Top 10 causes of stress at work (List)

In this guide, we will see the Top 10 causes of stress at work.

In addition, we will talk about some of the causes more in-depth and how to address them, the symptoms of stress, work related stressors, how you can manage stress at work and what your employer can do to help minimize the risk.

Top 10 causes of stress at work

Here are the top 10 causes of stress at work:

  • Long hours or overtime
  • Heavy workloads
  • Changes within the company
  • Tight deadlines
  • Changes to your job duties
  • Feeling insecure about your job
  • Lack of support from your boss or colleagues
  • Lack of autonomy
  • Repetitive or boring job
  • Bullying

Work-related stress has been increasing in the last decade and it is a worldwide problem that affects employee’s health and well-being.

“Work-related stress arises where work demands of various types and combinations exceed the person’s capacity and capability to cope. Work-related stress is the second most common compensated illness/injury in Australia, after musculoskeletal disorders (betterhealth.vic.gov.au).”

Stress at work can affect your working styles and you might want stress at work compensation.

Let’s talk more in-depth about some of the causes we have mentioned and how you could go about approaching a solution.

Working long hours or doing overtime:

Working too many tasks and responsibilities can force you to stay late or do overtime.

This can become very overwhelming and tiring since you are cutting off time from your personal time to invest more in your work life.

What you can do is talk to your boss and negotiate a way to delegate some of the tasks and responsibilities to other colleagues or work with them so there is less pressure on you alone.

Heavy workloads:

This relates to what we have mentioned, since having more work that needs to be done or a tight deadline can be extremely stressful.

You don’t want your boss to think you are lazy or incompetent but being realistic and setting appropriate expectations about what you can and can’t do won’t make you a bad employee.

Be honest with your boss about it.

Changes within the company: 

There has been a huge change in management and you fear you may lose your job.

Yes, it is normal to be afraid of losing your job since you have financial responsibilities to attend to but this is a situation out of your control.

If you have proven to be a good employee and valuable to the company there is nothing to be afraid of but if you still get fired due to structural changes within the company then looking for another job would be the best option.

Changes to your job duties: 

You may have been doing the same thing for over a decade and suddenly they decided to make changes to your job duties you are not familiar with or used to.

It will probably take you out of your comfort zone but don’t look at it under a negative perspective, think of it as a possibility of doing new things and growing professionally.

Bullying:

No one enjoys being bullied and you may have experienced it when you were at school thinking you would never go through it again.

The good thing now is that you are in a professional environment and you can actually make a formal complaint to your HR department to get this issue resolved.

However, try to talk things first with your line manager and if there is no improvement, raise a formal complaint.

Symptoms of work-related stress

Here are some signs not only physical but also psychological (mental health) and behavioral.

The physical symptoms when exposed to prolonged stress include:

  • Feeling tired or fatigued.
  • Muscular tension.
  • Migraines or headaches.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Sleeping difficulties such as insomnia, or sleeping more than usual.
  • Gastrointestinal problems (i.e. diarrhea or constipation).
  • Dermatological problems (i.e. acne, eczema, psoriasis).
  • The affected immune system, more prone to get a cold.

Psychological symptoms:

  • Feeling depressed
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability 
  • Pessimism or having negative thoughts
  • The feeling of being overwhelmed
  •  Unable to concentrate or having memory problems

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Increased absenteeism
  • Aggressiveness 
  • Diminished interest and motivation
  • Reduced work performance
  • Conflicts with interpersonal relationships
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Withdrawal or isolation

Moreover, according to WebMD, if stress is not properly addressed it can actually lead to more serious conditions such as having high blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia), hardening of your arteries (atherosclerosis), heart attack, fertility problems, among others.

Work-related stressors

Here is a list of other potential stressors or stressful situations in a working environment according to betterhealth.vic.gov.au: 

  • Organization culture
  • Bad management practices
  • Job content and demands
  • Physical work environment
  • Relationships at work
  • Change management
  • Lack of support
  • Role conflict
  • Trauma.
  • Limited opportunities for career growth

How can you manage work-related stress?

Managing stress effectively can help reduce psychological stress, physical and behavioral symptoms.

