Tackling the Top 5 Causes of Workplace Stress

In the modern workplace, stress has become a constant companion for many employees. The impact is not just on the individual’s health and wellbeing but extends to organisations’ overall productivity and morale. 

Understanding the causes and implementing effective strategies to manage workplace stress is key to fostering a healthy, high-performing work environment.

The Impact of Workplace Stress on Mental Health

Stress at work can manifest in various ways, affecting everything from job satisfaction and performance to an individual’s physical and mental health. Constant pressure on the job can lead to burnout, characterized by a state of physical and emotional exhaustion.

The impact of work related stress on UK businesses is significant. According to research, a staggering 13.7 million working days are lost annually due to work-related stress, anxiety, and depression. This affects employees’ wellbeing and translates into substantial financial losses for companies, costing the UK economy approximately £28.3 billion each year. This data highlights the urgent need for organisations to address work related stress proactively, not just for the sake of their employees’ health but also to mitigate the economic impact.

The recent announcement by Rishi Sunak to address the so-called “sick note culture” in the UK, where employees take time off work due to stress and mental health issues, has further brought this issue into the limelight.

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  • Excessive Workload: The relentless pressure to meet deadlines and handle excessive workloads, often compounded by too much pressure and unrealistic work demands, is a major source of stress. This leaves employees feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. As organisations strive for increased productivity and efficiency, it is vital to ensure that employees are not overburdened with unreasonable expectations and a variety of work demands that exceed their capacity to cope. This includes long hours, responsibilities, conflict with co-workers or bosses, constant change, and threats to job security.
  • Lack of Support: A lack of support from managers or colleagues can exacerbate feelings of isolation and stress, making it difficult for employees to cope with job demands. It is essential for organisations to foster a culture of inclusion and provide support systems to help employees manage their workload effectively.
  • Poor Management: Leadership styles that are overly demanding or lack empathy can create a toxic work environment, contributing significantly to employee stress. It is crucial for organisations to invest in practical management training and promote a healthy work-life balance among managers.
  • Work-Life Balance: A critical stressor is the struggle to maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life, especially in jobs with long hours or inflexible schedules. Organisations can support work-life balance by offering flexible work arrangements, promoting self-care practices and encouraging employees to take breaks.
  • Changes at Work: Organisational changes, such as restructuring, new responsibilities, or adapting to new technologies, can create uncertainty and lead to stress. It is essential for organisations to communicate changes effectively and provide adequate support to help employees adapt.

Employers can implement several strategies to address these issues effectively:

  • Redefining Expectations: Employers should set realistic goals and avoid overloading employees with excessive workloads. Establishing clear communication expectations and providing resources to achieve these can significantly reduce pressure and prevent burnout.
  • Enhancing Support Systems: Building a culture where employees feel valued and supported is pivotal. This can be achieved through mentoring programs, mental health resources, and fostering a team-oriented atmosphere where help is readily available.
  • Investing in Management Training: It is essential to train managers to recognise the signs of stress and burnout in their teams. Promoting leadership styles that emphasise empathy, effective communication, and support for employees’ wellbeing can transform the work environment.
  • Promoting Work-Life Balance: Offering flexible working hours, remote work options, and encouraging regular breaks helps employees manage their personal and professional lives more effectively. Acknowledging the importance of time off and creating policies that support work-life balance demonstrates a commitment to employee wellbeing.
  • Effective Communication During Changes: Employers must ensure that changes within the organisation are communicated transparently. Providing clear information, support, and training during transitions can help alleviate stress and make employees feel more secure in their roles.
  • Minimising Unnecessary Stress: Identifying and eliminating sources of unnecessary stress that do not contribute to productivity or employee well-being is crucial. This includes streamlining processes, delegating responsibility, and being willing to compromise to reduce job stress.

By actively addressing these stressors, employers can create a healthier, more productive work environment that prioritises employee mental health and wellbeing.

Which Employers Are Getting it Right?

Several UK employers excel in managing work related stress and making employee mental health a priority. Innocent Smoothies stands out for its deeply ingrained supportive culture, ensuring its workforce’s mental wellness is always a focus. Santander UK also earns recognition on the UK’s Best Workplaces™ for Wellbeing list thanks to its commitment to creating a supportive environment with effective practices and policies.

Marshalls Motor Holdings PLC is notable, too, with its strategies for prioritising employee wellbeing, which earned it a spot on the prestigious list. Irwin Mitchell is recognised for its well-designed wellbeing initiatives, marking it as one of the UK’s Best Workplaces™ for Wellbeing. Deloitte UK leads in holistic wellbeing support, promoting work-life balance and psychological safety and creating a healthier, more productive work environment.

These companies demonstrate how prioritising employee wellbeing as a core part of their culture leads to success. Their achievements highlight the clear connection between employee wellness and organisational prosperity.

Tools and Resources to Manage Stress

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Employers can help employees manage stress in several ways, including mindfulness and meditation apps, stress management workshops, and employee assistance programs (EAPs) offering counselling and psychological support.

Offering activities like yoga can promote relaxation and relieve stress. Helping employees to adopt a new perspective on work issues, focus on the positives, resist perfectionism, and clean up their workspace are also effective strategies to alleviate stress. Making a conscious effort to flip negative thinking and find humour in challenging situations can also help in managing workplace stress more effectively.


The conversation around work related stress is evolving, recognising the complex interplay between individual wellbeing and organisational health. By addressing the root causes of stress and creating supportive environments, businesses can enhance employee wellbeing and, in turn, drive better organisational outcomes.

Encountering and mitigating work related stress is a shared responsibility, requiring a strategic and compassionate approach from HR professionals, managers, and employees alike. Sharing experiences and insights can be immensely valuable, so we encourage our readers to reflect on their practices and consider new strategies to enhance workplace wellness.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs and sources of workplace stress?

Work related stress can stem from various sources, such as long hours, tight deadlines, lack of control over workload, fear of redundancy, and difficult relationships with colleagues. It’s important to address these factors to promote a healthier work environment.

How can I manage workplace stress through self-care techniques?

To manage work related stress through self-care, consider incorporating mindfulness practices, regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, and setting clear work-life boundaries. These techniques can help alleviate stress and improve overall wellbeing.

How can open communication help reduce work related stress?

Open communication can reduce workplace stress by fostering honesty and trust and creating a more supportive work environment for employees. It ensures that employees feel heard and valued, ultimately leading to a positive impact on stress levels.

What role does conflict resolution play in managing work-related stress?

Effective conflict resolution is essential for maintaining a positive work environment and preventing issues from escalating and adding to workplace stress. It encourages collaboration and teamwork.

When should I seek professional help for work related stress?

Seek professional help for workplace stress when it begins to affect your work performance and personal life, particularly if it becomes overwhelming. Employee assistance programs and counselling services can offer the support and resources you need.

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