You are on page 1of 18

How to deal with stress

Introduction
Tackling work-related stress is essential to ensure the well-being of both you and your employees and to
safeguard the performance of your business.

Stress can be particularly damaging for owner-managers and the self-employed. Though a degree of
pressure can help you to perform effectively, excessive demands can reduce your productivity and make it
more difficult to take important decisions.

Stress can also undermine employees' effectiveness, cause a rise in sickness absences and increase staff
turnover. You have a legal responsibility to ensure your employees don't become ill, either physically or
mentally, because of work-related stress.

This guide helps you identify and tackle possible causes of stress in your business - from excessive
workloads and communication problems to insufficient training and poor management.

Why tackling stress in your business is


important
The costs of neglecting stress in your business can be high. Stress is sometimes overlooked as a health and
safety issue by small businesses. The unexpected absence of just one member of staff can affect
productivity, and efforts to secure cover can be costly and time-consuming.

Stress can cause many workplace problems, including:

• a fall in your productivity and that of your employees


• poor decision-making
• an increase in mistakes which may in turn lead to more customer complaints
• increased sickness absence
• high staff turnover
• poor workplace relations

Stress often has a cumulative effect. If one member of staff becomes ill through stress, it places added
pressure on those covering for them.

A stressed manager may find it difficult to create a positive working environment and monitor stress levels
in others.

It's also important to tackle any stress you face as an owner-manager or self-employed person. This is often
caused by working excessively long hours or from a feeling of isolation.
Your legal duty on stress

Employers have a legal duty to ensure employees aren't made ill by their work. This includes taking steps
to prevent physical and mental illness brought about by stress. These steps need not cost a lot of money
and the benefits can be significant.

You must assess the risks of stress caused, or made worse, by work as part of your overall health and
safety risk assessment. See our guide on risk assessment - an overview.

How to deal with stress

Common causes of stress at work


It's important to recognise the common causes of stress at work so that you can take steps to reduce stress
levels where possible.

Some typical stress inducers

• Excessively high workloads, with unrealistic deadlines making people feel rushed, under pressure
and overwhelmed.
• Insufficient workloads, making people feel that their skills are being underused.
• A lack of control over work activities.
• A lack of interpersonal support or poor working relationships leading to a sense of isolation.
• People being asked to do a job for which they have insufficient experience or training.
• Difficulty settling into a new promotion, both in terms of meeting the new role's requirements and
adapting to possible changes in relationships with colleagues.
• Concerns about job security, lack of career opportunities, or level of pay.
• Bullying or harassment.
• A blame culture within your business where people are afraid to get things wrong or to admit to
making mistakes.
• Weak or ineffective management which leaves employees feeling they don't have a sense of
direction, or over-management, which can leave employees feeling undervalued and affect their self-
esteem.
• Multiple reporting lines for employees, with each manager asking for their work to be prioritised.
• Failure to keep employees informed about significant changes to the business, causing them
uncertainty about their future.
• A poor physical working environment, eg excessive heat, cold or noise, inadequate lighting,
uncomfortable seating, malfunctioning equipment, etc.

How to deal with stress

Assess whether stress is a problem for your


business
Carrying out a stress audit is one of the best ways to find out whether stress is a problem in your workplace.

It can also help you to assess the risks of stress that people in your business may face as part of your health
and safety risk assessment. See the page in this guide on why tackling stress in your business is
important.

A stress audit involves talking informally to staff - either individually or in groups - to find out if they have
any concerns. Let employees know why you are carrying out the exercise and what you're trying to achieve
- ie that you hope to prevent future problems or cure any existing ones.

If you have safety representatives, involve them in your plans and decision-making. Always respect
theconfidentiality of staff.

A useful exercise is to ask staff to list the three best and worst things about their job and whether any of
these put them under excessive pressure.

You can also use questionnaires to gather the same information. Although there's a range of commercially
available questionnaires, you may be better off developing your own checklist to fit the particular needs
and working conditions of your business.

There are a number of key areas you should consider:

• work scheduling and the type of work


• working relationships with colleagues
• the level of communication and reporting
• the physical working environment
• employees' expectations of their work

Don't forget to monitor your own stress levels. See the page in this guide on dealing with your own
stress.

