How to manage stress in the workplace

BLOG ARTICLE | By The Simplyhealth Team

Insights > Mental wellbeing > How to manage stress in the workplace


BLOG ARTICLE | By The Simplyhealth Team | 3rd November 2020

In today’s fast-paced, always-on working culture, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Many people are able to deal with their stress without long-lasting impacts. A stressful week leading up to a big presentation is relatively short-lived. But for some, stress can become a very real, chronic problem.

When this happens, stress can have significant effects on mental and physical health. And this can lead to time off work. Our research with the CIPD shows that stress-related absence has increased over the last year in nearly two-fifths of UK organisations. Plus, stress is a top-three cause of long-term sickness absence for almost half of employers.

What causes work-related stress?

So many factors can contribute to work-related stress. Just think about a normal working day and there are probably a number of things that can feel stressful. However, there are some significant causes of work-related stress that come up time and time again.

Two things consistently take the top spot as common causes of stress at work. These are workloads (for 60 per cent of organisations), and management style (for 41 per cent). Both findings highlight the influence that line managers can have on feelings of stress and overall mental wellbeing.

Often under pressure from the top and bottom, managers have an important role to play in delegating effectively and building good relationships with their teams to make sure workloads are manageable.

Richard Gilles Chief Operating Officer



“We seem to accept that stress and exhaustion is the new normal – we shouldn’t. Reports show that the UK workforce is working some of the longest hours in Europe, but it’s not reaping any rewards in terms of health, quality of work and productivity.”


Richard Gillies, Chief Operating Officer at Simplyhealth

What can we do to tackle stress at work?

Encouragingly, more and more employers are actively doing something to manage stress. Over the past five years, we’ve seen the number grow from just over half in 2015, to almost three-quarters in 2020. Yet despite this positive trend, a third of organisations who say that stress-related absence has increased over the last year, are not doing anything to tackle workplace stress.

It’s critical that businesses put action plans in place to help employees stress less. Here are some of the most common methods organisations use to identify and reduce stress in the workplace:

  1. Flexible working. Over two-thirds of employers use flexible working options or improved work-life balance to tackle workplace stress. Flexibility can give employees greater control over their working lives. It allows them to fit work around personal commitments, which might otherwise cause stress.

  2. Employee assistance programmes. For 65 per cent of organisations, EAPs form part of the toolkit for addressing stress. With confidential and impartial advice, EAPs or counselling services can be an important lifeline for employees who might be struggling with issues like stress and associated poor mental health.

  3. Line manager training. As we’ve already highlighted, line managers can have a strong influence over wellbeing and can do a lot to help employees manage stress. Training is crucial for managers to be able to spot the signs that someone needs help, as well as having effective conversations and signposting employees to sources of further help. In fact, three-fifths of businesses already train line managers to manage stress, which is an encouraging sign.

Want to know more?



Work-related stress and mental health CIPD report extract


We’ve created a guide to work-related stress and mental health, highlighting all the key statistics from the CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Well-being at Work 2020 report, plus valuable insights into how organisations across the UK are managing these challenges.


10 ways to manage stress infographic


We’ve also created a free infographic with some practical tips on how to reduce stress, at work and at home.

All figures in this article are taken from CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Well-being at Work 2020 report.