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The Impact of Stress on Employee Retention

Sinead Murphy Jan 18, 2024 3:05:56 PM


As Psychology Today puts it: “People who get things done under stress are succeeding in spite of their stress, not because of it.” Read on as we examine the relationship between workplace stress and employee retention – and how you can help your people make the switch from surviving to thriving by tackling stress before it takes hold.  


What Is Employee Retention – And Why Is It Important? 

Employee retention refers to the number of people who leave an organisation over a period of time. This includes employees who leave their jobs voluntarily, involuntarily, or through resignation and redundancy. While a certain level of turnover is normal for the natural ebb and flow of an organisation, there are times when these rates may become problematic.  

When skills are scarce and recruitment is costly, the impact of losing valuable staff is felt across all areas of a business. It takes time, money, and resources to fill these positions – resulting in loss of productivity, reputational damage, and potential impact to customer relationships.  

With organisations spending an average of £12,000 to replace a worker, it’s clear to see why 36% of HR professionals believe that retention is a top priority for 2024, and for the foreseeable future.  


What is Stress?  

According to World Health Organization, stress is “a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation.” While WHO reassures that stress is a natural human response that can actually help us tackle threats and challenges, they also confirm that “too much stress can cause physical and mental health problems.” 

When high levels of stress are suffered for a prolonged period of time, a person can experience:  

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Breathing difficulties  
  • Chest pains 
  • Blurred vision   
  • Heartburn and digestive problems 
  • Headaches 
  • Muscle tension and pain 
  • Increased risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke 
  • Sleep problems 
  • Weight gain 


Workplace Stress Vs. Personal Stress  

Although stress takes many shapes, 79% of people say that the most common form of stress they experience stems from their jobs. Outside of the workplace, 1 in 3 cite relationships as an external stressor – and 1 in 14 of us admit to feeling some form of stress every single day.   

In our personal lives, stress can be caused by:  

  • Worrying about a past, present, or future event  
  • Feeling under pressure or out of control  
  • Experiencing big life changes like moving house  
  • Financial worries  
  • Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities  
  • Navigating periods of uncertainty 
  • Suffering bereavement  
  • Experiencing the breakdown of a relationship  


When it comes to our professional lives, stress can be the result of:  

  • Feeling unable to cope with the demands of a job  
  • Limited access to wellbeing services 
  • Experiencing bullying, harassment, or a negative workplace culture  
  • Being micromanaged  
  • Not receiving enough support in the workplace  
  • A lack of progression or personal development  
  • A lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities  
  • Feeling disengaged when a business is growing or changing 


The Impact of Workplace Stress  

If an employee is suffering from excessive levels of stress – either at work or at home - their behaviour or performance might start to change. They may feel more tired than usual, which in turn could lead to irritability, low mood, an increase in errors, and a negative impact on their problem-solving skills. This tiredness may also make them more reactive to situations within the workplace and contribute to conflict between their peers.  

Once these factors start to compound, an employee is more likely to need time off work as stress makes its natural progression into more severe mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. In fact, 13.7 million working days are lost each year in the UK because of work-related stress, creating an annual cost to the economy of £28.3 billion. 


How Stress Affects Retention 

With employees nearly three times more likely to leave their current employer due to stress, it can’t be denied that stress presents a key issue for HR leaders. However, this is an issue that HR leaders are well aware of, as 95% say that high levels of stress have a negative effect on retention rates and 46% cite stress as the main reason behind half of their annual employee turnover rate.  

  • 33% of staff report that high levels of stress impact their productivity 
  • 35% of employees have strongly considered switching employers because of stress 
  • 40% of all turnovers in the UK is due to stress 


How to Avoid Retention Issues by Mitigating Stress 

By offering interventions that can step in when stress sets in, you can build a strong wellbeing culture while encouraging resilience across your workforce.  

Arming staff with the tools to support themselves will also help you stand out as an employer of choice in a competitive market, enabling you to retain staff, reduce absenteeism, and promote wellbeing as a core value.  

Here’s how we can help…  

Employee Assistance Programme - Our Employee Assistance Programme provides expert in-the-moment support when your people need it most. With a telephone helpline available 24/7, 365 days a year and access to face-to-face counselling, you can be sure that assistance is on hand for any stress-related issues your employees are facing.  

Your Care – While it’s important to offer your people support when stress sets in, it’s also vital that your staff can access proactive and preventative wellbeing tools to address the root causes of stress. Vivup’s Your Care platform can help to build a strong, resilient workforce by creating long-term wellbeing through positive change. This is achieved via:  

  • Assessments and support tools   
  • Personalised goals to motivate your people  
  • Health and fitness app connectivity  
  • A wide range of resources including blogs, videos, recipes, and more 

Family Care - Employees today have a variety of different family care pressures which impact their stress levels and ability to be present at work. Our Family Care benefit provides employees with access to a network of care providers, support helplines, and a care budget to contribute to unexpected costs – helping them manage their care responsibilities without compromising their careers.  

Financial Wellbeing - Despite money worries affecting 47% of UK employees, financial wellbeing is the least common area included in HR strategies. We can help you address financial stress within your workforce with access to a wide range of savings from the nation’s leading retailers. Our Lifestyle Savings benefit not only helps staff enjoy more of what life has to offer for less, but also enables them to save on everyday essentials such as their supermarket shop, utility bills, motoring costs, and more.  

To learn more about how Vivup can help you address stress-related issues with meaningful benefits that keep people onboard and engaged, contact us today at, or give us a call on 01252 784540.  



8 Deadly Myths About Stress | Psychology Today United Kingdom 

Employee cost revealed: Average employee costs SMEs £12,000 to replace | Accounts And Legal 

Retention tops the list of HR priorities for 2024 | theHRD ( 

Common types of stress in the UK 2020 | Statista 

Stress Statistics UK | 2023 Data | Champion Health 

Workplace stress statistics: how stressed is the UK in 2021? - Ciphr 

Stress=Turnover? - HRO Today 

Financial wellbeing: an evidence review | CIPD | CIPD