There is a lot of variety in the way stress is perceived and defined. Many believe that a little bit of stress is good for performance, while too much is bad for your work and your health. But working hard shouldn’t be confused with stress from overworking or other serious matters related to the workplace. At some point, it is likely we will all experience workplace stress, and the reasons will be different in each case.

Here, we take a look at common causes of stress in the workplace and how to manage it more effectively, as well as, prevent it.

Stressful Jobs in the UK and the US

To begin, it is useful to take a look at how stress is perceived across different job roles. There's a lot of overlap in the lists below, and it's obvious that were your own, or other lives are on the line, that job is stressful. But there are key differences that reveal a big gap in the way stress is perceived. The UK list is made up of frontline public sector jobs. Does this say something about how we in the UK organise public services? Why are public sector jobs so stressful in the UK? Are teaching, nursing and social care "easier" in the US? That seems unlikely.

The US list has jobs such as General, PR, Photojournalist, does this indicate that stress is perceived as a natural part of a high-status job? However, those people in middle management jobs who are well paid are nearly as stressed as those at the low end of the pay scale.

UK Top 10 Stressful Jobs US Top 10 Stressful Jobs
Prison Officer Enlisted Soldier
Police Officer Firefighter
Social Worker Commercial Airline Pilot
Teacher Military General
Ambulance Driver Police Officer
Nurse Event Co-ordinator
Docter PR Executive
Firefighter Senior Corporate Executive
Dentist Photojournalist
Miner Taxi Driver

Causes of Stress in the Workplace

Not all stress is equal. Stress can occur for many reasons, some of these reasons we can control, and some of which we can’t control. Making this initial distinction is useful when taking the steps to manage our stress. Stress can be difficult to identify, but if you’re experiencing one of the below, it’s a sure sign you’re also experiencing stress.

Job insecurity and low pay is connected to stress

A lower salary normally doesn’t mean lower levels of stress. People who work in the public sector or in the NHS are subject to situations that are highly stressful. There’s also the fact that lower paying jobs can cause stress in other ways such as financial stress. For example, worrying about paying the bills or being able to find the money to enjoy daily activities.

Long hours and tight deadlines

Deadlines can be hard work at the best of times, but when they’re tight, conflicting, and there is more than one, they can be really overwhelming. Maybe you need to have multiple meetings in one day or you need a piece of work signing off immediately. In these situations, one thing is certain, you’re likely to feel your stress levels rise a lot.

Dealing with difficult employees or having poor relationships with peers

This is one challenge that many managers face and worry about. Knowing how to best respond in these situations is really difficult and can cause great stress, particularly if leaders are new to managing people. Employees who have problematic behaviour can drain your energy, leave you feeling anxious, and stop you from carrying out other important parts of your job.

The same goes for having poor relationships with colleagues. We all spend a lot of time at work, so failing to make strong connections with peers can have a big toll on your overall well being and job satisfaction.

Discrimination and Harassment

Being a victim of discrimination or harassment leads to a range of negative emotions and feelings such as anger, embarrassment, upset, and resentment. It can also make you feel low and affect your self-esteem. If it occurs over a long period of time, it can also have significant adverse effects on your health. Research shows that it can cause physiological changes such as: an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.

Other factors that could cause work-related stress include:

  • Few promotional opportunities

  • Lack of resources to help you carry out your role

  • Over-supervision

  • Changes to duties in a short period of time

  • Handling difficult situations and employees/colleagues

Strategies for Managing Controllable Stress in the Workplace

It’s sometimes easy to think about ways to manage stress, as we know, things are easier said than done. The hard part comes when you need to implement these strategies into your day to day life. However, looking into your daily practices and analysing small parts you can change is a useful starting point. Some more strategies for managing stress in the workplace include:

1. Consider how you can make changes to your daily habits

It is a good idea to start by thinking about your daily routine and the habits you practice each day. Do you get 8 hours of sleep every night? Do you remain active and eat healthy? Exercises like yoga can be a brilliant choice, and research shows that as little as 10 minutes a day can bring immense benefits. If there are areas where you can make small changes, try it, and see how you feel after a few days or weeks of implementing them.

Again, stress can’t always be controlled in this way, in which case, something outside of your control needs to change.

2. Make time for relaxation every day

Taking time out is essential to prevent the negative effects that burnout can have. Every day, we all need to take time to replenish and do something we enjoy. This might be going for a walk, listening to our favourite music, going to the gym, or spending time with our friends and family. We all enjoy different things and relax in different ways.

This time can be seen as a time of ‘recovery’ and it is necessary in order to come back to work and perform at our best. Don’t let your evenings or weekends be taken over by work. Wherever make sure you take time off to relax and decompress.

3. Create an open environment with your colleagues and employees

The earlier a problem is identified, the sooner it can be addressed and tackled. This means talking openly about your feelings related to stress in the workplace. Employers must take initiative here in order to create an environment that is open from day one. This way employees feel comfortable addressing any issues.

Employers Must Recognise Work-Related Stress as a Management Issue

It shouldn’t be the responsibility of individual employees to manage workplace stress. Employers need to recognise work-related stress as a significant health and safety issue. As a result, it is the employers responsibility to implement certain measures to ensure the safety of their employees. And there are times when procedures and practices in the company should be changed to increase the wellbeing of staff. Employers also have a legal obligation to keep their staff safe. These measures will likely include:

  • Maintaining a safe working environment free of physical and emotional threats.

  • Providing comprehensive training so everyone can carry out their job.

  • Practice an open culture whereby work-related stress is talked about.

  • Listen to employees should they raise a grievance and take appropriate action.

  • Implement a proper stress management policy

Advantages of Preventing and Managing Stress in the Workplace

Addressing stress in the workplace has a massive positive impact in the long run. From increased employee morale to an open, transparent culture, everyone will be happier. Some more advantages of preventing workplace stress include:

Create a strong company culture

Healthier employees who are put in less stressful situations will enjoy work more, and as a result, become more productive and creative. This is especially great in our contemporary world, when new, creative solutions are so important in all aspects of work.

Reduced symptoms of poor mental and physical health

As we know, people who are experiencing a great deal of stress over a long period of time are bound to burn out at some point. Putting in the right measures early is crucial to prevent this. This also results in reduced absenteeism across the board and a lot of savings for the company.

Increased productivity and great job fulfilment

When the employee morale is high and remains intact with the workplace relationship. It improves employee productivity. By using good stress management skills, there will be very little chance of customer complaints or poor decision making even in the most stressful situations.

Learning How to Manage Stress At Work

We hope you have found this blog post helpful and can identify stress more effectively. Learning to recognise stress in yourself or others is a vital management skill. Management training courses that address conflict management, and resilience can be a lifeline, and help managers thrive under pressure and know when it is time to make a concrete change.

If you’d like more information on the training courses we offer, please feel free to contact us on 0161 484 5002 or drop us an email at We will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

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