How to deal with stress

Identify signs of stress in employees


Individuals suffering from stress often display a range of signs that may be noticed by colleagues and other
managers.

These signs include:

• tiredness and irritability


• reduced quality of work
• indecisiveness and poor judgement
• loss of sense of humour
• physical illness such as headaches, nausea, aches and pains
• seeming jumpy or ill-at-ease, or admitting to sleeping badly
• increased sick leave
• poor timekeeping
• changes in working day patterns - perhaps by staying late or taking work home

You should also look for signs of more widespread problems among groups of employees, for example:

• arguments and disputes between staff


• general absenteeism
• an increase in grievances and complaints
• greater staff turnover

For information on identifying and managing some of the causes of stress see our guide on managing
conflict.

You also need to watch out for signs that your own stress levels are rising. See the page in this guide
on dealing with your own stress.

Tackle the causes of workplace stress


Once you have identified possible stress problems in your business, you can then take steps to tackle the
causes.

Work-related stress

• If overwork is causing people to feel stressed, consider how you might reduce their workload.
Ensure targets are challenging but realistic. Help people to prioritise work, cutting out unnecessary
tasks and providing time-management training if necessary. Encourage delegation of work where
possible, and try to delegate work yourself.
• Make sure staff take their holiday entitlement - and take your own.
• Check individuals are well-matched to the jobs you give them. Make sure your recruitment and
selection procedures help you to achieve this.
• Make sure every employee has a well-defined role - and that they know what this is.
• Review people's performance so that they know how they're doing and you can identify any
training they may need.
• Where possible give employees more autonomy, allowing them to plan their work schedule and
decide how to tackle problems.
• Adopt a management style that encourages employees to discuss problems with you. Provide them
with opportunities to feed back to you or express ideas about their work.
• Keep staff informed about your business' direction and make sure you tell them about significant
changes to the business.
• Ensure you have effective disciplinary and grievance procedures to tackle bullying and
harassment.

For information on identifying and tackling some of the causes of stress see our guide on managing
conflict.

External causes of stress


Sometimes people may suffer from stress that isn't caused by work-related issues but instead has an
external cause.

Common external causes of stress include:

• relationship difficulties or a divorce


• serious illness in the family
• caring for dependants such as children or elderly relatives
• bereavement
• moving house
• debt problems

Remember that such external causes of stress can also affect you as an owner-manager or self-employed
person. See the page in this guide on dealing with your own stress.

How you can help to deal with external causes of stress

You don't have a legal responsibility to tackle external causes of stress among employees, but you should
remember that issues such as these can have a significant impact on their performance, therefore affecting
your company as a whole. So it's a good idea to adopt a sympathetic and understanding approach.

Offering employees paid time off, or suggesting more flexible working arrangements, can be practical ways
to help them deal with their problems. Your approach should be consistently applied, and specified in a
written policy if appropriate. See the page on time off for personal commitments and emergencies in
our guide on allowing time off work or use our interactive tool to investigate what kind of flexible
working will best suit your employees and you.

You may want to suggest that an employee seeks professional help from their doctor or point them in the
direction of support groups such as Relate or Alcohol Concern.

However, there's a risk you could be seen to be interfering, so it's important to use your judgement to
decide whether this is appropriate.

Always respect employees' confidentiality if they tell you about personal problems they are facing.

Stress - whatever its origins - can lead to mental ill health, including anxiety and depression. See the page
in this guide on supporting employees with mental ill health.
How to deal with stress

Stress-management training and counselling


Training courses may help business owners, managers and employees deal with work pressures more
effectively.

Appropriate courses may include those covering areas such as:

• time-management
• leadership skills
• assertiveness
• communication skills
• relaxation techniques

You can search our Training Directory for details of stress management courses.

Managers may also benefit from training to identify signs of stress in others and to assess the impact of
their managerial style on staff.

It can also be a good idea to promote healthy living, which can help people keep fit and deal with
workplace stress more effectively. You might do this by providing health information and education - or
perhaps by organising keep-fit, yoga or relaxation classes.

You may want to consider whether stress counsellingwould be appropriate for your business. Some
organisations pay for confidential one-to-one counselling sessions for their employees, who can discuss both
work and non-work related problems with a professional counsellor. But such schemes - known as Employee
Assistance Programmes - can be expensive and are typically used by larger businesses.

