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Helping a Colleague with stress

How Helping a Colleague with Stress can Benefit a Whole Team

Helping a colleague with stress can be challenging, particularly in a stressful work environment. When we or our colleagues are dealing with work-related stress, it can be challenging to find the time and energy to support one another.

I read in Gallup that in 2019, the pressure to address job burnout became so intense that the World Health Organization recognized burnout as an occupational phenomenon in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases.

While the article primarily focused on the role of employers in addressing burnout, I found it interesting to consider what colleagues could do to help prevent burnout. The key takeaway is that we should support each other as soon as symptoms of stress begin to manifest.

We may feel like we’re carrying a heavy load and that we don’t have the capacity to support our colleagues. However, it is critical to remember that helping a colleague is critical not only for their well-being, but also for the overall health of the team. If you can assist your colleague in coping with stress, you may be able to prevent increased absenteeism due to burnout.



Recognizing signs of stress

Recognizing the signs of work-related stress is a difficult but essential step in providing support to our colleagues.

Signs of work-related stress may include changes in behavior, such as increased irritability, difficulty concentrating, and reduced motivation. They may also display physical symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping.

Everyone responds to stress differently, and what may be a minor stressor for one person can be overwhelming for another. By paying attention to changes in behavior and physical symptoms, we can provide support and help our colleagues to overcome the challenges they are facing.


Helping a colleague with stress by offering Workplace support

Workplace support is essential for maintaining a healthy and positive work environment, and it’s not just the responsibility of managers or HR professionals. As a team member, there are several things you can do to provide support for colleagues who are experiencing work-related stress. Here are some effective strategies:

Offering Flexibility: Flexible working arrangements can be an effective way to reduce stress and support colleagues. As a team member, you can offer to cover for a colleague who needs to take time off for personal or family reasons, or suggest alternatives to in-person meetings or deadlines that may be causing stress.

Sharing the Workload: Sharing the workload is another way to provide support to colleagues who are struggling with heavy workloads. You can offer to help out with specific tasks or projects or suggest ways to improve workflow, such as delegating or prioritizing tasks.

Encouraging Self-Care: Encouraging self-care is an important aspect of workplace support. As a team member, you can encourage your colleagues to take breaks, prioritize self-care, and seek support when needed. You can also share resources or information about mental health and stress management.

Organizing Peer Support: Peer support programs, such as mentoring, coaching, or peer-to-peer counseling, can be effective in providing support to colleagues. As a team member, you can organize informal support groups or suggest creating a formal peer support program to your manager or HR team.


Helping a Colleague with stress

Showing Empathy

Empathy is a crucial aspect of helping a colleague with stress. It involves the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and it is an essential skill for creating a supportive and compassionate workplace culture.

Definition of Empathy and Its Importance

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. In the workplace, empathy is crucial for building strong relationships, fostering open communication, and creating a supportive environment where colleagues feel heard and understood. By showing empathy to colleagues who are experiencing work-related stress, we can help them to feel supported and less isolated, which can reduce the negative impact of stress on their mental health and well-being.

Tips for Demonstrating Empathy

There are several ways to demonstrate empathy in the workplace, including active listening, acknowledging feelings, and offering support and encouragement. Active listening involves giving our full attention to colleagues and being fully present in the moment. 

We should acknowledge their feelings, and express our support and understanding, and offer to help if we can. We should also avoid judgment, criticism, or providing unsolicited advice, as this can be counterproductive and make the colleague feel more stressed.

Active listening

Active listening is a communication technique that involves giving our full attention to the speaker, understanding their perspective, and responding to them in a way that demonstrates our understanding. It is a valuable tool for providing support to colleagues because it enables us to fully comprehend their experiences and emotions, and to provide them with the support they need. Active listening techniques include paraphrasing, summarizing, and asking open-ended questions.

Benefits of Empathy for the Wellbeing of Colleagues and Team Cohesion

Showing empathy can provide numerous benefits for both the wellbeing of colleagues and team cohesion. By showing empathy, we can build stronger relationships with colleagues, foster a more positive and productive work environment, and enhance team communication and collaboration. 

We can also help to prevent burnout and promote wellbeing by providing team members with a safe space to express their feelings and concerns. Ultimately, by demonstrating empathy, we can help to create a workplace culture that is supportive, compassionate, and inclusive, which can benefit both employees and the organization as a whole.


Checking In 

Regularly checking in with colleagues, especially during times of stress, is essential for maintaining a supportive and productive work environment.

Importance of Checking In with Colleagues

Checking in with colleagues regularly can help to create a culture of support within the workplace, fostering open communication and a sense of community.

Ways to Check In with Colleagues

There are many ways to check in with colleagues, including scheduling regular catch-up meetings or using communication tools such as instant messaging, email, or video conferencing to stay in touch. It is important to be sensitive to the preferences and needs of individual colleagues and to find ways to check in that work for everyone.

Benefits of Checking In with Colleagues

Regularly checking in with colleagues can provide numerous benefits, such as fostering a sense of community, promoting open communication, and enhancing team collaboration. It can also help to prevent burnout and promote well-being by providing team members with a space to discuss any challenges or concerns they may be experiencing.

Helping a Colleague with stress

Peer Support Programs

Peer support programs can play a critical role in providing support to colleagues who are experiencing work-related stress. These programs involve connecting employees with peers who have similar experiences or who have been trained to provide support and guidance.

Definition of Peer Support Programs

Peer support programs involve providing support to employees by connecting them with peers who have shared experiences or who have been trained to provide support and guidance. These programs can take many forms, including mentoring, coaching, or peer-to-peer counseling.

Examples of Peer Support Programs

Mentoring programs involve pairing employees with more experienced colleagues who can provide guidance, support, and advice. Coaching programs involve providing employees with individualized coaching to help them develop specific skills or overcome challenges. Peer-to-peer counseling involves training employees to provide support and counseling to their colleagues who are experiencing work-related stress.

Benefits of Peer Support Programs

Peer support programs can provide numerous benefits for employees and organizations, including reducing turnover and enhancing employee well-being. By providing employees with support and guidance from their peers, these programs can help to reduce stress, improve job satisfaction, and enhance overall well-being.

Peer support programs can also foster a sense of community and connection within the workplace, which can enhance team cohesion and collaboration. Overall, peer support programs can be an effective tool for helping a colleague who is experiencing work-related stress, improving employee well-being, and enhancing the overall success of the organization.



In conclusion, if a colleague is experiencing stress, there are many ways to offer support and help them navigate difficult situations. By providing workplace support, showing empathy, engaging in active listening, organizing peer support programs, and checking in with coworkers regularly, we can create a more positive and supportive work environment.

While taking the time to support our colleagues may seem like an additional demand on our already busy schedules, it is ultimately a worthwhile investment in our team’s well-being and productivity.

By standing alongside our colleagues and supporting them through challenging times, we can help prevent burnout and maintain a healthy and successful work environment.


Recommended book

“The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups” by Daniel Coyle is a book that explores the dynamics of successful groups and how they are able to achieve high levels of performance and innovation. Coyle draws on insights from a range of organizations, from elite sports teams to top-performing businesses and military units. 

He identifies three key skills that are essential for creating a strong group culture: building safety, sharing vulnerability, and establishing purpose. The book offers practical advice for leaders and team members on how to foster these skills and create a high-performing and innovative team culture. Overall, “The Culture Code” is a valuable resource for anyone seeking to improve team dynamics and create a more successful and collaborative work environment.



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