Tackling the causes of stress in the workplace.

Organisations have a responsibility when it comes to helping employees manage stress.

Stress accounts for 60% of productive days lost in organisations based in Europe. A study by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in 2015 showed that it is the second most reported work-related health problem after musculoskeletal disorders.

There are two ways to categorise the causes of work-related stress: context to work i.e. potentially dangerous conditions and content of work e.g. Fishing, Aircraft piloting, mining and logging

As well as typically dangerous professions, context to work includes a poor organisational culture, role ambiguity and interpersonal relationships at work. “Context of work” relates to work environment and equipment, workload and work schedule. Guidelines for dealing with work-related stress emphasises the obligation of the employer to ensure that employee health is not endangered through the course of their work, including stress and mental wellbeing. It should also be noted that stress is a significant cause of many physical and mental health issues.

Taking a managed approach to dealing with stress in the workplace will ultimately improve the environment and productivity levels.


Organisational culture.

The benefits of having a positive and structured organisational culture should not be overlooked in any company, regardless of size. Poor communication and consistently changing organisational objectives and structures can cause notable stress for employees. Companies can manage this by creating clear, well-managed operational structures and workflows.

Role ambiguity.

It’s important that each employee is completely confident in what their role is and what it means within the company. Smaller companies, in particular, tend to change the definition and responsibilities of employees’ roles and this can be frustrating and ultimately unproductive for both the company and the employee. Clearly defining roles and developing a specification for each job within the company is important for preventing stress.

Career development.

Feeling as though there is no way up the ladder, uncertainty over job security, poor pay and a perception than one role is less valuable to the company than another are all serious causes of stress that a company can and should address. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) plans for individuals and regular communication, due praise and encouragement are all ways that stress in this area can be prevented.

Interpersonal relationships at work.

The social aspect of work should not be ignored. It’s important that employees feel as though they belong and that the relationships they build in work are supportive. Encouraging a positive social environment by having a social committee, developing a team building program and finding ways employees can interact on work and non-work-related subjects will create an overall inclusive environment, giving employees one less thing to worry about.

Work environment & equipment.

Clean, comfortable working environments along with equipment that is safe and works effectively are basic things, but they are things which help the work environment feel pleasant, thus avoiding any extra causes of stress.

Workload and work schedule.

An overloaded list of work tasks, lack of control and unreasonable time pressures are causes of great stress among workers. It is management’s responsibility to ensure that no one worker is overpressured with an unmanageable workload, or one which does not fit the remit of their role and/or skills. Poorly managed shift work schedules, longer-than-contracted working hours and inflexible schedules are also causes of stress and poor mental health in the workplace. Employers should accept responsibility for encouraging a sociable and reasonable work schedule and ensuring that employees are not being overworked.

Interested in learning more about mental wellbeing in the workplace? Read our guide to Employee Financial Wellbeing and learn how to address one of the most common causes of stress in workers. >> Read