How to deal with stress

Dealing with your own stress


Owner-managers and self-employed people need to learn to identify the signs of their own stress and take
steps to tackle it.

Signs that you might be experiencing stress yourself could include:

• poor judgement and indecisiveness


• difficulty in concentrating
• a lack of assertiveness
• irritability, aggressiveness, depression or loss of sense of humour
• physical symptoms such as breathlessness, headaches, chest pains, nausea, sleeplessness, high
blood pressure and constant tiredness
Stress can be magnified if you work alone. If you have no one to confide in, it can be easy for things to get
out of proportion.

This can be a particular problem for owner-managers who don't have the support of a management team
and who may feel under pressure to work through periods of stress to ensure the continuity of the business.
Although employees expect the managing director to know what to do in a given situation, you may in fact
need help yourself.

In addition, business owners often have significant capital invested in the business, putting added pressure
on key decisions.

One way of dealing with this is to network with people running businesses of a similar size to talk through
each other's problems.

You might even bring in a mentor to help you cope with the pressures of running your business. See our
guide on how to find a training provider/course.

If you are suffering from stress, you need to try to:

• identify and tackle the underlying causes


• practise relaxation techniques
• improve your diet and cut back where appropriate on smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption
• do regular exercise
• avoid regularly working long hours if at all possible
• make sure you take holidays

Working with people affected by traumatic


events
A 'traumatic event' could be a natural disaster, such as flooding or other severe weather causing injuries and
deaths, a terrorist attack or serious accident, or other situations in which a person feels extreme fear, horror
or helplessness.

It can be helpful for those who work with people who have been affected by a traumatic event or who have
been bereaved by a traumatic experience to try and understand the effects that this can have on people.

When dealing with someone who has been through a traumatic event, remember that people will react very
differently. While some people may want to talk about their experiences, others may not. People are likely
to experience a range of emotions and feelings.

If you do need to support people who have experienced trauma try to bear in mind the following:

• Be yourself - even if you don't know what to say. Acknowledging what they have been through can
help.
• Ask how they are feeling, as it may not be obvious. Don't worry if they get upset - this is a natural
reaction. Remember that they may not wish to talk about the incident. Ask them if there is anything you
can do.
• It may be difficult for them to feel motivated or to meet deadlines, and their ability to concentrate
may be affected. Allow them to work at their own pace and allow time off, or ask if they would rather
work at weekends, when it may be quieter.
• With their permission, it may be helpful to inform colleagues about the situation. They may need
information, advice and education about trauma and/or loss.
• Ask about arranging extra help and support for them. Let them know about any work support
services or groups. It may be helpful for them to take short breaks.
• Understand that they may be dealing with a number of issues and emotions.
• Help by treating them the same as everyone else.
• Understand that their feelings are likely to change over time.
• It can be helpful to discuss with them setting new plans and challenging projects.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a psychological and physical condition that can occur after experiencing or witnessing traumatic
events.

PTSD is not the only psychological condition that can result from a traumatic event and many
people will develop other conditions such as phobias, for example not wanting to get in a

Supporting employees
car after witnessing a major road traffic

with mental ill health


There are many common types of mental ill health. The most common forms include anxiety, depression,
phobic anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders.

People with these types of diagnosed mental health issues may be regarded as having a disability under
the Equality Act 2010. As such, it is unlawful for you to treat a disabled person less favourably for a reason
relating to their disability, without a justifiable reason.

See the page on discrimination against disabled peoplein our guide on how to prevent
discrimination and value diversity.

Mental health issues - which may be mild, moderate or severe - can affect anyone, and are often associated
with, or triggered by, work-related stress, relationship breakdowns, bereavement, other work or personal
difficulties, or a combination of these things. For more information, see the page in this guide on external
causes of stress.

Mental health issues are one of the most common factors in long-term sickness absence. However, many
employees with these conditions may continue to work without displaying obvious symptoms. For example,
an employee with a depressive illness may work quite normally, particularly once any medication,
counselling or other therapies begin to work.
As with many stress-related conditions, warning signs could include irritability, tiredness, erratic
timekeeping, neglecting appearance or personal hygiene, being quieter than usual or being reluctant to
participate in meetings, social exchanges or events.

