What are the causes of stress in the workplace?

What are the causes of stress in the workplace?

When you say causes of stress at the workplace “It’s just work stress” which is often the response we get when we ask a family or friend why they appear tired, seem wound up or feel upset. In fact, we’re used to hearing it so often that we may brush it off insouciantly. However, any indication of stress at the workplace should not automatically be deemed a socially acceptable response as this may point to various underlying sources of distress which can negatively impact on one’s mental well-being.

When we talk about causes of stress at the workplace, we’re addressing the psychological and physical state an individual is in when they are unable to cope with the demands and pressures of any given situation. Here are some of the factors that may result in stress at the workplace:

  • Relationships at work 
    Research published in the British Medical Journal has shown that poor relationships in the workplace are a strong source of stress at the workplace (Michie, 2002). Strained relationships between a boss and employee, between colleagues or with clients and a lack of perceived support can lead one to feel anxious, low or irritable, leading to behaviours such as becoming withdrawn, aggressive, unmotivated or tearful.

  • Discrimination in the workplace
    Being discriminated through verbal or physical abuse, stereotyping, social exclusion or favouring other employees can lead an individual to feel ridiculed or victimised, impacting negatively on their self-esteem and their sense of belonging.

  • Work Overload
    When the workload is high and time is low, one is bound to feel off-balance. When the work that’s piling up becomes overwhelming and unmanageable, we may experience a persistent and debilitating level of stress are the real causes of stress.

  • Confusion about the role, responsibilities & boundaries
    An individual may take on a role excitedly but may not have the clarity of what exactly the job expectations are– they may end up doing something that is out of their job description, or worse out of their competence which can cause stress. This may have far reaching consequences in terms of health and wellbeing.

  • Career Development
    An employee who is consistently working the same role and doesn’t see themselves growing in their current role can feel frustrated and worried about their path ahead. Not seeing your professional development in your current workplace may be an underlying causes of stress.


Whilst these areas can cause individuals within an organisation to feel distressed, whether on a conscious level or at a subconscious one, there are various ways we can tackle the aforementioned issues. Effective interventions for reducing workplace stress 
involve both 1) a personal approach and 2) implementing changes at a systematic level:

  • Encourage workplace wellness
    Put the spotlight on the wellness of all members in the workplace, focusing on providing an environment that is optimal to work in. This may involve redesigning the space or ensuring individuals get enough time to catch a break, eat lunch and stretch if needed. Go the extra mile and check-in on colleagues. There may be stressors outside of work affecting one’s work and professional relationships such as illness in the family/ close circle, a failing marriage, bullying or feeling isolated and lending an ear can go a long way.

  • Plan social activities and team bonding
    It is important to connect with and understand the people you work with in a more holistic way. The organisation can arrange coffee meets, plan work retreats and set up team-building challenges to encourage individuals to bond and get to know one another outside of the work context.

  • Collaboration
    Whether it’s clarifying the job role or deciding on action points, a collaborative approach can help each individual to feel that they are an integral part of the team and can benefit by contributing to matters. As there are several parties contributing to the harmonious functioning of an organisation, it is imperative that voices at all levels of the organisation are heard and taken into consideration when making decisions that will impact all members.

  • Provide onsite trainings and counselling
    Tackling subjects like understanding diversity, building empathy and becoming inclusive in the workplace are essential and can combat workplace discrimination; trained professionals such as organisational psychologists can deliver said trainings to employees. Moreover, hiring trained mental health professionals to deliver individual counselling sessions and provide feedback to the organisation as a whole can promote implementing positive change.

  • Stress experienced at the workplace can undermine the achievement of goals, both for individuals and for organisations. Implementing good organisational practice such as assessing the causes and risk of stress amongst its members can go a long way. This involves identifying sources of pressures at work which could cause high and long-lasting levels of stress, whom this impacts and what can be done to prevent that harm.

    Facing stress related issues? Get in touch with us https://mpowerminds.com/seekhelp