Work Stress As Contagious As A Cold, Says Study

Can You Catch Stress At Work?

Beware, it's not just colds and flu that could be doing the rounds in your office. It's possible to catch other people's stress, too, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Hawaii discovered that second-hand stress and anxiety levels can be passed onto each other in the office - and it spreads just as quickly as cold and flu bugs.

The study suggests that our brain's act like sponges and subconsciously soak up emotions, behavioural traits and facial expressions emitted from our co-workers.

"People seem to be capable of mimicking others facial, vocal and postural expressions with stunning rapidity," says professor Elaine Hatfield who led the study.

So if you sit next to an office stress-head, chances are their troubles will start to affect you too. The research found that a colleague's stress levels act like a depressant in the brain, prompting us think about our own worries and concerns.

"As a consequence, they are able to feel themselves into those other emotional lives to a surprising extent," adds Professor Hatfield.

The study also found that we not only mentally mimic our stressed-out co-workers, but we physically copy them too. As Professor Hatfield explains, people unwittingly take on their work colleague's stress-related body language, such as hunched shoulders and constant frowning.

"Women are more at risk because they tend to be more in tune with other people's feelings," concludes Professor Hatfield.

The average Brit spends 48 hours or more at work, so if you're feeling the brunt of your co-workers stress levels, find out how you can channel your anxiety into something positive - and make stress work for you.