Workplace Stress

Last Updated: April 16, 2024

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Stress in the workplace is a common occurrence for most employees, no matter the field of work. This stress can stem from the nature of the work itself or things such as job insecurity. Learning to manage and use this stress to thrive is crucial for well-being

What is Workplace Stress?

Workplace stress affects individuals across all organizational levels, from CEOs and executives to managers and all team members.

This type of stress can stem from various factors, including long work hours, excessive workload, unrealistic deadlines, and conflicting work demands within the workplace.

Regardless of one's position in the company, work-related stress can significantly impact an individual's mental and emotional well-being. It creates challenges within the professional sphere and spills over into personal life, affecting physical health, emotional stability, social relationships, and overall career development.

Understanding and managing workplace stress is crucial for everyone, as it plays a key role in maintaining a healthy work-life balance and ensuring personal and professional growth.

Causes of Work-related Stress

Workplace stressors can stem from various factors, creating a challenging environment for employees.

Excessive Workload

One significant cause is excessive workload. When employees are consistently faced with high volumes of tasks and tight deadlines, it can lead to feeling overwhelmed and pressured and inability to manage stress effectively.

This demand for productivity can contribute to stress as individuals strive to meet or exceed expectations.

Lack of Autonomy

Another common cause of work-related stress is a lack of control or autonomy. Employees who feel micromanaged or have little influence over their work processes may experience heightened stress levels.

A sense of autonomy is crucial for fostering a healthy work environment and empowering individuals to make decisions that impact their tasks and responsibilities.


Poor interpersonal relationships in the workplace can also be a source of stress. Conflicts with colleagues, a lack of teamwork, or unsupportive management can create a tense atmosphere.

The need for positive social interactions at work is vital, and when this element is lacking, it can contribute significantly to stress.

Job Uncertainty

Organizational changes and occupational safety can be additional stressors. Restructuring, layoffs, and poor communication about the company's direction can lead to employee instability and anxiety.

Clear communication and transparency during change are crucial to managing and mitigating stress.

Lack of Work-life Balance

A lack of work-life balance is another prominent cause of work-related stress. When the boundaries between professional and personal life become blurred, employees may struggle to disconnect from work, leading to burnout.

Employers play a crucial role in promoting a healthy work-life balance by respecting employees' time outside work hours.

Lack of Work Fulfillment or Job Satisfaction

Research suggests that finding meaning or feeling appreciated in what we do can significantly impact our well-being and job satisfaction. When individuals cannot connect with the purpose or contribution of their work, or when they lack the challenge and growth opportunities they seek, it can lead to chronic stress, burnout, and a lack of job satisfaction.

While the privilege of doing work that aligns perfectly with our passions isn’t always possible, acknowledging and valuing each person’s contribution in any role can significantly enhance their sense of fulfillment while reducing the risk of burnout.

Lack of Resources

Inadequate resources and support can also contribute to stress. When employees need the tools, training, or support to perform their jobs effectively, frustration and stress can ensue.

Providing co-workers with the necessary resources and fostering a supportive work environment is essential for preventing this type of stress.

Addressing these causes requires a holistic approach involving employers and employees in creating a workplace that promotes a healthy balance, clear communication, and supportive relationships.

Organizations can cultivate a positive and productive work environment by identifying and mitigating these stressors in organizational behavior.

Positive vs. Negative Work related Stress

Workplace stress exists in two forms: positive stress which enhances productivity, and negative stress, which leads to chronic issues.

Positive stress, often driven by the stress hormone cortisol, can motivate highly skilled and talented individuals to overcome challenges and achieve success.

This transient stress can boost emotional health and productivity when managed correctly. 

Conversely, chronic stress in the workplace can have detrimental effects. Prolonged exposure to high-stress levels can lead to serious health issues, including:

This excessive stress is characterized by a persistent and overwhelming sense of pressure, contributing to burnout and long-term emotional disorders.

The key is balancing these stress types. While positive stress can be a catalyst for achievement, the persistent burden of chronic stress needs to be addressed.

Employers and employees must work together to identify stressors and implement strategies to mitigate the negative impacts of workplace stress.

By doing so, they can promote a healthier, more productive work environment that respects the fine line between beneficial and harmful stress.

Impact of Negative Work-related Stress

Decision Fatigue

Decision fatigue is a phenomenon that affects both employers and employees, stemming from the relentless demand to make numerous decisions daily, regardless of their magnitude.

For employers, this often involves handling queries and making choices that impact employees, investors, clients, and the overall direction of the business.

Similarly, employees face decisions related to their work tasks, team dynamics, and personal work-life balance.

While individually small, these decisions can cumulatively exert a significant toll, especially in high-stress and demanding environments.

Over time, this constant decision-making can lead to decision fatigue, manifesting in various negative outcomes that affect personal and professional realms. These include:

  • Deterioration in decision-making quality
  • Impulsive or irrational eating and spending habits
  • Increased feelings of anger, hostility, and irritability
  • Reduced concentration and focus
  • Symptoms of depression
  • General body fatigue and physical discomfort
  • Weakened immune system, leading to a greater susceptibility to illness

Decline in Overall Performance

One notable consequence of perceived stress is the potential decline in overall job performance.

When stress becomes a constant companion in the workplace, it can impair concentration, decision-making abilities, and creativity. Employees may need help staying focused on tasks, leading to decreased productivity.

Moreover, the persistent pressure can contribute to feelings of burnout and exhaustion, ultimately affecting job satisfaction and morale.

