Work-related stress is the reaction people have to demands which exceed 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. Further details can be found in the Stress Management Policy.

Symptoms of stress

Anyone experiencing stress may have symptoms such as irritability, poor concentration, tiredness or anxiety. You may find yourself losing interest in your work, having difficulty making decisions, making more mistakes, or having a lower resistance to infection, or many other behavioural changes. Stress can also cause physical symptoms, such as headaches, sleep problems, chest pains, panic attacks or developing rashes. Pre-existing medical conditions can be made worse due to stress. 

If stress is not addressed, you may be at risk of developing further mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, or physical health problems, such as heart disease, upper limb or digestive disorders. 

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 or at home

  • 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

Managing stress

Dealing with stress

  • The first aspect of dealing with stress is recognising that it is occurring.
  • Identify likely causes - Mind have a list of potential causes that may help you.
  • Talk to people who can help, especially your manager, as there are different tools and interventions available to support you at work. 

Support and resources

  • We have many resources related to stress on the Wellbeing Directory (accessed via Moodle)
  • You can access the University's staff counselling services through the Employee Assistance Programme
  • Springboard Development programme was created by women for women, with the aim to develop individual potential, build on strengths and increase self-confidence
  • A wide range of recreational and sporting activities, as well as relaxation courses, are provided by Essex Sport
  • The NHS have produced some useful information about stress, including additional resources and how to get help

Preventing stress 

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 workload 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

Stress Risk Assessment

You can speak with your manager about completing a stress risk assessment. This involves looking at current practice in relation to the HSE Management Standards and determining whether enough has been done to manage the risk of stress or whether more needs to be done. It can be done with between a manager and an individual or team and can be a formal process using a risk assessment form (.docx), or an informal discussion using the standards as a guide. If you do an informal assessment, you should still make a record of the outcomes.

To support with completing the Stress Risk Assessment, you can complete the following:

  • Perceived Stress Assessment tool (.docx) – This is designed to measure individual stress levels by looking at how different situations affect feelings and thinking.

  • Stressor Assessment Tool (.docx) – This questionnaire helps to identify the areas under the HSE Management Standards where support may be required

Occupational Health Advisers may recommend a stress risk assessment for individuals who have been suffering stress. It is also a useful to carry out assessments for teams where there are stress related issues or are undergoing significant change.

If you need help with carrying out the stress risk assessment, contact the Employee Relations Advisory team Employee Relations Advisory team Employee Relations Advisory team


Arrow symbol
Contact us
Occupational Health team
Telephone: 01206 872399