Dealing with stress at work

Even in this day in age, there is still stigma surrounding mental health, including stress at work. We know this can make it difficult to talk about, but you are not alone. Hundreds of thousands of workers in the UK experience work-related stress, depression, or anxiety. As your union, we are here to support you.  

What is stress?

Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”.

Some people can benefit from a small amount of pressure at work as it can keep them motivated. However, if too much pressure is placed on a person, it can result in being overworked and lead to you becoming stressed.

While stress is not technically an illness, it has a detrimental psychological impact on those who suffer from it. It manifests in a few ways, including panic attacks, fatigue, insomnia, headaches and irritability. If not treated, these can lead to long-term mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Stress, depression and anxiety can lead to reduced productivity and performance issues.

What causes stress?

Stress can be caused by a number of issues, both inside and outside of the workplace. This can include:

  • Financial difficulties. If you’re struggling financially, check out our member-exclusive financial support.
  • Managing difficult relationships (workplace or personal).
  • Moving house.
  • Excessive workload.
  • Last minute deadlines.
  • Undertaking too much responsibility.
  • Working long hours.
  • Lack of control over your work.
  • Lack of support from employers or colleagues.
  • Bullying or harassment at work.
  • Discrimination at work.
  • Working in an unsafe environment.
  • Lone working.
  • Lack of career progression.
  • Job insecurity.
  • Expectation at work.
  • Change at work.
  • Work-life balance.
What should I do if I am stressed at work?

You are not alone. Firstly, you should speak to your union Rep or employer about the issues that you are experiencing at work as they may be able to help you address the root cause.

If you are experiencing issues with workload, responsibility, work-life balance or even issues outside of work which are causing you to be stressed, make sure to follow these steps:

  • Ask for help – you should not feel ashamed to ask for help if you are struggling to meet deadlines, understanding work, or dealing with workload.
  • Balance time spent on tasks – you might be juggling too many tasks at once. Try to set realistic timeframes to spend on each task so you can give it your full attention.
  • Be realistic – set realistic timeframes and make sure to stick to them. You’re only human and can only get so much done in the working day.
  • Speak to your employer – your employer has a duty of care to support your mental health. They may be able to support you or reduce your workload.
  • Ensure you take your breaks, including time away from your desk or outside if possible.
  • Take some time off – use your annual leave to take some well-deserved rest and relaxation.
  • Focus on your life outside work when off the clock – work-life balance is important!

If you are being bullied, harassed, or discriminated against at work, you should immediately report this to your union Rep or employer.

If you are still stressed and feel you require professional support, you should immediately speak to your doctor to find a professional mental health service.

How can I manage stress at work?

Stress doesn’t have a simple fix. It is something you must personally work on to identify and manage. Here are some tips to help you cope with stressful situations at work:

  • Understand and identify what is causing your stress and what helps – by recognising this, you can start to act.
  • Talk to your employer – it is their responsibility to support your mental health at work.
  • Talk to your union Rep – they are on hand to help and sign-post you to the relevant services.
  • Talk to your colleagues – we encourage everyone to openly talk about mental health.
  • Talk to your doctor – they will be able to provide advice and signpost you to the right mental health services.
  • Learn coping mechanisms – Everyone deals with stress differently, so make sure to take time to find what helps you de-stress when you feel the pressure building.
  • Practise mindfulness – this helps to focus on the here and now. Why not try out our mindfulness course?
  • Stay on top of your physical health – physical and mental health are intertwined, so simple things such as going for a walk, exercising and eating well can reduce feelings of stress.

Your workplace may offer free or discounted mental health or counselling services as part of your employee benefits – this will be identified in your employee handbook or intranet.

As a Community member, you have access to hundreds of free courses to support you with stress identification and management, including managing stresstechniques on reducing stressreducing stress through meditation and visualsimproving your mental health and more. Click here to contact our Community Learn team who will be happy to signpost you to the relevant courses.

What should my employer do?

Employers have a legal obligation to support and manage employees’ mental health and wellbeing, including work-related stress. As a part of this, they must conduct regular risk assessments, which should identify areas of stress for employees and put measures in place to prevent stress-related illness.

Under the Equality Act 2010, if you are experiencing stress at work, your employer should put reasonable adjustments in place to ensure that you are not disadvantaged in carrying out your duties.

If your stress is related to bullying, harassment, sexual harassment or discrimination at work, your employer must prevent this.

If your employer is aware that you are stressed, they should regularly check in with you to see if any changes that they have implemented are helping or if you need further support.

If your employer is unsupportive, or if they are a cause of your stress, contact Community immediately for support.

How can I support a colleague experiencing stress?

That’s great that you want to support your colleague(s) going through stressful times. If you are concerned about your colleague being stressed, here are some ways you can help them:

  • Encourage them to talk.
  • Respect how they feel.
  • Encourage them to seek support (this could be from their trade union Rep, employer or even their doctor).
  • Don’t jump to conclusions.
  • Respect their confidentiality. Don’t discuss their mental health with others without their consent unless you are concerned for their safety and the safety of the people around them.
  • Work together to find a solution to help them if they’re finding it difficult to find support.
  • Learn more about mental health.

At Community, we are dedicated to tackling ill mental health in UK workplaces – that’s why we offer courses for our members on becoming mental health first aiders. Click here to find out more.

We also offer training courses on managing stresstechniques on reducing stressreducing stress through meditation and visualsimproving your mental health and more. If you are interested in taking any of these courses or sign posting your colleague(s), click here to contact our Community Learn team who will be happy to help.

You may also be interested in encouraging your employer to create a safe working environment where employees are encouraged to discuss their mental health and offer support to those who become unwell through stress. If you are interested in looking after the health, safety, and wellbeing of your colleagues at work, find out more about becoming a Community Health and Safety Rep.

If you need help or advice, please contact us at or on 0800 389 6332.


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