As an employer, you can give special consideration to mental health issues by:

• keeping an open mind


• learning the facts about mental health disorders
• being flexible
• seeking expert advice and guidance

Your line managers' listening skills can be particularly useful for helping to manage mental health issues.
You may wish to provide managers with specialist training in dealing with employees suffering from severe
anxiety or depression.

If workers feel able to talk about their concerns, this should be encouraged.

You can download guidance on helping colleagues through difficult times from the Mental Health
Foundation website (PDF, 493K)- Opens in a new window.

You could arrange an informal meeting, perhaps over lunch or coffee, to find out what sort of support they
may require.

Treat mental health in the same way as you would when dealing with other potentially sensitive issues at
work. Workers may benefit from being asked open-ended questions which allow them to talk about what is
happening and why, and being assured that all discussions are in confidence. It is important to remember
that they may find it difficult to talk. You could arrange an alternative time and date to discuss the issue,
and pose specific questions for them to consider and address when you meet again.

You can also help employees who are suffering from mental health problems by:

• enabling them to work flexible hours, so they can have time off if they need it, or during an
especially difficult time
• making sure they can work in the most congenial space - this may mean enabling them to move
their desk or work station to a place where they feel most comfortable and secure

Employees who are experiencing mental health difficulties - eg stress or anxiety - may be able to benefit
from the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) initiative. IAPT offers effective 'talking therapy'
treatment to people who are out of work for mental health reasons. For more information, see the page
on talking therapy services in our guide on how to improve employee health and well-being.

accident.

How to deal with stress


Here's how we tackle stress to create a
healthier working environment
Stephanie Horton is the managing director of River Canal Rescue. Set up in December 2000, it's a 24-hour
national breakdown and recovery service for boats on UK waterways. During the peak summer months of
2004, Horton noticed her call-out engineers were suffering from stress. She explains the measures put in
place to create a healthier working environment.

What I did

Acknowledge the problem

"We get peak periods when our engineers attend several calls in one day, often in different parts of the
country. Other days they might only get one call, but this could come at 06.00 or 18.00. This limits where
they go and what they do and can contribute to feeling stressed.

"I discovered our staff were feeling stressed through our appraisal system. We also had one engineer who
left - because of stress and other health problems. I realised we needed to tackle it because delivering a
high standard of service is a priority and this is compromised if we have stressed engineers or lose them at
peak periods. It can be hard to find suitable recruits and normally takes three months to train them."

Introduce stress-reducing initiatives

"The first thing I did was introduce monthly meetings where the managers sit down with each employee to
discuss how things are going. This helps cut stress because people don't bottle things up and it also makes
them feel valued.

"Starting this summer, we're introducing time-out days. Each engineer will be given five individual time-out
days to use during our peak periods, in addition to their holiday allowance, that they can take at 24 hours'
notice. Any extra work will be given to contractors to avoid creating more stress for the rest of the team.

"The days are designed to prevent employees from throwing sickies - although that was never a real
problem - the key is that it is self-managed by the individual, because they know better than we do if things
are getting too much. Knowing the time off is there and that we trust them can help reduce stress."

Monitor the situation

"We are already seeing the benefits of the monthly meetings and although the time out days haven't taken
effect yet, knowing we will be doing something to tackle stress this summer is appreciated by our
employees. It has also been a selling point to new recruits.

"Now I know how stress can affect the business, I also keep an eye out for signs that our employees are
under pressure - such as if they show up for work looking haggard or seem to be losing motivation."

What I'd do differently


"I would have introduced the monthly meetings much earlier. Although there was always an informal plan to
do this, and I encourage all staff to come to me with their problems, if you don't make it a formal
arrangement it is easy to keep putting it off."

http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/detail?
itemId=1075383593&lang=en&r.i=1084246270&r.l1=1073858799&r.l2=1074409641&r.l3=10744270
25&r.s=sc&r.t=RESOURCES&type=CASE%20STUDIES
Simply put, performance management includes activities to ensure that goals are
consistently being met in an effective and efficient manner. Performance management can
focus on performance of the organization, a department, processes to build a product or
service, employees, etc. Information in this topic will give you some sense of the overall
activities involved in employee performance management. The reader would benefit from
reviewing closely related topics referenced from the section , including basics concepts in
performance management, organization performance management and group performance
management.
Stress at work is a relatively new phenomenon of modern lifestyles. The nature of work has gone through
drastic changes over the last century and it is still changing at whirlwind speed. They have touched
almost all professions, starting from an artist to a surgeon, or a commercial pilot to a sales executive. With
change comes stress, inevitably. Professional stress or job stress poses a threat to physical
health. Work related stress in the life of organized workers, consequently, affects the health of
organizations.

