How to tell if your colleagues are showing signs of stress

The Healing Hub

Written by The Healing Hub

The Healing Hub helps organisations and individuals beat stress, manage anxiety and reduce overwhelm with its unique process, music and neuroscience-inspired technology.

Prolonged stress can leave sufferers numb and frozen. And one of the most damaging consequences of this is that it can stop people from reaching out for help. 

So even though you might pride yourself on an open door policy and a willingness to share problems and workloads, you need to remember that struggling colleagues and employees won’t always come forward for help. 

Vigilance is key. To spot a possible stress issue among your colleagues, look out for the following signs… 


In 2019/20, there were an estimated 17.9 million working days lost to stress. In the vast majority of cases, stress isn’t given as the reason for absence, even though it’s the underlying cause. 

Stress can weaken the immune system, so look out for frequent absences due to seemingly minor illnesses. Also, it is common for sufferers of stress to feel that there is no other way to deal with it, other than to try to escape. If a colleague seems to have an unusually high number of random absences due to things like broken down cars and visits to the vet, there could be something going on underneath. 

They’re visibly tired 

Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can upset your natural sleep cycle. Meanwhile, muscle tension tends to drain energy levels. As such, if a colleague looks obviously tired and lacking energy, it can be a reliable indicator that something’s wrong. 

They’re always at their desk 

Long hours aren’t necessarily a sign of enthusiasm or dedication. In fact, if a colleague suddenly starts coming in much earlier or regularly staying behind, it could be a sign that they are struggling to cope. 

They’re making mistakes 

The more stress you are experiencing, the more you need to concentrate in order to get things done. It can turn into a form of self-defeating cycle, whereby the sufferer has to struggle harder to get through their workload, which in itself leads to even more stress. 

If a colleague seems to be making lots of mistakes, even on very routine tasks, it could be a sign they are trapped in this type of cycle. 


Stress and anxiety both eat into your emotional reserves. As a result, a colleague suffering with stress simply might not have the emotional bandwidth to devote to work. What’s more, the low serotonin levels associated with anxiety can also sap any passion or interest they normally have in their job. 

If a normally engaged colleague gradually becomes more and more indifferent to what’s happening, stress is a very likely culprit.

Hear from Nebel Crowhurst, People & Culture Director as she shares how The Healing Hub and the stressbusting technique, Breathing Space has helped her and her teams to manage stress, overwhelm and anxiety. 

Breathing Space Testimonial - Nebel Crowhurst, People & Culture Director


Cynicism and resistance to change 

When they are stressed, people experience a complex array of negative emotions. Cynicism is one such emotion: i.e. where you are constantly thinking the worst of others, and are unable to trust the intentions of those around you. 

If a colleague suddenly seems negative, defensive, irritable or always seems to be pushing back whenever change is discussed, this could very well be down to stress. 

Even if they aren’t able to articulate it, co-workers suffering with these types of symptoms are often desperately in need of positive change; i.e. an effective way to break the cycle of stress. It may be that some systemic change is needed.

Stress management tailored for your organisation

But at the same time, it can be hugely reassuring for colleagues to know that there are steps they can take themselves to get back in control of their emotions.

By pointing them in the direction of The Healing Hub, it could turn out to be one of the most effective, practical steps you could take to help! 

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