Employers and employees must recognize the importance of addressing and managing work-related stress to maintain a healthy and productive work environment.

Physical Health

The body's response to chronic stress can result in various health issues, such as headaches, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances. Over time, the stress hormone cortisol increase may contribute to more severe conditions like cardiovascular problems and weakened immune function.

The demands and pressures of work can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and increased reliance on substances like caffeine or nicotine.

Recognizing the connection between work-related stress and physical and mental health problems is crucial, as addressing these issues benefits the individual's well-being and contributes to a more resilient and healthier workforce.

Combating Work-related Stress

workplace stress illustrated

Combating work-related stress is essential for maintaining a healthy and productive work environment. Employers and employees can take several proactive measures and prevention strategies to address and alleviate stress:

  1. Promoting Work-Life Balance: Encourage employees to maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life. Establish clear boundaries, such as avoiding after-hours emails or setting realistic expectations for workload.
  2. Open Communication: Foster a workplace culture that values open communication. Encourage employees to express concerns, share feedback, and discuss work-related challenges. This can create a supportive atmosphere and help identify stressors early on. Furthermore, when leaders openly acknowledge their challenges, it creates a space where conversations about mental health are normalized. Employees can feel more comfortable sharing their challenges without fear of stigma, contributing to a healthier, more supportive work environment, reducing on the job stress.
  3. Provide Resources: Ensure employees have the necessary resources to perform their jobs effectively. This includes appropriate training, equipment, and support. Feeling equipped for the tasks at hand can reduce stress levels.
  4. Flexible Schedules: Consider offering flexible work schedules or remote work options. This can empower employees to manage their time and responsibilities better, reducing the pressure associated with rigid work structures.
  5. Training on Stress Management: Conduct workshops or training sessions on stress management techniques. This can include mindfulness practices, time management strategies, and methods for coping with pressure. Equip employees with tools to handle stress healthily.
  6. Encourage Breaks: Promote regular breaks throughout the workday. Short breaks can help refresh the mind and prevent burnout. Encourage employees to step away from their desks, walk, or engage in activities that help them relax.
  7. Recognition and Appreciation: Acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of employees. Recognizing their contributions boosts morale and helps create a positive work environment, reducing stress associated with job insecurity or lack of appreciation.
  8. Health and Wellness Programs: Implement wellness programs focusing on physical and mental health. This can include gym access, yoga classes, counseling services, or initiatives promoting healthy eating habits.
  9. Clear Expectations: Clearly define job roles and expectations. Ambiguity about responsibilities can contribute to stress. Ensure that employees understand their roles, goals, and performance expectations.
  10. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Offer Employee Assistance Programs that provide confidential counseling and support services. An employee assistance program can be valuable for dealing with personal or work-related stressors.

Organizations can create a more resilient and positive workplace culture by addressing work-related stress, benefitting employees' well-being and the business's overall success.


More and more workers, whether remote, at the office or in a hybrid working environment, are feeling stressed at work, affecting them negatively. Things are becoming overwhelming, and handling stress in these moments can be difficult.

Both employees and managers must learn how to deal with stress at work and do so for overall well-being. Too much work-related stress can harm both physical and mental health, as mentioned above, if left unaddressed.

During times like these, when one is faced with an unprecedented amount of stress at work or unnecessary stress and anxiety due to the fear of losing a job, it is very easy to take on too much and finally become burnt out.

Reaching that point, when burnt out, we might experience feelings such as not enjoying anything anymore or knowing something needs to get done but cannot complete it. 

Communicating workplace stress and how it affects employee health is crucial to getting a hold of it.

It is important to identify the causes of stress at work and take a step back to understand how to relieve stress.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you do when stress at work affects your mental health?

Job stress is common, and one should know how to handle this appropriately. Taking time off work, exercising, meditating, and breathing exercises are great ways to reduce stress and calm the nervous system

Staying in the present moment during a stressful situation by focusing on breathing and removing yourself can promote well-being.

Open dialogue with trusted colleagues or support networks like HR fosters an environment where sharing needs and concerns is encouraged. 

What are the signs of work stress?

Stress at work can manifest in different ways, depending on the individual. It can manifest in symptoms such as frequent headaches, muscle tension, poor sleep quality, high blood pressure, and fatigue. 

Stress symptoms can also manifest in behavior and emotions: difficulty concentrating, short temper, irritability, anxiety, excessive worrying, feeling overwhelmed frequently, burnout and low morale.

Stress can affect how we work. Absenteeism, marked by missing work due to stress-related health concerns, and presenteeism, where we are physically present but not fully engaged, often find their roots in stress. When stress weighs on us, our ability to focus and perform can significantly decline. 

How do you communicate when you are stressed in the workplace?

Express concerns, give feedback and discuss challenges in the workplace to promote open communication.

Ask for defined job demands and roles and expectations when you feel uncertain.

Take breaks as necessary and communicate by taking some time to oneself with other co-workers.

Most importantly, model work-life balance by establishing clear boundaries with co-workers. 


Workplace Stress: A Silent Killer of Employee Health and Productivity | Corporate Wellness.

CCOHS: Workplace Stress - General 

How to handle stress at work - Harvard Health 

Workplace stress: A neglected aspect of mental health wellbeing - PMC  

Beat stress at work 


The contents of this article are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any health-related changes or if you have any questions or concerns about your health. Anahana is not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences that may occur from using the information provided.