What`s It?
Job stress is a chronic disease caused by conditions in the workplace that negatively affect an
individual`s performance and/or overall well-being of his body and mind. One or more of a host of physical
and mental illnesses manifests job stress. In some cases, job stress can be disabling. In chronic cases a
psychiatric consultation is usually required to validate the reason and degree of work related stress.

Working on a project on stress at work, Andy Ellis, Ruskin College, Oxford, UK, has shown in a chart
how stress can adversely affect an employee`s performance. In the early stages job stress can `rev up`
the body and enhance performance in the workplace, thus the term `I perform better under pressure`.
However, if this condition is allowed to go unchecked and the body is revved up further, the performance
ultimately declines and the person`s health degenerates.

Symptoms
The signs of job stress vary from person to person, depending on the particular situation, how long the
individual has been subjected to the stressors, and the intensity of the stress itself. Typical symptoms of
job stress can be:

• Insomnia
•Loss of mental concentration,
•Anxiety, stress
• Absenteeism
• Depression,
• Substance abuse,
•Extreme anger and frustration,
• Family conflict
• Physical illnesses such as heart disease, migraine, headaches, stomach problems, and back problems.

Causes of Workplace Stress


Job stress may be caused by a complex set of reasons. Some of the most visible causes of
workplace stress are:

Job Insecurity
Organized workplaces are going through metamorphic changes under intense economic transformations
and consequent pressures. Reorganizations, takeovers, mergers, downsizing and other changes have
become major stressors for employees, as companies try to live up to the competition to survive. These
reformations have put demand on everyone, from a CEO to a mere executive.

High Demand for Performance


Unrealistic expectations, especially in the time of corporate reorganizations, which, sometimes, puts
unhealthy and unreasonable pressures on the employee, can be a tremendous source ofstress and
suffering. Increased workload, extremely long work hours and intense pressure to perform at peak levels
all the time for the same pay, can actually leave an employees physically and emotionally drained.
Excessive travel and too much time away from family also contribute to an employee`s stressors.

Technology
The expansion of technology—computers, pagers, cell phones, fax machines and the Internet—has
resulted in heightened expectations for productivity, speed and efficiency, increasing pressure on the
individual worker to constantly operate at peak performance levels. Workers working with heavy
machinery are under constant stress to remain alert. In this case both the worker and their family
members live under constant mental stress. There is also the constant pressure to keep up with
technological breakthroughs and improvisations, forcing employees to learn new software all the times.

Workplace Culture Adjusting to the workplace culture, whether in a new company or not, can be
intensely stressful. Making oneself adapt to the various aspects of workplace culture such as
communication patterns, hierarchy, dress code if any, workspace and most importantly working and
behavioral patterns of the boss as well as the co-workers, can be a lesson of life. Maladjustment to
workplace cultures may lead to subtle conflicts with colleagues or even with superiors. In many cases
office politics or gossips can be major stress inducers.

Personal or Family Problems


Employees going through personal or family problems tend to carry their worries and anxieties to the
workplace. When one is in a depressed mood, his unfocused attention or lack of motivation affects his
ability to carry out job responsibilities.

Job Stress and Women


Women may suffer from mental and physical harassment at workplaces, apart from the common job
stress. Sexual harassment in workplace has been a major source of worry for women, since long. Women
may suffer from tremendous stress such as `hostile work environment harassment`, which is defined in
legal terms as `offensive or intimidating behavior in the workplace`. This can consist of unwelcome verbal
or physical conduct. These can be a constant source of tension for women in job sectors. Also, subtle
discriminations at workplaces, family pressure and societal demands add to these stress factors

The Survival Sutras


Because change is constant in life, stress is an integral part of it. Since we don`t want to perish under it,
we have to adhere to the bottom line for survival—adapt.

