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Minimising and managing workplace stress

Stress at work is normal but needs to be identified, minimised and managed. Read on for tips to keep you and your employees healthy and well.

Causes and signs of stress

Stress can feel inevitable for a small business, where daily challenges need to be dealt with ASAP and each task feels vital for success.

Some stress can be motivating and even helpful — a last-minute deadline might spark a more creative approach. But stress can also be harmful to the health and wellbeing of you and your employees.

The leading causes of stress in the workplace are:

  • high workloads
  • poor work/life balance
  • stressful work.
Stress can also come from outside of the work environment.

Stress can also come from outside of the work environment.

People don’t shut off all their thoughts and feelings about non work-related events and issues when they walk through the door. 

Stress in the workplace will often crop up from a situation where the demands of the job are not matched by the resources available to get the job done. Resources that may be lacking can be:

  • time
  • knowledge
  • energy
  • confidence
  • budget
  • tools.

Signs of work stress to look out for include:

  • arguments
  • high staff turnover
  • reports of stress
  • increase in taken sick leave
  • decreased performance
  • complaints and grievances.

What you can do

Create a supportive workplace

Positive communication based on respect builds trust and collaboration and is a vital part of creating a healthy and safe work environment. Small businesses and teams want to support and protect each other, so may find it hard to ask for help when they need it. Make it OK to talk about stress and what’s happening in the workplace.

Positive communication at work(external link) — Mental Health Foundation

Be open and flexible

Workplaces can offer a safe space for their people, especially if events outside of work are taking their toll. Talk to staff about how you can support them best. Be open to making changes in duties, flexible hours, opportunities for time out, or other kinds of support for them and their families.

Open Minds is a collection of resources from the Mental Health Foundation specifically designed to help managers build their confidence and skills when talking about mental health and workplace stress. They offer a series of videos, guides, tips, factsheets, posters and FAQs.

Open Minds: For employers(external link) — Mental Health Foundation

Learn new ways to approach stress

The Mental Health Foundation has created a framework called The Three Rs to help workplaces and individuals minimise and manage workplace stress. The Three Rs are:

  • Refuel — Whakatipu: look after your wellbeing and cultivate energy
  • Resolve — Whakatiki: identify stressors and find solutions that help resolve the causes of stress
  • Relax — Whakatā: switch on the relaxation response to restore and rest.

Reducing the impact of stress: The Three Rs(external link)  — Mental Health Foundation

Minimising and managing workplace stress(external link)  — Mental Health Foundation

Get yourself right

If you are a manager or business owner, it’s important to understand the impact of stress not only on you, but also the trickle-down effect it has on your team and your customers. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of trying to figure it all out on your own, but it’s important to remember that seeking support when you need it is OK.

If you are struggling, talk to someone you trust – this can be someone at work, friends and family, or someone in your community. You can also get advice from a GP, or other health professional.

Working well: Getting help and advice factsheet(external link)  Mental Health Foundation

Assess your systems and resources

If the current ways of working are causing a lot of stress to you and your staff, look for ways to change.

If workloads are high, maybe it’s time to take on a new employee or look for additional support from outside your business. Assess if you and your staff are focusing on the right priorities or if there are better ways of getting the work done that might relieve a bit of pressure.

It might be time to put systems in place or change the ones that are no longer working. Extra training might help empower your staff to feel knowledgeable and confident about the work they do.

Creating a health and wellbeing policy for your workplace is a great way to build a positive work environment. As an employer, it helps to demonstrate your commitment to the health and wellbeing of your employees and make sure everyone is on the same page.


Do you have more questions about workplace stress?

Do you have more questions about workplace stress?

Contact the Mental Health Foundation by email at

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