A Coaching Approach to Dealing with Stress in the Workplace

October 18, 2021

In today’s busy world, the workplace too often seems like an emotional roller coaster. Long hours, tight deadlines, and ever-increasing demands can leave you feeling worried, drained, and overwhelmed. It is well recognized that excessive or sustained work pressure, difficult relationships with colleagues, and even rigid management styles can often lead to stress. The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines work-related stress as: ‘The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work.’

Workplace stress has for a long time been considered a major work environment problem in organizations that can place immense demands on employees' physical and mental health and affect their behavior, performance, relationships with colleagues, and even job satisfaction. It is a major cause of long-term absence from work, so knowing how to manage the factors that can cause work-related stress is key to managing people effectively.  A report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) shows that stress continues to be one of the main causes of both short and long-term absence at work as nearly 80% of respondents reported a stress-related absence in their organization over the last year. It is important to recognize that stress affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another; factors like skills and experience, age, or disability may all affect how employees cope with different work conditions.

Stress is not an illness, but it can lead to severe ill health. Instances of workplace stress can very easily cascade into more advanced mental issues; hence it is important to address this immediately within the workplace.

Though organizations are increasingly recognizing stress as an issue and taking steps to tackle this within their organizations, only half of the working staff agree that the efforts taken are effective.  However, in light of continuous research, one approach that has been reported to be both effective and sustainable is coaching.

In a study of 15 managers who received coaching for one year, participants reported that coaching had increased their stress management abilities, improved work-life balance, and reduced psychological stress. Recent research in the field of organizational well-being also continues to show promising results for the effects of coaching.

So, how can coaching help with work-related stress?

  • Coaching is a method that specifically focuses on the interaction between the individual and the work environment; it can therefore serve as a tool for long-term, sustainable changes at the individual and organizational levels.
  • The aim of a coach is to offer a sense of space, reflection, and clarity. When it comes to stress, the coach’s aim is to help the staff understand the root causes, rather than to fix the symptoms. This is done through a series of conversations where the coach asks questions to help the individual gain understanding and offer insights or reflections that they may not have considered.
  • Having someone unbiased and unconnected to any other areas of your life (such as an external professional coach) to talk to about stress can help you process your feelings in a safe environment, without judgment.
  • Understanding what is causing you to feel stressed means you can change habits and behaviors that lead to the stress. Your coach will guide you through these changes, offering support the entire way.

Sometimes, we can’t control what stressful events are going to happen to us. By working with a coach, you can develop your emotional resilience so you’re better able to cope. So often it’s not the event itself that’s stressful, but our reaction to it.

Coaching can offer a safe space where individuals can explore difficult feelings, thoughts, and symptoms. It can help them develop tailor-made strategies to work with these issues and “normalize” what’s going on for them, so they don’t feel alone. And where necessary, it can offer a portal to further specialist help, including therapy.

The earlier the problem of work-related stress is tackled, the less impact it will have. Applying a coaching approach goes beyond organizing one-off coaching sessions at work, it entails treating staff as individuals and helping them to balance their work and personal responsibilities. Ultimately, building employee resilience and supporting staff experiencing stress can help retain a valued employee and enable them to perform at their best in the long term.


Adaora Ayoade PCC is an Executive and Leadership Coach and CEO of EZ37 Solutions Limited, a world-class Human Resource, and Management Consultancy Firm focused on providing innovative and impactful solutions.

For more information on this topic or to enquire about becoming a Certified Coach visit https://ezcoaching.org/programs/pccp or +234 813 089 8773.