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  • Nick Stolerman

Workplace Stress – What Are The Signs And How Yoga Can Help

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

When you consider that stress is the single largest cause (53% and rising) of work days lost, it’s clear to see that stress at work has a huge impact on the bottom line and smooth running of every organisation.

The signs of workplace stress are easy to see but are often slow to build up so can often be ignored until things become more serious. But first a definition:

Stress is “The reaction people have to excessive demands or pressures, when they try to cope with their jobs, but find difficulty, strain or worry in doing so". (Health and Safety Executive, UK).

Stress is a normal part of life

It is how we respond to pressure, it isn’t always bad and it isn’t always un-manageable. A little stress can propel us to become high achievers as adrenaline boosts our energy and mood. But sustained stress, when it feels like more than we can manage, is where the problem lies as it can affect both our physical wellbeing and our mental health at work.

Signs to look out for

In the workplace, key signs of a stressed colleague include:

  • Tiredness/lack of energy

  • Mood/behaviour: angry, defensive, critical, erratic, clumsy

  • Performance and productivity

  • Ill health including regular headache, backache, indigestion, coughs, colds, respiratory problems

  • Weight loss or gain

  • Work absence

Displaying these factors doesn’t necessarily mean someone has a problem, it is when they occur over a prolonged period of time or when a sudden difference is noticeable, that attention should be paid. In most organisations this will be the person’s line manager or HR department or if there is one, a Mental Health First Aider. But what might be causing the stress in the first place?

Causes of workplace stress

There are many reasons why a person may suffer from stress, some might relate to home life, personal health and wellbeing, but many others are frequently found in the workplace, such as:


  • Heat

  • Noise

  • Safety

  • Poor equipment

  • Inflexible schedules


  • Workload, long hours

  • Boring, repetitive

  • Deadlines

  • Lack of training and support

  • Insecurity


  • Bullying

  • Discrimination

  • Conflict

  • Lack of communication

  • Blame culture

Managing and reducing stress

People’s ability to deal with stress varies greatly. The problems that one person may take in their stride might be very difficult for another person to handle. Our ability to cope will depend both on our genetics – how we’re built – and the coping strategies we employ.

All responsible employers now include stress management for staff on their agenda, accepting that it’s a fact of life and something that can be supported by putting in place staff wellbeing programmes. These often include talks on sleep, nutrition and time management, or classes on mindfulness and meditation. Weekly running, exercise, pilates and yoga for employees classes are also popular.

Yoga in the workplace benefits both the individual and the organisation. With its unique balance of movement, breathing and meditation exercises, it has been scientifically proven to combat stress, anxiety, and even depression.

Yoga is proven to reduce stress

A headline in The Times newspaper (Aug 2020) reads ‘Yoga is just as effective as a therapy session.’ The article covers the findings of a medical school study that calls for yoga to be clinically prescribed. It found that regular yoga practice was almost as effective as talking therapies. Other studies have also shown yoga works better than stress management classes.

Living through the Covid pandemic has resulted in higher than normal levels of stress, leading to the Harvard Medical School recommending yoga, meditation and breathing techniques to reduce stress.

While the source of stress may sometimes be more related to home life than work life, clients also recognise that office yoga for stress release benefits all of the person, ignoring the work/home divide.

Workplace yoga benefits people wherever they are. With the extra challenges so many people now face working from home, finding online classes has never been more important or more available. Wherever you work it’s easy to find office yoga classes in London, Leeds, Birmingham, Brighton, Glasgow and beyond!

Workplace Stress FAQs

Question: What are the signs of stress in the workplace?

Answer: The most common things to look out for are: Tiredness or lack of energy, bad moods, anger, being defensive or clumsy. When performance and productivity dip or when a person is more absent from work than usual, there may be a problem. Keep an eye out for weight loss or gain. Ill health can be a sign, including regular headaches, backache, indigestion, coughs, colds and respiratory problems.

Question: What do you do if you have stress at work?

Answer: First port of call must be your line manager, HR department or Mental Health First Aider. It may feel uncomfortable or even scary to admit to a work colleague that you are struggling, but nothing will improve without some kind of change or intervention. In the vast majority of cases, employers will want to help and will have good resources to make that happen.

Question: Does yoga reduce workplace stress?

Answer: There are numerous scientific studies ranging from decades ago until just a few months ago, all proving the effectiveness of yoga in reducing stress. But it is probably only in the past 20 to 30 years that employers have taken a more proactive and preventative approach to staff wellbeing. Full time staff typically spend more of their waking time at work than they do at home so some employers see it as their responsibility.

Question: What are the effects of stress in the workplace? Answer: Absence from work – being off sick with stress – hits the bottom line immediately. Being present at work but in a bad mood, lacking enthusiasm and creativity, even making poor decisions, all contribute to a reduction in individual, as well as group, productivity and performance.

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