What are the Causes of Stress at Work?

What are the Causes of Stress at Work?

Causes of stress at work include an excessive workload, bad workplace relationships, a toxic environment, lack of support, and overly long hours.

All of these things can lead to physical and psychological impacts, including anxiety, depression, high-blood pressure and tiredness.

Stress at Work Causes

The causes of stress at work can have long-term impacts on personal health and safety. Organisations have a duty of care to minimise stress at work, and deal with any signs.

Excessive Workload

An excessive workload is probably one of the most common causes of stress at work.

Rushing around doing one job after the other is tiring, emotionally draining and just stressful. As a result, an employee feels backed into a corner, and out-of-control. Your work life balance starts to tip sharply in favour of work, and you start to hate going. We have all been there, when you simply can’t take your mind off work. This turns into a vicious cycle.

If you do have an excessive workload, don’t try and combat it alone. Especially if you really cannot cope with how much you have to do on a daily basis.

Bad Work Relationships

Another common cause of stress at work is having negative relationships with colleagues in your team or managers.

If you don’t get on well with colleagues, your work will suffer. As will you, because you don’t feel relaxed at work. Anxiety will build when managers question why your work isn’t up to standard.

There is a fine line between friendly workplace ‘banter’ and harassment. The use of derogatory language can make an employee feel attacked and singled-out. A person may file for a grievance, creating a toxic environment.

Negative Environment

A negative or poor working environment is when colleagues criticise you for your work. This will stress anyone out, because you are constantly pressured on any job or assignment you do.

In addition, it can also be when the environment is simply unproductive, and you can’t get anything done. It may be unproductive if a workplace is excessively:

  • Loud
  • Untidy
  • Distracting
  • Hot or cold

If the physical workplace is dirty, with things strewn around the place, it can be really stressful. You will spend time looking to tidy a work area, instead of doing work.

Lack of Support

In addition, a lack of support from higher-up bosses can be very frustrating.

Especially if you find a new job, you need guidance initially on how to perform well. If there is none, you feel lost. This is especially the case if they constantly criticise your work despite the lack of support.

A lack of support can also be frustrating when you talk to managers about stress. If they don’t seem to care or ignore your approach, then this can make the situation much worse.

Long Hours

Finally, long hours are really bad for stress. This is because if you work late and your sleep schedule has to be changed because of work, you will feel very tired.

Tiredness can lead to emotional exhaustion, which involves “feeling emotionally warn-out or drained as a result of accumulated stress”.[1] This may cause burnout which involves feeling uncreative, unproductive and running out of ideas.

Overall, it is both in the interests of organisation and employee to avoid stress at work. For the employee, they want to avoid serious long-term health consequences. For organisations, they want their employees in at work for the most time possible. Stress-related conditions can be serious, and lead to using holiday or sick days for recovery.

Talk to members of HR or your line-manager if you experience causes of stress at work. If you feel like you have nobody at work to talk to, then approach family members or your doctor.

You can view our online stress at work course here.


[1] https://www.healthline.com/health/emotional-exhaustion