Work-related stress is the reaction people have to demands which exceeds their capacity and capability to cope. As part of a commitment to staff wellbeing, the University wants to identify and address the causes of work-related stress.

Symptoms of stress

Staff experiencing stress may have symptoms such as headaches, irritability, poor concentration, tiredness and anxiety. They may lose interest in their work, have difficulty making decisions, make more mistakes or have a lower resistance to infection.

Causes of stress

Stress can be caused or increased when:

  • you feel you lack the skills to do your work properly
  • there is conflict or ambiguity in your role
  • you have little control over work or involvement in decision making
  • difficult interpersonal relationships or conflicts are experienced at work
  • conflicting demands at work and home exist with little practical support
  • your job does not match your expectations of the role, or conflicts with your personal values

Impact of stress

Stress will impact on work performance and productivity and lead to increased absenteeism, staff turnover and accident rates. If stress is not addressed, staff may develop mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, or physical health problems, such as heart disease, upper limb or digestive disorders.

Dealing with stress

  • The first aspect of dealing with stress is recognising that it is occurring.
  • Identify the causes.
  • Talk to people who can help especially your manager as there are different things they can do to support you at work. 

Support and resources


Stress could be prevented if you:

  • talk to managers about your job and demands, ensuring that you are clear about your role and expectations
  • prioritise your work load and manage your time effectively
  • match your workload and pace to your abilities and training. Inform your manager if you are overloaded and ask for support
  • ensure good communication with your colleagues and manager
  • take initiative regarding your developmental needs and make use of training, support, and resources available
  • support colleagues by providing appropriate information and sharing knowledge and resources
  • ensure bullying and harassment is not tolerated

Impact on the department

It is generally accepted that the longer a member of staff is absent from work with stress, the harder it is for them to return. This will have a significant effect on their emotional and economic wellbeing and departments risk losing a valuable member of their team.

As a university that wants to be recognised for its world-class research, we cannot afford to lose the knowledge and expertise of our researchers, or the staff who support them. Absence of team members will increase pressure on other staff, making it harder for the team to meet its objectives or to give students a quality teaching experience.

Impact on the University

The University has to bear the costs of long-term sickness absences, ill-health retirements, the replacement and retraining of staff, and possible litigation. Stress is recognised as a health and safety issue and failure to address it could lead to enforcement action, impacting negatively on the University's reputation.

Mental Health Risk Assessment

Our Strategic Mental Health Risk Assessment - COVID-19 has been created to enable the University to identify potential mental health related hazards arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and who might be affected and the steps being taken to eliminate or reduce these hazards. It will help to:

  • Identify any potential stressors that might be experienced by those working on our campuses, from their homes or other locations aboard or in the UK (field work, in external companies, hospitals etc) during the pandemic.
  • Take into consideration the impact of lockdown on our mental health and the continuing need to socially distance and self-isolate – (GOV requirements) that would previously have been advised as a practice hazardous to mental wellbeing.
  • With respect to good emotional wellbeing, identify what measures can be put in place to support a member of staff’s mental health, ensuring that pressures from work remain a motivator not a stressor.

Strategic Mental Health Risk Assessment (.docx)

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Contact us
Occupational Health team
Telephone: 01206 872399