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What about stress at home?

Key message

A person can experience excessive pressure and demands outside work just as much as they can at work. Stress tends to build up over time because of a combination of factors that may not all be work related. Conflicting demands of work and home can cause excessive stress.

Problems outside work can affect a person's ability to perform effectively at work. Stressors at home can affect those at work and vice versa. For example, working long hours, or away from home, taking work home and having higher responsibility can all have a negative effect on a person’s home life – something which is supposed to be a 'buffer' against the stressful events of work. In the same way, domestic problems such as childcare, financial or relationship problems can negatively affect a person’s work. The person loses out – as do their family and their employer. It becomes a vicious circle.

It is difficult to control outside stressors, but you need to take a holistic approach to employee well-being. To manage work related stress effectively, you need to recognise the importance and interaction of work and home problems.

"… I think if the managers took time out generally to get to know you personally, your home life, if you've got any problems at home that might be affecting your work… [it would help] to know that they're available."
(Employee, London)

Causes of stress outside work

Many things in people's lives outside work can cause them stress, for example:


  • Death (of a loved one)
  • Divorce or separation from a partner
  • Marriage
  • Pregnancy
  • Holidays
  • Changes in health of a family member or close friend
  • Trouble with in-laws
  • Family arguments
  • Children leaving home
  • Childcare
  • Remarriage of a family member
  • Caring for other dependents, such as elderly relatives
  • Family reunion
  • Relationship breakdown or having a long-distance relationship

Personal or social issues

  • Change in financial state, or debt or money worries
  • Changes in personal habits such as giving up smoking, going on a diet.
  • Problems with weight
  • Experiencing prejudice or discrimination
  • Lack of friends or support
  • Personal injury or illness

Daily hassles

  • Traffic jams
  • Public transport
  • Time pressures
  • Car troubles


  • Moving house, including taking out a mortgage
  • Difficulties with neighbours
  • Living with someone with an alcohol, drug problem or other addiction.
  • (If studying) a deadline for coursework, exam results or trying to balance work and study
  • Unemployment
  • Poor living environment

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Do I have to do anything about stress outside work?

You don't have to, but it's good if you do. If you think about people's personal lives and outside stressors, you will be able to anticipate stressful times.

Your employee is not obliged to tell you their personal problems, but there are some practical things you could do to support them:

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Work-life balance initiatives

The website of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety answers some questions about work–life balance.

The Flexibility website contains resources for new ways of working, including a checklist and an index of articles written about work–life balance.

Further support and services outside work

If your employee has raised a specific issue with you, you might like to suggest they approach one of these support services:

Drinkline. Advice, information and support to anyone concerned about their own or someone else's drinking. 0800 917 8292
Cruse Bereavement Line. Helpline for bereaved people and those caring for bereaved people. 0844 477 9400
Carers Line. Advice and information for all carers. 0808 808 7777
Young people
Childline. Helpline for children and young people in danger, distress or with any problem. 0800 1111
NSPCC. For anyone concerned about a child at risk of abuse. 0808 800 5000
DIAL. UK network of disability information and advice services run by people with direct experience of disability. 01302 310 123
Domestic violence
Women's Aid and REFUGE offer a joint helpline providing practical advice and support for those experiencing domestic violence 0808 200 0247
National Drugs Helpline. For drug users, their families, friends and carers. 0800 77 66 00
Emotional crisis
The Samaritans. Confidential, emotional support for anyone in a crisis. 08457 90 90 90
Careline. National charity providing a confidential telephone counselling service. 0845 122 8622
Parentline. Helpline for the parents and carers of children. 0808 800 2222
National debtline. Help for anyone in debt or concerned they may fall into debt. 0808 808 4000
Older people
Seniorline. Information service for senior citizens, their relatives, carers and friends. 0808 808 7575
Age Concern. For older people, their families and people working with them. 0800 00 99 66
Social welfare
Shelter. Helpline for anyone facing a housing emergency. 0808 800 4444
Citizens Advice Bureaux. Free, confidential advice on a host of topics (external link)
Updated 2012-12-04