Work and Stress Lesson Plan

by Dana RadlerGISIG Newsletter No. 262011

Dana Radler, Member of the GISIG Committee, who did the below given exercise herself in her classes writes as a short introductory note about it:

This material aims at exploring the world of young professionals working to improve and develop their English; and the objective is to reflect on the time and energy people generally invest in their jobs nowadays. Our ability to cope with stress is vital, since it impacts not only on our professional performance, but also on our personal life. The lesson plan can be used with MA students already working (part-time), or with young professionals taking English classes. It includes a series of diverse resources (e.g. listening, quiz, and role play), and stimulates critical thinking and ways to explore personal points of view. Teachers interested to try it may either work it as a whole, or may decide to use only one or two sections.

Lesson Plan

LEVEL: upper intermediate (16-18) or young adults

CLASS SIZE: recommended maximum 15

LESSON TOPIC: Work and stress

TYPE OF LESSON: combined TIME: 40 minutes

ANTICIPATED PROBLEMS: vocabulary, listening actively, providing feedback


  • to learn about stress at work
  • to understand the concept of stress
  • to elicit implications of various types of work where stress affects individuals
  • to find arguments pro and against the effect of stress on employees

SKILLS: listening, speaking, writingMETHODS: conversation, observation, debate, role play

TEACHING AIDS: sheets of paper with extracts on articles in the media, working sheets

ORGANIZATION OF THE CLASS: individual and group work

PDF icon_23984Download detailed lesson plan stages and techniques as a PDF

Appendix 1. Workplace stress test

Take this short test to find out if your job is leading to stress. It will provide you with a short assessment plus lots of useful guidance and links to get further information. Students get the printed questions as handouts, while the score is addressed for teachers to discuss it with students at the end of this activity.

1. How do you manage your time at work?

  • My time is fairly flexible and I can decide when I work and when I need a short break (1)
  • I have some say over the way work is planned in my office, but would like more (2)
  • I don’t have much control over my own work (3)

2. How do you get on with your colleagues at work?

  • We always support each other and manage get things being done together (1)
  • I have some colleagues on whom I can rely, but they are not a majority… (2)
  • My work and my workload cannot be delegated/shared with others, so I feel rather lonely in this respect. (3)

3. What is the position of your line manager about your work and your workload?

  • When things are tight and busy, my boss always discusses that with me and we find ways to deal with that. (1)
  • I sometimes manage to persuade my boss that I need someone to help or tasks being delegated to someone else. (2)
  • My boss thinks I have to deal with my tasks and my time management, so there’s not much flexibility around that. (3)

4. Are any of the following causing you problems?

  • Many colleagues use unkind word and never show willingness to help (3)
  • There are often frictions and arguments with other colleagues (2)
  • There are certain difficulties with some of the colleagues (1)
  • Not really (0)

5. Do you worry about any of the following? You can pick more than one.

  • Different people ask for different things and the tasks are difficult to combine (3)
  • I have impossible deadlines because I have too much to do (3)
  • I work very intensely so I have to shorten up my breaks (2)
  • The multitudes of daily tasks make me sometimes stay overtime, perhaps two or three times a month (1)
  • I have a clear job role and have sufficient time to do my job (0)

Score results:

1-7 points: your work has an acceptable level of stress, which means it is intense yet you are able to carry it and will not be negatively affected physically or mentally

7-12 points: your work is quite stressful; you manage to complete your tasks yet this asks for more either more time or finding alternative solutions (e.g. colleagues willing to help/ negotiating deadlines)

13-18 points: your work is incredibly stressful; you are already feeling constantly under pressure, tired and unable to perform well and find very little support from your organisation to complete your tasks; you need to find a way out of this to reduce the current level of stress

Appendix 2. Minimise your stress: role play

Students are divided in teams of three:

  • Student 1 will act as the Employer
  • Student 2 will act as the Stressed Employee
  • Student 3 will act as the representative of the National Agency for Stress at Work

Students get their instructions as follows:


You have been asked by a member of your team to discuss the issue of stress; your employee thinks he/she has too much work to do and feels unable to complete it in due time. You have noticed he/she does not manage to meet tasks and deadlines in the past two months but are not convinced if this person has a real issue, or tries to find some excuse and avoid more complex duties. You are firm, but need to ask lots of questions to find out the truth, such as:

  • How often have you been on time in the morning?
  • Have you reported overtime to your line manager? If ‘yes’, how often was the case?
  • How do you get on with other colleagues in your team?
  • In the past two months, were your duties the same as before, or have you got new tasks to complete?

You will ask the employee to come up prepared for the meeting with his weekly task sheet, signed by his/her line manager.


You have noticed that on the last couple of months you feel terribly exhausted, and that you need to stay overtime to get your job done; you have hundreds of emails, most of them coming at the end of the daily schedule, so you need to communicate with customers/clients and other colleagues in order to be able to meet deadlines, and reply to their requests.

You have send twice an email to your line manager and have mentioned the issue during a coffee break; since the manager was away in the last two weeks, you did not have the chance to discuss this openly. You are now asked to come to a meeting with the Head of the Section, and he/she wants to find out why you were not able to complete some deadlines, among which a key contract and the communication with a couple of clients. You are tired, yet try to prepare for the meeting, and summarise in your mind one or two cases which made you stay overtime. You realise you didn’t have time to get your weekly sheets signed by your manager.

Representative of the National Agency for Stress at Work

You receive an email from an employee of a local company in which this person tries to find out more about stress at work and ways in which he/she can understand the types of stress affecting him/her lately. The person would like to receive some counselling or find ways out of it with your help.

You get a minute summarising the results of the discussion between the Employer and the Employee. What are your recommendations to both of them?

  • you have clear evidence that the Employee is stressed and unable to perform his/her job adequately; you want to find a solution with the Employer
  • you think the Employee was influenced by external factors in his/her family or personal environment, and although you sympathise with the case, you consider he/she is exaggerating
  • you find evidence that the Employer has investigated the issue correctly, that the Employee is simply unsatisfied by the arrival of some new colleagues in his/her section, and that the reasons are not correct; you recommend the Employee to reconsider his/her behaviour and improve the relationship with the colleagues – which is the true source of his/her unsatisfaction

Wrap up with the whole class:

The rep of NASW will report on the case and recommend what type of action will be taken.

Dana Radler
January 2011

PDF icon: Document by Graham Dragonborn Wilsdon from The Noun Project

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