There are several things you can do for stress relief at your workplace for example:

  • Talk to your manager and give your thoughts about reasonable changes that can be done to reduce your stress levels (i.e. flexible schedule).
  • Make sure you are organized by listing your task in order of priority. This will effectively help you organize your time and the work that has to be done.
  • Eat healthily and try to exercise regularly. No need to go to the gym, just walking 20 to 30 mins during the day will do.
  • Consider mindfulness meditation or yoga as a way of relaxation.
  • Make sure you disconnect from work when you get home. You might be tempted to answer an important email in the middle of the night but separating your work from your personal life will help you manage stress.
  • Ask for help from your loved ones or a mental health professional if stress is too overwhelming.
  • Avoid the intake of substances such as caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. They can actually add more stress to the equation.
  • If you have done everything already, consider getting another job or a career change.

Organisational stress management

As indicated by a study from 2002, “The prevention and management of workplace stress require organizational-level interventions, because it is the organization that creates the stress. An approach that is limited to helping those already experiencing stress is analogous to administering sticking plaster on wounds, rather than dealing with the causes of the damage.”

Many employers and employees believe just taking a few days off as sick leave will eventually help resolve the problem, but if there is no intervention at the organizational level where the individual is a priority then, problems will keep arising.

Some of the organizational interventions can range from structural changes such as controlling staffing levels, adapting work schedules and the physical environment.

Some of the psychological interventions can involve making the employee more active letting them participate and be more involved at work. 

What can I do as an employer?

A good employer is on top of assessing risks within the organization that exposes employees to high levels of stress, for instance, employers could look into the pressures employees are exposed to that can cause high and long-lasting levels of stress.

In addition, identifying who might be potentially harmed by them and deciding to set up an intervention plan to prevent harm is the way to effectively mitigate the risk of stress.

It is true that pressure from the environment not only comes from the pressure an employee has to be constantly exposed to but also personal situations can affect the individual and their work.

However, if an employer can effectively identify and prevent stress at work, it will help the individual who may be suffering from stress at a personal level.

Why is this blog about Top 10 causes of stress at work important?

As we have discussed, stress at work is very common and even though a bit of stress from time to time can be beneficial, prolonged stress or chronic stress can be detrimental to your physical and mental health.

Employees and employers alike may think stress will go away just by having some time off work but if it is not managed and treated considering the root cause it won’t make any difference. 

Be aware of the physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms to be able to act as soon as possible.

Don’t let stress take control of your life so if you feel it becomes too overwhelming and you don’t know what else to do, consider getting professional help from a therapist or a counselor.

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Top 10 causes of stress at work

What are the top 10 causes of stress?

The top 10 causes of stress may be:

The death of a loved one
Getting divorced
Losing your job
Financial problems
Getting married
Relocating or moving to a new home
Suffering from chronic illness or injury
Emotional problems (i.e. depression, anxiety, guilt, low self-esteem)

What are the 6 sources of stress?

According to easysafe.com, here are 6 sources of stress:

Feelings of fear or rejection
Racing thoughts
The feeling of losing control
Feelings of anger
Fatigue
Withdrawal 
Self-neglect
Depression 

What is the most common cause of stress?

The most common cause of stress in the United States according to the American Psychological Association or APA seems to be money or financial problems.

In a survey conducted in 2015, the APA reported that 72% of Americans stressed about money at least some of the time during the previous month (verywellmind.com).

What are the signs of stress in the workplace?

Some of the signs that indicate stress in the workplace can be:

Having chest pain or a pounding heart
Difficulty breathing
Feeling fatigued
Reduced libido
Nausea, diarrhea or constipation
Headaches 
Getting colds more often
Muscle tension
Excessive sweating
Loss of appetite or overeating

What are 5 emotional signs of stress?

The 5 emotional signs of stress can be:

Depression or anxiety
Feeling angry or irritable most of the time
Feeling restless
Losing interest or motivation
Problems concentrating or with your memory
Troubles going to sleep or sleeping too much
Feeling worried most of the time

References 

Betterhealth.vic.gov.au: “Work-related stress”

Michie S. CAUSES AND MANAGEMENT OF STRESS AT WORK. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2002;59:67-72.

Webmd.com: “Causes of Stress”

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