Top 10 Causes of Stress at Work

Caragh Bailey
8 min read
Stress at Work from Employment Law Friend

Stress has become a part of everyday life in the modern world. We list the top 10 causes of stress at work, the effects of long term workplace stress and how you can manage it. Keep on top of your stress levels to avoid workers burnout or developing chronic health problems.

    Long hours
Working long hours is one of the biggest causes of stress at work. It's important to maintain a work/life balance, this becomes especially challenging when working overtime, covering absences, or having to pull the weight of other employees.

    Heavy workload
High workloads increase job stress by pressuring you to achieve more than is reasonable or realistic.

If your team has been snowed under after a colleague was made redundant, this may be a sign of a false redundancy. contact Employment Law Friend to find out.

    Tight or moving deadlines
No matter how much experience you have with working to deadlines, having that date unexpectedly brought forward creates extra work pressure. Sometimes this happens due to genuinely unforeseeable circumstances. But, when it's down to poor management from your superiors it becomes all the more frustrating, demotivating and demoralising.

    High staff turnover
When your team seems to be a revolving door, all your other job stress can snowball. You're having to cover for inexperienced employees and take time out of your day to mentor them. This can also detract from a sense of community in the workplace, leaving you without the support of trusted, friendly colleagues to help you through the tough times.

    Job insecurity
The threat of losing your job is one of the most overwhelming forms of workplace stress. When the organisation is undergoing hardships, redundancies are on the cards, or even worse; you have a personality clash with your boss who keeps making implicit threats about your job safety.

This puts pressure on your performance, creates insecure competition with other employees and introduces worries about your finances and your future. It can damage your productivity, your self worth and your job satisfaction.

    Poor communication
Whether it's a change, implemented by management and not communicated down the line in good notice, or a problem with your work which was communicated aggressively instead of constructively; poor communication creates an atmosphere of chaos, doubt, second guessing and defensiveness, which breaks down working relationships like dominos.

    Inadequate working environment, resources or equipment
Working with the wrong tools can not only be frustrating, it can be dangerous. Tasks take longer, are finished to a lesser quality and sometimes can't be completed as planned at all.

When employers disregard the safety or efficiency of your environment and resources, they make you feel unappreciated, taken for granted and disposable.

If your employer is not taking due care over your safety at work contact Employment Law Friend for legal advice from one of our specialist employment solicitors.
You may find this article helpful: Whistleblowing

    Harassment or discrimination
Harassment and discrimination are deeply upsetting violations of our human rights wherever they occur. To be subject to such degradation at work, where you may feel you cannot escape, can be psychologically traumatic.

    Low salary
House prices have risen to seven times the average salary, up from two and a half times in the 70's. Such a huge amount of our earnings these days go straight to the roof over our heads. This effects our diets, our leisure, our opportunities. It puts pressure on our relationships and limits our freedom. and that's an average wage.

A low salary creates workplace stress that goes beyond financial insecurity. It causes us to feel under valued and resentful. It interferes with our relationships with our better paid bosses and high earning CEO's. It creates a culture of working to live, instead of thriving.

    Crisis incidents
While these events are, for most of us, thankfully rare, some fields can be effected by armed hold-ups, workplace injury or even death. Most responsible employers will provide workplace counselling in these circumstances.

Workers burnout

An almost inevitable result of long term work related stress is that workers 'burnout'. We push through and endure feeling that we have no choice or that we can't speak out about it until we are sick, tired and mentally fragile. This is caused by over stimulation of the fight or flight response.

The fight or flight response is our bodies' physical reaction to stress, our heart rate quickens, our observation becomes more acute. This was helpful when we needed to fight or run away from a predator or enemy cave-man but has less use stressful situations that are not physically threatening, like the 21st century work environment.

Repeated activation of this stress response is not good for us. Long term stress and worker's burnout can cause chronic health problems.
  • Weakened immune system
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease

Read on for signs of burnout at work

What about the overachievers: is your stress at work self imposed?

If none of these stressors sound familiar, is it possible you're putting pressure on yourself?
  • Keep your goals realistic
  • Use to do lists as reminders, not as a way to overload yourself with tasks
  • Remember to pause every now and again to reflect on your achievements

What are 3 signs that you are stressed about your work?

Signs of stress at work can be physical, psychological and behavioural. Read the table below for examples of the three different types of work stress symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Tense Muscles
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Stomach upsets
  • Skin complaints
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Demotivation
  • Pessimism
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Increased sick days
  • Aggression & irritability
  • Lack of initiative and creativity in problem solving
  • Poor performance
  • Breakdowns in communication
  • Problems with personal relationships
  • Low tolerance of delays and frustrations
  • Withdrawal from colleagues

What should you do if you feel stressed at work?

It is helpful to be armed with your own strategies for managing stress in the workplace. Here are some tips for managing stress at work.

  • Improve your morning routine, so you arrive at work feeling fresh and ready
  • Practise consciously relaxing tension in your muscles at regular points through the day
  • Try mindfulness techniques to keep your mind away from non productive worrying
  • Communicate with your line manager, if you're unsure what is required from you, ask for them to clarify.
  • Avoid conflict, gossip and sensitive topics of conversation
  • Keep your schedule and your workspace organised, focus on one task at a time
  • Make yourself comfortable, ie. If noise distractions are causing stress at work, buy noise cancelling headphones
  • Walk on your lunch break, exercise and a change of scenery will help
  • Track your stressors. Keep a record of the things that are stressing you out. Can you eliminate or reduce these? Can you bring them to your employer and ask for support?

If you have clearly identifiable causes of stress that your employer could fix, tell them! Employees may complain for months about a problem before anyone brings their employer's attention to it. If you have a reasonable request which will reduce stress at work for yourself or for a number of employees, mention it in an informal conversation with your boss before it makes things worse.

If your employer is refusing to hear your complaints or make a reasonable adjustment for your wellbeing raise a formal grievance. If this is not effective, contact Employment Law Friend to arrange a call from one of our specialist employment solicitors.

Frequently Asked Questions
You can have time off work for stress. It's not just for managing stress at work, but for managing any kind of stress. You can take a mental health day to rest or recover from stress, or speak to your GP if you need a longer break.
Emotional signs of workplace stress include:
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Expecting the worst
One of the most effective ways of dealing with stress at work is to go to the cause. If you would like to change your working hours, pattern, location or other working arrangements, you can make a flexible working request.

Have you suffered severely due to workplace stress?

There is much more to winning your case than simply being in the right, our specialist employment solicitors know all the laws and tactics, to make sure you get the best chance at a fair settlement. Get in contact with us and see how we can help.

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This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of our company. For employment law advice you can click here to organise a meeting with one of our panel of employment law solicitors.

This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of our company. For employment law advice please get in contact and speak to your employment law solicitors.
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