5 Reasons Why Your Deaf Employees May Be Stressed

Everyone feels stressed at times. It probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that work is the biggest cause of stress, even more so than other types of stress, such as financial or family-related. In fact, 99% of UK employed adults say they have experienced workplace stress.

The quickest way to evaluate the stress levels within your organisation is to carry out a Stress Risk Assessment.

It is important that you are aware of your team’s individual ‘stress triggers’, as whilst some causes of stress are more common than others, every team member is different. 

You should consider all the factors that increase stress for your Deaf employees in particular, as Deaf people face even more stress triggers than hearing people. 

To help you consider any adjustments you can make to manage stress in your workplace, here at terptree we have listed some of the biggest causes of stress for Deaf people in the workplace.

1. Lipreading

There are many different ways that a Deaf person communicates with a hearing person – sign language may be the first method of communication that comes to mind. However, Deaf people haven’t always had an interpreter tied to their side every second of their lives – there are other ways to communicate.

One way for a Deaf person to understand what a hearing person is saying is by lipreading. Even if there are other forms of support for a d/Deaf person, it is natural for eyeline to drift to the lips, as this will help with understanding what the other person is saying. 

However, lipreading brings multiple stress triggers. 

  • It is extremely difficult to lipread accurately as so many sounds and words have similar lip patterns.
  • Focusing on one thing for so long can be tiring and cause headaches and confusion.
  • The position of the speaker can make it harder to lipread, for example if they are standing in front of a window blocking the light and therefore causing a shadow, you won’t be able to see their face (and therefore their lips) as clearly.
  • The inaccuracy of lipreading may mean that information is missed.
2. Communication Professionals

If you hire a Deaf person, you will almost certainly work with communication professionals as well. Here are the ways that organising/working with them can occasionally cause even more stress:

  • The employer (and hearing employees) are not aware of how to work with them. For example, if there is an interpreter present during a conversation, make sure you still look at and address the Deaf person, rather than speaking to the communication professional the whole time instead.
  • Communication professionals need to be given any relevant information that may help them when working with the Deaf employee, for example any jargon that is used regularly.
  • A lack of communication professionals in the first place! You need to give plenty of notice for communication professionals, so remember to schedule important meetings far enough in advance. 
  • If you work remotely, be aware that communication professionals, like anyone, may have technical issues meaning that the Deaf employee is without support during the meeting. 
3. Meetings

Meetings have become increasingly virtual, which has positives and negatives for Deaf employees. Whether your organisation has a remote, hybrid or fully in-office set up, there are always ways to make your Deaf employees feel more comfortable.

  • Meetings need to take place in an accessible environment, as otherwise it might make it harder for the Deaf employee to take in as much information as their hearing colleagues. Simple ways to make an in-person meeting more accessible for Deaf employees is by placing tables in a horseshoe/circular layout and taking it in turns to talk.
  • People talking over each other is a big issue. In face-to-face meetings this can make it hard to follow who is talking and therefore makes it more difficult to know where to look. In remote meetings, multiple people talking can make it hard for the Deaf employee to follow the automated captions or for the interpreter to translate as effectively.
  • For those that use them, an environment that does not support electronic supportive equipment such as loop systems and ROGER pens is not as accessible. 
  • A dark or noisy environment can also make it more difficult for a Deaf person to understand everything being said. Make sure your meeting rooms are light and quiet.
4. Access to Work

Employers should all be aware of Access to Work. Follow the link below for more information about what Access to Work is. 

Click here.

  • Employers may be unfamiliar with Access to Work and the processes involved, leading to more misunderstandings, delays and extra stress on both employers and employees. Avoid this by reading up on what Access to Work is.
  • Despite how useful Access to Work is, it does take a long time and involves paperwork from management and the Deaf employee. This whole process is another big task for the Deaf employee and can cause extra stress.
5. Deaf Culture

Many hearing people consider deafness to be a simple hearing impairment – but Deaf people have a Deaf culture. If your employees and colleagues are unaware of this, there may be some unnecessary friction, which as we all know is a significant cause of workplace stress. 

  • Deaf people are more blunt. They will say what they think, rather than ‘fluff up’ what they want to say. Some perceive this as the Deaf person being rude, which is not the case at all. 
  • It’s completely normal to touch someone or tap on the table to get someone’s attention. This is the best way to get a Deaf person’s attention and is most likely how they will get a hearing person’s attention. Again, this is not meant in a rude way at all, it is just an effective way of communicating that you require someone’s attention.
  • Eye contact is very important. Hearing people occasionally divert their eyes when talking to someone, however d/Deaf people are less likely to due to the increased dependence on visual communication. It is not meant to make you feel uncomfortable or anything of the sort – it is another way to ease communication.

The above is not an exhaustive list, but it is a fantastic starting point to understanding your Deaf employees. 

Considering how much stress is caused by work, it is crucial to know more about the extra stress triggers faced by your Deaf employees.  

There are lots of different factors that you might not have thought about when welcoming Deaf employees into your organisation, but we hope this article has helped you to understand how you can create the best Deaf Employee Experience.


If you want to learn more about creating an inclusive workplace for your d/Deaf employees, please get in touch at hello@terptree.co.uk and we will be happy to help you!

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