Stress in the workplace is widespread in America, and it causes serious negative consequences for both individuals and businesses. As many as 83% of American employees struggle with stress associated with their work, and stress causes organizations to lose upwards of $300 billion annually.

When an individual experiences undue stress, their work life, home life, mental wellness, and overall health suffers. These negative impacts compound on one another and often lead to presenteeism in the workplace, which involves employees essentially showing up to work but not engaging or being productive.

So, what are the warning signs? And how can you tell if your employees are too stressed?

Warning signs of a stressed workplace

When trying to get a pulse on how stressed your employees are, look for the following clues and signs regarding employee behavior:

  • Becoming irritable, aggressive, and impatient
  • Becoming quiet and withdrawn
  • Becoming more emotional or crying at work
  • Working longer hours or a drop in productivity
  • Erratic time keeping and not taking breaks
  • Either taking too many sick days or not enough time off
  • Missing deadlines

If you notice any of the signs above with specific employees, be proactive and schedule conversations with those individuals.

As an important tip, when you approach these employees, make it known that you’re concerned about them more as an individual than as an employee. Make the conversation about their own well-being. Doing so will help you create more psychological safety and trust, which will help the employee be more vulnerable and open to making adjustments that benefit their situation. Keep in mind, when your employees get healthier, your business gets healthier as well.

One thing to consider here is that you and your organization will be better off by proactively engaging in stress management upstream, rather than waiting until stress-related issues arise before taking action.

How to engage in proactive stress management in the workplace

If you can proactively get ahead of the curve when it comes to workplace stress, you’ll set your organization up for much healthier outcomes and productivity. Here are a few suggestions on how to proactively reduce workplace stress:

  • Hire and promote managers who like managing people
  • Align people’s positions with their strengths and passions as best as possible
  • Create opportunities for human connection
  • Establish realistic expectations with employees and managers
  • Offer support services through a proactive EAP
  • Help individuals recognize how their internal perspective influences the stress they feel

Let’s look at each of these stress-reducing suggestions individually.

Gallup recommends that you, “Review your incentives to be sure you are not encouraging individuals to take management roles because it’s the only career trajectory available in your company.” The bottom line here is that managers should actually want to play a part in managing and positively interacting with the individuals on their teams. Having great managers will help your employees stay connected, appreciated, and productive.

People do their best work when they care about what they are doing. Plus, burnout is much less likely when individuals like the work they’re involved with. While not every fit will be perfect, doing your best to align people with the work they care about will help your organization move forward in unprecedented ways while keeping stress at bay.

Creating opportunities to connect will help your organization build trust and move forward together. Here are a few ideas on how you might start creating these opportunities:

  • Set aside a time for open office hours where employees can come chat about anything they would like to discuss
  • Schedule meetings without agendas where people can come and simply connect
  • Have managers hold one-on-ones that include allotted time to focus on employee well-being rather than work

Create upfront expectations around employee well-being. Let employees know they can take adequate breaks and time to recharge during the work day. Include expectations around time off and encourage employees to use the time off they have. This will help employees not feel guilty when they decide to take a vacation.

We all experience stress and overwhelm from time to time and need to decompress. Providing your employees with a proactive EAP will allow them to get support 24/7 if they end up needing someone to talk to. Employees will be able to get help with the small things they encounter and find professional help for more serious challenges if needed. Additionally, a proactive EAP will provide your employees with resources on how to live healthier both physically and mentally.

Stress often has roots in how we personally perceive a situation. Due to this, sometimes the best intervention for stress is an individual change in perspective. To learn more about how to create this type of shift in your leaders and employees, we recommend getting training from an EAP that offers in-depth leadership training and coaching.

Remember, happy and healthy employees are productive employees. The more you prioritize the health of your people, the healthier your organization will be as a whole.


If you’re a VEST member struggling with stress or anything else, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Care Center for support!

You can find access to the Care center by downloading the VEST Care app and entering your organization code. Email us or talk to your HR department to get this code if you don’t already have it.

If you have any questions about how VEST can help you improve your culture and provide your employees with the emotional resources they need through our Proactive-EAP, don’t hesitate to contact us at (866) 258-6688 or go@vesteap.com.

We are here to help!

Disclaimer: VEST content is not therapy and is not designed to diagnose or treat any condition you may be experiencing. Please contact a medical or mental health professional for treatment that is specific to your needs.