The 10 Main Causes of Stress at Work - The Mind Map
By Ellis Toner

The 10 Main Causes of Stress at Work

Workplace stress has been linked with the global and national recession, job insecurity and work intensity.

Published 01/07/2021
If stress on the job is interfering with your work performance, health, or personal life, it may be time to take action.

Excess stress is credited with causing greater workloads and more relationship conflicts.

Stress can have an impact on children’s mental health as it disrupts parenting.

Strain in the workplace is the result of exposure to a range of different work stressors.

Work stressors depend on the characteristics of the workplace and can take various forms.

Each organisation or industry will have its own different characteristics and stresses.

Theoretical models of stress consider job or work stress to relate to;

  1. Difficult or traumatic life events
  2.  Stressful environments
  3. The individual’s physiological and psychological responses to stressors
  4. A‘transactional’ interaction between the individual and environment

What are the Top 10 Causes of Stress at Work?

  • Unrealistic Expectations / Deadlines

A significant cause of stress in the workplace can come from the pressure of deadlines, or expectations that are too high.

One way to manage this kind of job related stress is to have an open and honest chat with your manager.

Discuss what is realistic for you.

  • Conflict

A major cause of job related stress comes from conflicts within relationships in the workplace.

Good communication is key here. Meditation and mindfulness can help improve your patience.

  • Too much / Too little work

Balance is key to avoiding stress within the workplace. Too little work can be as big a stress as too much.

Limited opportunities for decision-making (often referred to as low decision latitude) can affect morale.

Don’t take on more than you can handle in the workplace, but don’t let yourself get too comfortable either!

  • No advancement opportunities

It’s important you feel valued and like you can grow within your job.

Speak to your employer about opportunities. Set yourself your own goals.

This will manage your work related stress by giving you a sense of control back.

A feeling  of unimportance is another massive contributing factor to work related stress.

  • Poor Management

To avoid job related stress it is important you have a mutually respectful relationship with your manager.

Bad management can cause a host of issues related to workplace stress.

If you feel you are being badly managed don’t be afraid to speak out.

Research has shown stress often relates to the management’s style of leadership.

Lack of warmth and support, or a feeling that staff are unimportant.

  • Bad Communication

Misunderstandings, confusion  and chaos can arise from bad communication.

It is key to a stress free workplace. Be honest and straightforward with colleagues.

Tackle any issues before they escalate.

Insufficient praise is another communication error that causes workplace stress.

  • Poor compensation / benefits

Financial worry is a big cause of physical and emotional problems.

A great deal of stress in the workplace is related to this.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve, and communicate openly if you feel undervalued.

  • Poor physical environment

Cramped working spaces, poor cleanliness, lack of facilities.

All these things contribute to job and workplace stress.

  • High staff turnover

It doesn’t speak well for the company if staff come and go.

Constantly changing staff cause an unsettled feeling. This will also contribute to workplace stress.

Be wary of a company who can’t seem to keep their employees for long.

Research has found that work is the most stressful factor in people’s lives.

One in three people (34 per cent) experience stress at work.

(More than debt or financial problems (30 per cent) or health (17 per cent).)

Workplace stress has resulted in 7 per cent (rising to 10 per cent in 18 to 24 year olds) having suicidal thoughts.

One in five people (18 per cent) develop anxiety from workplace stress.

Stress is the single biggest cause of sick leave in the UK.

105 million days are lost to stress every year at a cost of £1.24billion.

Ways to manage Workplace Stress
  •  Take regular breaks
  • Put self-care at the top of your to do list
  • Eat away from your desk
  • Take time for yourself to reset and refresh
  • Socialise with colleagues
  • A connection with those you work with can help you become less stressed
  • Manage your diary effectively-
  • Make sure you allow for breaks in between meetings.
  • Keep a work life balance
  • Engage in activities outside of work that you enjoy! Hobbies or relaxation.
  • Don’t work beyond your hours-
  • In the long term this is a sure way to increase your likelihood of workplace stress
  • Recognise the emotional impact of things outside of the workplace
  • Reflect on what parts of your stress are because of work related issues or personal issues.

What is Stress?

What happens to the body during stress?

The body’s autonomic nervous system controls;

your heart rate


vision changes

and other important physiological aspects of the body.

You have a built-in stress response; the “fight-or-flight response,”

This helps the body face stressful situations.

When a person has long-term (chronic) stress, continued stress causes wear and tear on the body.

Physical, emotional and behavioural symptoms can develop.

These may include

  • Aches and pains.
  • Chest pain
  • Exhaustion or trouble sleeping.
  • Headaches, dizziness or shaking.
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle tension or jaw clenching.
  • Stomach or digestive problems.
  • Trouble having sex.
  • Weak immune system.

Work related Stress  (or any kind of stress) can lead to emotional and mental symptoms like:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic Attacks
  • Sadness.
  • Lethargy

Some people try to manage work related stress with unhealthy behaviours including:

  • Drinking too much or too often.
  • Gambling.
  • Overeating or developing an eating disorder.
  • Participating compulsively in sex, shopping or internet browsing.
  • Smoking.
  • Using drugs.

