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The Biggest External Stresses Employees Bring into the Workplace


As much as employers may wish otherwise, personal issues and out-of-work struggles can affect daily work performance and efficiency. But, particularly from the perspective of managers and executives, it can be difficult to observe subtle but meaningful changes in employee behavior over short periods of time. Managers and employers must be sensitive to these challenges, and the first step in doing so is being aware of them. In the spirit of better mediation, let’s discuss some of the biggest external factors that employees may inadvertently bring to work with them.

Marital Issues

Anybody who is in a relationship knows that challenges are just part of the commitment. However, some ongoing marital and relationship-based issues can linger for weeks or even months, causing a loss of productivity and a change in workplace mood. Anything from ongoing tensions among spouses to accusations and worries about infidelity will undoubtedly linger in an employee’s mind from day to day.

Without such measures like group counseling, an infidelity digital investigation or closure from the end of such relationship, stress from these issues can present an ongoing challenge in the workplace. 

Medical Challenges and Bereavement

Sickness and death are inevitable. Yet, such common occurrences aren’t easily shrugged off, whether it be in our personal lives or while working. Many employees may quietly be struggling with medical issues, failing to disclose them to their fellow employees due to a desire for privacy, a sense of embarrassment or just a desire not to be treated differently. 

In addition, having to juggle work responsibilities with taking care of a family member or friend suffering from an illness can have comparable effects. From a lack of sleep to stress over financial matters, the effects of sickness can enter the workplace even when the worker isn’t directly impacted.

Lastly, a loss of a close family member, friend or spouse can wreak havoc on a worker’s psyche and even physical performance. There are methods for coping with loss at work, but remember that everybody is different.

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Financial Woes

While showing up to work and performing the requirements of a job leads to financial reward, it’s not always enough to avoid the stresses of daily life. Any number of financial strains, including from the other issues mentioned above, can surface at any time, causing an immense amount of stress in an employee. From juggling medical bills and credit card debt to a simple lack of funds on a recurring basis, these stresses are commonly brought into the workplace.

Generally, these struggles are most commonly felt in occupations where workers are paid sub-par wages or limited to part-time opportunities. Some employers actually harm their productivity by paying less than is reasonable, completely negating any savings in real terms and causing a cascading series of problems in day-to-day workflow.

Plenty of stress points exist for workers, but those relating to health, finances and relationships are the most common to harm efficiency in work spaces. By being aware of these challenges, identifying who is impacted by them and doing the most to remedy these situations wherever possible, employers can generate more efficient outcomes in production, workflow and customer interaction. 

Sean Jacobson

I'm Sean, a former HR and business consultant providing you insights into the business world for Leader to Leader.

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