Following are some of the long-term tips to survive stress:

•Even if we feel secured in a habituated life, the truth remains that changing with the times makes one`s
position more secure. In today`s business climate, you must continually be prepared for changes to
avoid stress and survive in the competitive world.

• Find and protect whatever time you get to refresh, re-energize and re-motivate yourself. Spend quality
time with your family. This can be an excellent source of emotional and moral support.

• Avoid giving in to alcohol, smoking and other substance abuses while under constant stress.

• Develop positive attitudes towards stressful situations in life. Give up negative mental traits such as fear,
anger and revengeful attitudes, which actually germinate stress. Try to revert to holistic relaxation
and personal growth techniques such as meditation, breathing and exercises, to remodel your lifestyles. •
In case of chronic stress consult a health professional.
• Reduce workplace stress by celebrating your`s or your colleagues` accomplishments.
•Adapting to demands of stress also means changing your personality. Improve your line of
communication, efficiency and learn from other`s experiences.

•Don`t be complacent. Be prepared for any change physically, emotionally and financially.

But, when you are under stress at work, some simple practices can help:

•Sit straight and comfortably on your seat, and try breathing exercises. It will relax your nerves and
muscles.

• Relax and count backwards (20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15….)

•Try creative visualization

Burnout
When under severe stress, an individual fails to take clear-cut decisions, reevaluate and reassess the
priorities and lifestyles, and ultimately, tend to fall into unproductive distractions. This can be described as
a classic case of `burnout`. The `burnouts` often engage in reckless or risk-taking behaviors. Starting from
glamor and sport celebrities to common men, `burnouts` are found everywhere.

Chronic Responsibility Syndrome is a kind of burnout where people get mentally and physically
exhausted from their workload. The symptom is often described as "there`s simply too much workto do,
and no one else can do it but me". Typically it will occur in hard working, hard driven people, who become
emotionally, psychologically or physically exhausted. You are at risk of burnout where:

• you find it difficult to say `no` to additional commitments or responsibilities

•you have been under intense and sustained pressure for some time

•your high standards make it difficult to delegate to assistants

• you have been trying to achieve too much for too long

•you have been giving too much emotional support for too long

Often burnout will manifest itself in a reduction in motivation, volume and quality of performance, or in
dissatisfaction with or departure from the activity altogether.

Are You in Danger of Burning Out?


If you feel that you are in danger of burning out, the suggestions below can help you correct the situation:

• Re-evaluate your goals and prioritize them

• Evaluate the demands placed on you and see how they fit in with your goals

• Identify your ability to comfortably meet these demands.


• If people demand too much emotional energy, become more unapproachable and less sympathetic.
Involve other people in a supportive role. Acknowledge your own humanity: remember that you have a
right to pleasure and a right to relaxation

• Learn stress management skills

• Identify stressors in your life, such as work, or family. Get the support of your friends, family and even
counseling in reducing stress

• Ensure that you are following a healthy lifestyle:

1. Get adequate sleep and rest to maintain your energy levels

2. Ensure that you are eating a healthy, balanced diet—bad diet can make you ill or feel bad. Limit your
caffeine and alcohol intake

3. Try to recognize your spiritual needs that may have been buried under the mires of worldly pursuits

• Develop alternative activities such as a relaxing hobby to take your mind off problems

Have You Burned Out?


• If you are so de-motivated that for a time you do not want to continue with what you do, then take some
time off

• Alternatively, try to switch to another area of activity within your organization. If you come back later, you
may find that you have started to enjoy the work again, and can take on only those commitments that you
want. You may, however, find that you have absolutely no interest in continuing with what you are doing.
In this case it may be best to drop it altogether

• Take support and counseling of near and dear ones to bring change to the current situation

• Enroll yourself with some meditation or yoga classes (to ensure group spiritual practice), gyms, aerobics
or sports clubs to switch your focus, and to reorganize your priorities

• If you are in late stages of burnout, feeling deeply de-motivated and disenchanted with your job or life,
get help from a good psychologist.
A survey conducted by American Psychological Association cited that 62% Americans are
suffering from work related stress. This survey was taken in 2004. There is evidence that
stress in general is rising exponentially in our society. Work stress has been rated as the
most prevalent among the population, the second in the list is family related stress.

