HR Management & Compliance

Outside Stresses That Impact Work Performance

Employers know that workplace stress can lead to burnout, a situation best avoided! But stressors outside of the workplace can also cause problems within the workplace. Employers should be aware of the common life stressors that could significantly impact employee productivity and have ways to reduce these impacts.


Common Stress Triggers

First, let’s look at some common life events and stress triggers:

  • Right now, fears about contracting COVID-19 or about spreading it to loved ones and others unknowingly
  • Financial stresses
  • Relationship problems or pending divorce proceedings
  • Illness or caring for someone else who is ill (COVID-19 or otherwise)
  • Children having problems in school
  • Death of a loved one
  • Death of a pet
  • Fears about other things (such as job loss due to the downturned economy)
  • Physical or verbal harassment from either within or outside the workplace
  • Dealing with a major emergency, such as a car accident or an injured loved one

These are some of the many examples of major life stressors employees may be dealing with outside the workplace. Stresses outside of work can lead to:

  • Distractedness, which, of course, likely means reduced productivity
  • Absenteeism when employees take time to deal with nonwork issues or when they are becoming physically ill from the toll of the stress
  • Tension, possibly causing more interpersonal conflicts between employees
  • Tiredness, which can lead to accidents
  • Inability to focus, which may end up resulting in missed deadlines and reduced output
  • Reduced capacity to make good decisions
  • Turnover when employees find they cannot manage all of their obligations and have to leave the workplace to handle personal issues

What Can Employers Do to Assist Employees Going Through Stressful Times?

Here are a few things employers can do to help stressed-out employees:

  • Provide benefits that address stress, like wellness initiatives.
  • Provide things that tackle some of the root causes, like financial counseling.
  • Provide employee assistance programs (EAPs) to assist employees going through difficult times.
  • Ensure employees are paid fairly, which can improve financial problems.
  • Create a culture that promotes good work/life balance.
  • Allow flexibility in work hours to enable employees to handle things that come up without having to sacrifice their livelihood.
  • Train management on recognizing when employee behavioral or productivity changes may be due to outside stressors and how to manage that.
  • Encourage employees to utilize their paid time off (PTO); doing so can help them take time to handle stressful issues but also take a mental break from work.
  • Encourage employees to take frequent work breaks to better manage workplace stresses.
  • Offer good healthcare benefits, which can help employees stay well and manage chronic conditions before they become problematic.
  • Offer employee wellness initiatives, which can positively impact physical and mental health and well-being.
  • Ensure the work environment is not contributing to employee stress by monitoring employee workloads and watching for signs of burnout.
  • Encourage employees to utilize available resources and to ask for help when they’re dealing with difficult situations.
  • Offer employees the option to take a personal leave of absence to have adequate time to sort out personal issues.

These are just a few examples of ways employers can help employees who are dealing with stresses. What has your workplace done in the past to help employees? What would you add to this list?

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.