How is work related stress diagnosed?

Stress is not measurable with tests.

Only the person experiencing it can determine if they are stressed.

There are different questionnaires to understand your work related stress and how it affects your life.

If you have chronic stress, you may develop physical symptoms that can be measured.

For example, high blood pressure can be diagnosed and treated.

What are some strategies for stress relief?

You can’t avoid stress, but you can stop it from becoming overwhelming by practicing some daily strategies:

  • Exercise when you feel symptoms of stress coming on. Even a short walk can boost your mood.
  • Think about what you’ve accomplished — not what you didn’t get done.
  • Set goals. This will help you feel more in control of the moment and long-term tasks and reduce the likelihood of workplace stress.
  • Consider talking to a therapist about your worries.
  • Browse our handpicked accredited and friendly Mind Map counsellors here:

What are some ways to prevent stress?

  • Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises.
  • Take good care of your body! Eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep
  • Practice gratitude, acknowledging the good in your life.
  • Accept that you can’t control everything! Let go of worry about situations you cannot change.
  • Learn to say “no” to extra work when you are too busy or stressed;
  • set boundaries (read our article on boundaries with prolific wellness coach Michelle Elman, here:
  • Stay connected with people who make you happy so stress doesn’t become overwhelming.
  • Look for satisfaction and meaning in your work.
  • Even in a dull job, you can often focus on how your contributions help.
  • Place your focus on aspects of the job that you do enjoy.

Changing your attitude towards your job can help give you a sense of control and purpose.

Health Implications

The effects of job-related strain are evident in workers’ physical health with both short and long term implications.

These effects occur in a continuum, beginning as distress in response to stressors.

Distress, in turn, leads to

  • elevated blood pressure and anxiety, (which increase the risk of coronary heart disease)
  • substance abuse
  • anxiety disorders.

Studies have shown that workplace stress leaves employees at high risk of cardiovascular disease

As-well as conditions that prelude cardiovascular disease:

  • obesity
  • high blood cholesterol
  • high blood pressure

and of adverse cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke.

There is also a growing body of evidence that work-related stress increases one’s risk of diabetes.

Other physical health problems linked to workplace stress include

immune deficiency disorders

musculoskeletal disorders like chronic back pain

gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

How long does stress last?

Stress can be a short-term issue or a long-term problem.

It will help you to reach out for support sooner rather than later so symptoms don’t get worse.

Reach out for support when you feel the symptoms of work related stress appear.

Different relaxation techniques and talking therapies can help you avoid most symptoms of work related stress.

Sleep, healthy eating and exercise will all help you with your job related stress too.

Where can I get support and advice about work related stress?

Seek medical attention

  • if you feel overwhelmed
  • When you find you are using drugs or alcohol to cope
  • if you have thoughts about hurting yourself.

Counselling can help with stress. Here’s how:

You’ll develop self awareness.

Counsellors will listen to you non judgementally and help you gain clarity

They may offer you guidance but they don’t tell you what to do.

The aim is to help you to feel empowered to tackle your problems on your own.

Counselling for work related stress will allow you to see things more objectively.

It can also ensure you are putting self care first.

  • Counselling can help you achieve your goals.
  • If you want to reduce stress in your job and in your life generally,
  • or you aren’t sure of what your goals are,

Therapy can help you set realistic steps to meet these aims.

  • Counselling can help you have more fulfilling relationships.

Whether in or out of work if you are experiencing high levels of stress your relationships will suffer.

Counselling can help you address difficulties with relating to others.

It can help you to see how your work related stress may be affecting this part of your life.

  • You’re more likely to have better health.

Research supports a link between mind and body wellness.

Untreated mental health issues can impact physical wellness.

People in good emotional health may be more able to deal with physical health issues that arise.

  • Therapy can lead to improvement in all areas of life.

If you feel like something is holding you back therapy can help you address this..

Are you are experiencing job or work related stress?

Would you like to talk to someone in a confidential and safe environment?

Take a look at our expert counsellors here. 

How can managers or employers reduce stress at work?

Stressed employees means lower productivity, lost workdays, and a higher turnover of staff.

As a manager, supervisor or employer, you can help lower stress in the workplace.

Talk to your employees.

Find out what makes their job stressful.

They may be things that are easily managed and doing this will also help employees to feel more secure and valued.

Communicate one-on-one.

Help your employees feel heard and understood.

Deal with workplace conflicts in a calm way.

Respect the dignity of each employee and refuse to accept bullying behaviour.

A little bit of stress isn’t bad

It can help you stay focused, energetic, and able to meet new challenges.

Stress makes your body produce adrenaline to keep you going, get you through a presentation or stay alert.

It can prevent accidents or mistakes.

But if work feels like an emotional rollercoaster, your level of stress might be too high.

If you are feeling worried, drained, and overwhelmed stress is not helping – it is hindering you.

You can’t control everything in your work environment, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless.

There are many things you can do to reduce your overall stress levels.

You can regain a sense of control at work. You are not alone.

For further support take a look around our website for free support and signposting.

Or, book a session with one of our accredited counsellors today.