign to look for is behavioural changes, like something out of the ordinary. This can be a small thing, like a sad mood swing, a rash decision or a passing joke at the person’s own expense. In addition, someone will lose a lot of confidence in their work if they are depressed.

However, these things can escalate if the situation worsens. More severe signs include permanent sadness, self-harming and feeling hopeless.

Short Temper

If you do not stop the problem at source, psychological problems may cause behavioural problems. One of these is a short temper.

If you lose patience and snap at people when there is even the slightest of problems, you are probably stressed. Because of all the amount of thoughts flying around in your brain, one problem can send them all streaming back out.


If you have trouble sleeping, you will be more tired. This is an example of a behavioural problem causing a physical stress effect.

However, this isn’t just feeling tired on a one-off day. This is about feeling drowsy all the time, morning and night. Despite how much sleep you get, you still feel tired. This is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Chronic tiredness leads to being irritable, angry and run-down at work. This means the quality of your work suffers, and bosses may comment on this. This can lead to even more stress problems as now you are really worried that your work isn’t up to standard.

Tiredness can trap someone in a vicious cycle of stress-related problems. It can cause more problems at work, if you snap at someone and they take offence.

In sum, these signs of stress at work are really important for organisations to look out for. If you spot an employee displaying any of these signs, you should act. Go and talk to them about the problem, and what the organisation can do to fix it. Afterall, in this day and age, organisations have a duty of care to protect mental health. This is because it can translate into physical problems.

You can view our stress at work course here.

[1] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/generalised-anxiety-disorder/

[2] https://www.nopanic.org.uk/anxiety-in-the-workplace-2/