UCL Human Resources


Managing Stress at Work - Appendix 3

Information about Stress

The stress response occurs when the actual or perceived pressures on an individual are greater than their ability to cope. We all experience periods of pressure in life and work, and short periods of pressure are not necessarily of concern. However when pressure is sustained and / or excessive, without the opportunity to recover, this may lead to emotional or physical problems.

It is important to recognise the types of pressures that might contribute to feelings of stress in yourself or others and the signs that all may not be well. Pressures might come from

Personal life:

  • Ill health
  • Relationships
  • Family problems
  • Home environment
  • Neighbour disputes
  • Financial difficulties

Work life:

  • lack of control over the way work is done
  • too much or  insufficient work
  • role conflict or  lack of role definition
  • underused skills
  • unsatisfactory relationships
  • lack of support from colleagues
  • lack of feedback
  • lack of clarity about expectations
  • lack of information

The way an individual responds to pressure can be influenced by their personality type, coping skills and the support systems they have in place. Being self-aware can help to identify where extra support and personal development can help in moderating the effects of pressure.

Recognition of a problem means that appropriate coping mechanisms and support can be sought at an early stage, before negative effects lead to emotional or physical difficulties.  Signs that a person may be having problems can include:



  • Constant tiredness
  • Frequent headaches or other aches and pains
  • Poor concentration
  • Loss of confidence
  • Irritability
  • Tearfulness
  • Poor sleep
  • Indecisiveness
  • Poor time keeping
  • Poor performance
  • Unusual absence
  • Poor judgement
  • Inappropriate Humour
  • Withdrawal
  • Increase / decrease eating
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine

More information about sources of help and support can be found on the Employee Assistance Program page.