What is work stress? Quite simply it is any abnormal or continued stress which is felt on day
to day basis in a professional or work centric environment. It is quite normal to feel slightly
stressed while working, usually because we are trying to focus and concentrate, but if the
levels of stress exceed the norm, or if there is a continuity of stress without relief, to the
extent of causing mental disturbance then you are suffering from abnormal stress in the
workplace.

What are the causes of work stress?

A list of the most common causes of work stress in today’s professional environment is cited
below

1. Role of technology on work related stress – Our work style has become completely
sedentary due to the influx of technology in our lives. Human beings are quite naturally
adapted to leading a physically active lifestyle and our current habits are contrary to our
physical needs. Muscle pain, back aches, neck pains, eye strain and other joint pains are a
direct result of a computer oriented work culture. We’ve become like machines tapping
away on a keyboard.

2. Stress due to noise in open office – Silence and peace go hand in hand. The
continuous buzz of activity and noise around the office is a source of tremendous stress for
most employees. Their nerves are always on the edge due to all the nervous tension around
them. An open office will infer that there is no privacy either with leads to more stress.

3. Stuck in a job without interest – Most employees are dissatisfied with their jobs,
usually because it does not allow them to express their inherent potential or creativity. We
humans are creative beings and there is a deep seated need to give expression to our
creativity in some form or the other. A mundane or dull job usually does not meet this
criteria, leaving us with acute job stress.

4. Abnormal job timings - Due to increased lay offs and reduced job openings, employees
find themselves compromising with their personal life to suit their job requirements. Night
shifts and overtime are becoming normal these days because there seems to be an urgent
need to stay continuously productive. In the long run, these odd work timings tend to eat
into our personal life to an extent of almost alienating us from our family causing a lot of
work place stress.

5. Friction with colleagues – With increased competition comes increased friction; every
employee is trying to get ahead of the other. It is difficult to find harmonious friends in such
an environment. Humans have an inherent need to bond and work in social groups, but the
present scenario does not allow for it. This factor is quite significant causing stress in
workplace.

6. Incompatible managers – Most workers are stressed out because of their managers. If
your superior is not appreciative of your efforts and has little understanding of your working
methods then it can cause of lot of unnecessary job stress. Some managers are known to
be of the paranoid sort who continuously pressurize their staff asking for frequent updates
and setting non-attainable deadlines.

7. Too much work load – Not everyone is gifted at time management and even those who
are really skilled at organizing find themselves overloaded most of the times these days. It
always one deadline after the other with no time for a breather. The work just piles on daily
leaving little room for planning, so most of the work gets done in a stressful manner.

8. Job insecurity – Outsourcing and cut backs go hand in hand. This may be a good thing
as far as globalization is concerned but employees find it very stressful. Living on the edge
with no job security can play havoc on the nerves. Layoffs are stressful for the concerned
employees as well as their colleagues who feel they are next in the line.

9. Poor work compensation – Close to 73% Americans have cited money as the most
stressful factor in their lives. Since your work is the only source income any insecurity at the
financial level will directly increase your work stress. Several employee work in resentment
because they believe their pay package is too low for their position. Such thoughts and
feelings leads to increased job stress.

10. Hostile job environment – If your office feels like a battleground where your basic
needs of personal security are threatened, it is quite difficult to keep sane. Work place
harassment is on the rise, women are the usual targets but it is quite true for a lot of men
also. If it is usual for your superior to throw temper tantrums at every meeting, then the
very thought of the next meeting would cause your stress levels to increase dramatically.

11. Discrimination at workplace – There may be cases of racial or cultural discrimination


in any office, some of it is direct while most of it stays indirect. Any employee who feels
victimized by discrimination is bound to feel stressed at workplace, not only because of the
alienation but because of the stigma itself.

12. Job related travel – Even though some people might like traveling, there is nothing
more strenuous than a packed schedule of continuous travel. One can never be at peace
when half the day involves traveling to and fro between client locations. Work related
traveling as source of stress is quite prevalent in most marketing jobs.