Stress is a normal part of life. However, overwhelming stress in the workplace can lead to burnout and decreased productivity. Therefore, it is essential to recognize the causes of workplace stress so that you can take steps to reduce or eliminate them.
Knowing what causes workplace stress and how to effectively reduce it can make a world of difference in creating the right career environment for you.
We will look into 10 common factors leading to workplace stress—from lack of support from colleagues to too much responsibility—and offer practical solutions so that you can start managing your job-related anxiety today. Learn how to seize control and manage workplace stress with ease.
Stress can be good and bad.
Our sympathetic nervous system produces an automatic stress response that helps us handle difficult situations and survive.
This sympathetic nervous system response is short-term and necessary for most of us. To remain healthy, we must balance our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, “fight or flight,” and “rest and digest.”
When our sympathetic response is triggered too often or for too long, it can cause negative effects on our minds, bodies, and relationships. Physiologically speaking, this includes increased heart rate and blood pressure, higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol, decreased digestion, and more.
Long-term stress can also have a range of mental health impacts related to exhaustion, chronic pain, and poor decision-making ability – all of which can be avoided by maintaining balance in the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
Symptoms of workplace stress
Symptoms of workplace stress can include
- feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or irritable
- stomach pains
- recurring colds
- digestive issues
- difficulty sleeping
If not properly managed, stress can lead to more severe conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, taking action as soon as possible is essential. But first, talk about your concerns with your doctor.
It is important to recognize the signs of workplace stress in order to take steps to reduce or eliminate them before they become unmanageable. While it may be difficult to identify the exact cause of your stress, some everyday workplace stressors tend to be present in many job environments.
Burnout versus workplace stress
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the pressure continues, you lose motivation and become cynical or critical of your job or colleagues.
While both workplace stress and burnout can lead to adverse outcomes regarding productivity and well-being, there are some critical differences between them.
Stress is typically related to specific events or tasks whereas burnout describes an overall feeling of being overwhelmed as a result of long-term work-related issues such as too much responsibility or lack of control over one’s working environment.
In addition, while stress can be managed with effective coping strategies such as self-care and relaxation, burnout requires more significant changes to the working environment or job role to be addressed.
Ten causes of work-related stress
Stress: Long working hours cause workplace stress
With an ever-increasing workload, staying focused and productive throughout the day can be challenging. Working long hours can leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, leading to physical and mental health issues such as difficulty sleeping, headaches, and poor concentration.
Solution: Create a plan
The best way to manage long hours is to create a well-structured plan to know what tasks need your attention and when. In addition, taking regular breaks throughout the day helps with concentration and focus.
Stress: Lack of support from colleagues
Feeling unsupported by colleagues can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness in the workplace. This can be especially difficult if you are new to a job or working remotely.
Solution: Build meaningful relationships
Building strong relationships with colleagues is key to feeling supported in the workplace. Reach out to coworkers with similar goals or join a professional organization where you can connect with like-minded professionals. Doing so will help build relationships that allow you to grow professionally and personally.
Stress: Taking on too much responsibility
When given too much responsibility, managing all the tasks that need to be completed promptly can be challenging. This can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed.
Solution: Prioritize and delegate
Identify which tasks are essential to help manage this stressor and prioritize accordingly. Delegating responsibilities when appropriate can also help lighten your load.
Stress: Uncontrolled work environment
Working in an uncontrolled environment can be a source of stress. This can include an unpredictable workload, unclear expectations, or a lack of control over one’s job.
Solution: Set boundaries
Set personal and professional boundaries to help manage stress in an uncontrolled environment. This includes setting limits on your work time and taking regular breaks throughout the day to stay focused on the tasks.
Stress: Difficult to maintain a work-life balance
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential for reducing stress in the workplace. However, when there is an imbalance between your professional and personal life, it can lead to feelings of guilt or inadequacy.
Solution: Establish a routine
Establishing a routine that includes time for work, rest, and leisure activities can help you maintain a healthy work-life balance. Additionally, setting boundaries with your colleagues and managers will help ensure that your personal time is respected. Finally, open dialogue with your employer about expectations and priorities can help you manage your career and personal life without feeling overwhelmed.
Stress: Inadequate resources
When you are not given the resources needed to complete your job, it can lead to feelings of frustration and overwhelm.
Solution: Ask for help
If you lack the resources necessary to do your job, ask for help. Speak to a manager or mentor and explain what resources you need to complete tasks more efficiently. Networking with other professionals can provide insight into how others have navigated similar situations. Also, ask your supervisor or manager for clarification on what is expected and if additional resources are available.
Stress: Unreasonable deadlines
Trying to meet deadlines that seem impossible can be overwhelming for even the most experienced professionals.
Solution: Set realistic goals
Setting reasonable deadlines for yourself is the best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed by long-term projects. Break down large tasks into more manageable chunks and prioritize accordingly. Additionally, be sure to communicate any potential delays with colleagues and supervisors in a timely manner so that adjustments can be made if necessary. Using SMART goals to help prioritize your workload.
