The Impact of Work-Related Stress on Internal Comms

Fabian Sandoval

HR Analyst

21 Aug 2023

How does work-related stress impact internal communication, and what can you do about it? HR Analyst Fabian Sandoval takes a look.

Efficient communication is essential for any relationship. Whether it’s a marriage, partnership, or friendship, if communication suffers, the relationship is far more likely to fail. So, how is the workplace any different? A business is simply a web of relationships all interacting together in the pursuit of common goals, and if communication is lacking, the business will decline.

One of the most common causes of poor communication within an organization is work-related stress. Thiscan make employees more agitated, create more conflict in the workplace, and cause people to withdraw and become reclusive. All of these consequences of work-related stress can negatively impact the effectiveness and efficiency of internal communications in a company. 

By understanding how work-related stress impacts communication, we can identify effective solutions to address these issues and help an organization succeed. Let’s take a look.

What are some causes of work-related stress?

Poor leadership

According to research, company leadership has a direct impact on employee wellbeing. Poor leaders can cause emotional exhaustion, which reduces job satisfaction,work motivation, and, ultimately, leads to stress in the workplace.

Poor leaders may be poor communicators and create confusing objectives, refrain from providing critical feedback to employees, and avoid giving recognition when and where it is warranted. 

These actions and inactions can create an environment where employees don’t always know where they stand or what goals they are working toward. This uncertainty may put employees under undue pressure and lead to anxiety, which can cause excess stress at work.

Confusing chain of command and workflows

Employees need to understand who they report to and who or what departments to contact and work with to complete specific tasks. They should also know which decisions need a manager’s approval as well as who to seek out when they need clarification on a directive. 

If employees don’t understand the company, how their role impacts it, and how each department works together, they can be more prone to confusion and frustration. And when workflows are overly complex and vague, it can make completing even the simplest tasks difficult and time-consuming, leading to longer hours, reduced job satisfaction and productivity, and – you guessed it – more stress.

Lack of genuine connection between employees

Human connection at work is at the very core of the employee experience.  An organization that does not foster human connection at work will create a stressful environment where employees feel disengaged and unmotivated. 

Employee connections are essential in all workplaces, especially in remote work and the gig economy, where workers are starting to realize the importance of sharing experiences. For example, Uber drivers are now starting to form communities online and on social media to come together and communicate frustrations, exchange tips on how to be more successful as an Uber driver, and simply create bonds and friendships with each other. 

Without this kind of genuine connection between employees, the team may suffer low morale and stand in the way of a company’s success.

Workers can become frustrated or angry more easily

When workers are in a fight or flight mode due to stress, the people who unknowingly choose to fight are often frustrated and can become easily upset. Also, stressed employees that are constantly frustrated are more prone to misinterpret other employees’ intentions and lash out at them as a response. A business cannot operate effectively if employees are angry with one another and unable to communicate their needs to meet company objectives. 

Employees can withdraw from communication and become reclusive

In contrast with the previous point, people who choose ‘flight’ when stressed may withdraw from communication altogether. These employees may stand back from the situation and not answer emails or phone calls, causing a bottleneck within the operation that ultimately harms the business through inefficiency, poor customer service, and missed deadlines. 

Poor customer service

Whether work-related stress induces workers to create conflict or withdraw, ultimately, it’s customer service that suffers. Inefficient communication between employees can slow down workflows, create confusion when it comes to objectives, and cause inaccuracy and missed deadlines in projects. 

The inefficiencies and missed deadlines arising from poor communication can cause customers to have bad experiences, erode the company’s reputation, and lead to significant financial losses. 

Although inefficient and ineffective communication caused by work-related stress, poor leadership, confusing workflows, and a toxic work environment can adversely affect a business, not all hope is lost. There are plenty of ways an organization can improve communication from the top down to foster an efficient and healthy work environment where employees can come together and accomplish organizational objectives and goals. 

Here are some effective ways to reduce work-related stress and improve communication within an organization.

Reduce stress in the workplace

Post-pandemic, work-related stress levels are at an all-time high for employees nationwide and in practically every industry. Because of this, many companies are working hard at figuring out ways to reduce work-related stress within their organization to help improve communication and increase efficiency. 

Here are some effective ways that companies can reduce stress in the workplace for their employees:

  1. Offer flexible scheduling: Flexible schedules can help employees find a better work-life balance by allowing them to choose when to be in the office. Maybe they need to drop their kids at school in the morning, or they would like to plan a date night with their partners once a week – being flexible can improve employee productivity and morale. 
  2. Allow employees to work from home when appropriate: Allowing employees to work from home or having a hybrid schedule requiring workers to be in the office a few times a week can reduce stress caused by commuting.  
  3. Encourage employees to use their PTO: Healthy work environments understand the importance of taking time off to reduce stress, recharge batteries, and improve quality of life.
  4. Ask employees what they need: By listening to employees and helping address some of their needs, an organization can validate its workers and make them feel heard and appreciated while reducing their work-related stress levels. 

Hire effective leaders

Leaders who can demonstrate proper communication by clearly conveying an organization’s purpose, strategy, and values to employees are essential for effective communication. When employees understand their purpose, the strategy of the company, and what the organization values, they can feel more invested and engaged in their role, which may also reduce the stress that comes with uncertainty. 

Create rapport and build trust with employees

Building and maintaining trust and rapport with employees is essential to ensuring that communication is a two-way street. Employees who trust their managers are more likely to come forward when they experience a problem or notice an issue within a workflow or process that is making operations less efficient.

The takeaway

High stress levels in the workplace can lead to poor internal communication, which can have a damaging effect on employee productivity and morale. Suffering from chronic stress and under constant pressure, workers can become frustrated and act out since they are unable to express themselves effectively. This can lead to conflicts between employees and managers, creating an unpleasant and unproductive work environment and, ultimately, affecting the bottom line.

Employers must take steps to reduce workplace stress before it adversely affects the entire organization. By offering flexible working conditions, hiring effective leaders, and building trust with employees, business owners and managers can create a compassionate work culture, which will help everyone perform at their best, leading to business success.