Stress at work: is your company in the red?


In 2022, 64% of French people said they felt stress at work at least once a week. A figure that has risen by 9 points compared with the pre-Covid period, reveals the study.

People at Work 2022


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Stress in the workplace is a real issue for companies, both in terms of health – to protect employees – and in economic terms, since unmanaged stress can have negative repercussions on the company’s overall operation and productivity.

But what is workplace stress, and when does it become harmful? How can we assess stress at work, and what are the solutions for improving stress management within the company?

Stress at work: definition


According to the INRS (Institut National de Recherche et Sécurité), work-related stress occurs when a person feels an imbalance between what he or she is asked to do at work and the resources available to respond.

It’s important to distinguish between temporary stress linked to a specific situation (public speaking, handing in an important file, etc.), which is a natural reaction of the body, and chronic stress. The latter is a long-term problem, generating harmful effects for both the individual and the company. Repetitive stress affects both the psychological and the physical, and in the worst case can lead to burn-out. At company level, stress can deteriorate the social climate, affecting the overall functioning of the organization and its productivity.

It is therefore the employer’s responsibility not only to take collective preventive action, but also to implement curative measures to reduce the sources of stress in the company and the risks associated with stress in the workplace.


What are the stress factors at work?

There are many stress factors at work, the most common of which are :

Work overload

Employees feel overwhelmed, pressured by tight deadlines or too many requests or tasks to accomplish, and find themselves in a stressful situation. Lack of work (underwork, placarding) can also be a source of stress.

Unclear objectives

Unrealistic, unattainable or poorly formulated objectives can cause stress in employees, who will put themselves under excessive pressure to achieve them.


A lack of support and recognition

Poor management can lead to stress. The employee lacks reference points and support, and gradually becomes isolated. A lack of communication can cause frustration, confusion and increased stress. This can come from management, but also from interpersonal relations, between colleagues, within the company.


Job insecurity

Job insecurity can be linked to the macro-economic context (relocation, job cuts…) or to increased competition, precarious employment contracts, changing working hours, and is inevitably a source of stress.


Poor organization

Inefficient, unclear organization and unclear processes can make work more complex and increase stress levels. It can also come from a new organization like telecommuting (or telecommuting undergone as experienced during the Covid pandemic), which upsets the habits of employees and managers who are not trained to support employees in a hybrid operation.


The working environment

Finally, the work environment (open space, noise, lack of space, distance from home…) can also be a stress factor for employees.


woman in the spotlight


What are the indicators of stress in the workplace?

It’s important for companies and management to know how to detect signs of stress in employees, so they can take preventive or curative measures if stress is already present. Certain signs are indicative of a state of stress, such as absenteeism, a lack of work and a lack of motivation.increased turnoverThis is reflected in the frequency of interpersonal conflicts and avoidance situations (late completion of tasks, lack of response, justifications). Managers need to be alert and able to detect changes in their teams’ behavior: mood swings, irritability, anger, increased physical pain…

Once these factors are known and identified, the company can take action. However, 6 out of 10 employees feel that their employer is not implementing solutions to improve their psychological condition (Alan/Harris Interactive barometer February 2022). So, what solutions are available to companies to reduce stress in the workplace?

What can be done to reduce stress in the workplace?

Preventing stress in the workplace

Employers are responsible for ensuring the safety and protecting the physical and mental health of their employees at work.

To achieve this, it can set up collective preventive actions that address the causes of stress rather than its symptoms: training courses, workshops, concrete action plans involving trade unions and staff representatives, for example.

Preventive training in stress management is essential. Having a good understanding of the stress factors to which employees are exposed enables managers in particular to detect weak signals and take action before the company goes into the red.

Reviewing the work environment to reduce stress at work

Reducing stress in the workplace requires concrete, ongoing action. These actions are part of the way the company operates. They must be supported by the management committee, as an integral part of the company’s strategy.

It’s essential to foster a positive working environment by encouraging communication, collaboration and mutual respect. For example, actions such as telecommuting, flexible working hours or adapted schedules can help reduce stress by enabling employees to better reconcile their professional and personal lives.

It’s also important to offer employees training and professional development opportunities. This enables them to feel valued, to develop their skills, which contributes to their well-being and motivation.

Finally, it’s important to set up support programs for employees suffering from stress at work. This can include individual coaching sessions, stress management programs or wellness services such as meditation sessions.

Coaching, a solution to reduce stress in the workplace

men under stress at work

Today, the coaching approach is well known and recognized. Companies don’t hesitate to call on external coaches to support their employees, particularly when it comes to stress at work.

The very fact of offering employees support with a professional coach is a way of showing them that the company cares about their well-being, has understood that there was a pain point and that it was going to support them.

It is often HR departments, alerted by managers, who offer training or personalized support. Coaching is very concrete. The coach studies the employee’s obstacles, motivations and resources, and proposes an action plan at the end of the session, to be tested over the following weeks. Follow-up, over 8 to 10 sessions, enables us to check whether the action plan is working, and to readjust if necessary. In a coaching process, HR is often involved, along with managers, to define objectives and provide everyone with the keys to action.

The coach helps you to step back and gain perspective, and this process brings solutions to the surface. Taking a step back in itself helps to reduce stress, because it shows you how to change things – it’s systemic.

Using tools, models and reflections, the coach brings awareness to the fact that the present state is not suitable, but that it is reversible.

Call on a quality of working life (QWL) coach or consultant

EXPERT OPINION - Charlotte D, Executive Coach at Boost'RH Groupe

Charlotte D

“Stress is not inevitable. According to our expert, this is the crucial point to remember. Indeed, people tend to think that stress at work is normal, and adopt a resigned attitude to stress. they come to believe that suffering at work is an inevitable part of life. However, our coach explains that stress is often generated by impressions and ways of thinking that end up trapping the individual in a state of malaise.

By simply taking a step back with the help of a coach, you can immediately put your feelings into perspective and glimpse possible solutions. For our expert, coaching is fundamental to becoming aware of the mental patterns that generate stress, and to breaking out of them.

Stress management is first and foremost individual when it’s curative, but the coach can also act preventively with collective prevention actions: training, workshops, manager tools, awareness campaigns.”

To sum up

En 3 Questions

  • What causes stress at work?

    There are many stress factors at work. Among the most frequent are the macro-economic situation, the work environment, management and labor relations, and work organization.

  • How do you measure stress in the workplace?

    Stress at work can be measured by various indicators, objectives and targets. Objective indicators include absenteeism, staff turnover and workplace accident rates. Subjective indicators focus on mood and work atmosphere. Generally speaking, the tension is palpable.

  • How can you reduce stress at work?

    To reduce stress in the workplace, companies can implement preventive measures such as stress management training. When stress has already set in, individual and/or group coaching remains the most effective solution for reducing stress at work.