Plan out your timeline for completing tasks and discuss realistic deadlines with your manager or supervisor. Communicate what you can realistically accomplish in the given timeline, so there are no surprises when meeting expectations. Additionally, ask for help if needed and delegate responsibilities as appropriate.
Stress: Too much pressure to perform
Being constantly under pressure can lead to feelings of anxiety and exhaustion. In addition, communication from leadership can compound this pressure.
Solution: Take breaks
Regular breaks throughout the day can help manage stress and anxiety. This includes walking away from your desk for a few minutes or taking a break to do something that refreshes you. Additionally, setting aside time daily for mindfulness activities such as meditation or journaling can help reduce stress levels.
Stress: Poor job security
Feeling insecure about job security can be a massive source of stress in the workplace.
Solution: Stay in the game
Keep up-to-date with industry trends and look for additional training or certifications to help you stay competitive in the job market. Additionally, keeping a positive attitude and focusing on the tasks can help alleviate some of your fears about job security. Finally, networking with professionals in your field can open doors for potential opportunities.
Stress: Lack of recognition
Not receiving recognition from peers or supervisors can lead to feelings of frustration and unfulfillment. A management style that does not value recognition can also lead to concerns and additional stress.
Solution: Document, document, document
Make sure to document all your successes to have evidence for when it comes time for performance evaluations or promotions. Additionally, reach out to colleagues who can provide feedback on projects or tasks completed and encourage them during difficult times. Finally, keep tabs on any career development opportunities.
When stress in the workplace causes mental health concerns
Stress in the workplace is nothing to be taken lightly. On the surface, stress may manifest as difficulty focusing or restlessness. Still, in its extreme form, it can manifest into depression and anxiety, which could enormously impact an employee’s mental health.
This is a serious issue, and businesses must have stress-management policies to ensure that their employees are mentally and physically healthy while on the job.
From making sure there is enough downtime built into the schedule to providing stress management and resiliency training that speaks directly to stress relief, employers must do everything they can proactively to reduce stress-related mental health concerns in their workspace.
If you are experiencing changes in physical and mental health, consult with your physician immediately.
Stress management training
In today’s society, the stress in the workplace is a significant issue faced by employers and employees. Unfortunately, this stress can lead to decreased job satisfaction, as well as a decrease in productivity and effectiveness.
Employers have an obligation to ensure their employees’ well-being through employee assistance programs and stress management programs like the SMART program provide a valuable solution.
The Henry Benson Mind Body Insitute at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical school designs the SMART program. It is an evidence-based program designed to give practical guidance on stress management techniques to ensure overall workplace health.
The SMART program includes methods such as stress relief exercises, meditation, and positive communication skills for those who experience stress in the workplace.
These tools are accessible for both employers and employees; employers can use these stress reduction techniques in their corporate culture and offer stress-management classes to staff or allow their workers flexible working hours if possible.
Furthermore, employees can access online resources such as online meditation classes or make use of mindfulness apps from their own devices for employee health.
In short, stress management training such as the SMART program provides crucial tools for managing stress levels within the workplace and should be implemented by businesses for an increased satisfaction of workers and better overall work performance.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the leading causes of stress at work?
Working in a stressful environment can impact our long-term mental and physical health. So it’s no surprise that stress at work is an increasingly common problem.
The fundamental causes of stress at work are related to job insecurity, workload, and colleagues. A job with little or no job security can cause stress for the employee through fear of unemployment and diminishing motivation or energy for the task at hand.
Similarly, stress can be caused by being overwhelmed with tasks due to a heavy workload – trying to keep up with tight deadlines or working excessively long hours.
Finally, stress can be triggered by problems with colleagues, such as poor communication or conflict without resolution. These issues are all completely preventable if we focus on creating healthy and supportive workplace environments.
What to do when stress in workplace causes changes to physical health?
When stress in the workplace begins to affect our physical health, it’s essential to be proactive and take steps to restore balance.
It is essential to seek medical attention and talk to your doctor before starting any changes.
There are some lifestyle changes that can improve the effects of stress.
- Become aware of stress triggers by paying attention to any physical stress signs such as headaches or chest discomfort
- Practice mindful activities like deep breathing or meditation, which can help us better manage stress
- Make sure to schedule time for leisure activities that bring relaxation and joy, such as reading a book or going for a walk
- Seek professional help.
Can I eliminate stress completely?
While stress can’t be eliminated, it is possible to reduce its impact on our lives.
This requires a combination of lifestyle changes, such as getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, and self-care activities like reading or listening to music.
Finally, it is essential to utilize the tools available in our work, such as the SMART program or similar stress-management programs, that provide strategies for decreasing overall levels of stress in the workplace.
How do I reduce job stress?
Reducing job stress can be done by implementing simple workplace or personal lifestyle changes.
At work, start by identifying potential sources of stress and creating an action plan to address them. This could include delegating tasks, better time management, or balancing workloads across teams.
At home, it is important to set healthy boundaries with work by creating a routine and dedicating time to leisure activities. Additionally, incorporating mindfulness into everyday tasks can help to reduce stress levels.
Finally, connecting with friends and family regularly as social support reduces job-related stress.