The six main causes of stress at work (and how to avoid them)

Stress is something that will likely affect all of us at some point in our lives. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), stress is “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures and demands placed on them”. People tend to feel stressed when they have a lot of responsibilities, too much to do, or have a lack of control over situations.

Feeling a little stressed now and again is normal, but if stress starts to affect people’s happiness and enjoyment of life, it can lead to physical illness as well as mental health issues, and can be debilitating. One of the most common causes of stress is work related stress.

Stress affects one in five of the working population, and is the single biggest cause of sick leave in the UK. With 105 million days lost to stress every year at a cost of £1.24billion, this 11is an issue that affects both employers and employees. To mark National Stress Awareness Day on November 4th, we thought we’d explore how to identify the causes, signs, and ways to manage and reduce stress at work.

Causes of stress at work

The most common causes of work related stress are work pressure, poor organisation and lack of support from managers. While some people thrive under pressure and do their best work with a looming deadline, others find these kinds of challenges very stressful. Identifying what causes you to feel stressed in the workplace is the first step in learning to manage stress.

Signs and symptoms of work-related stress

If you feel stressed at work, your productivity and efficiency will be affected, which can cause your stress to worsen. There are a number of ways stress can affect your health and wellbeing. Common symptoms of stress include:

  • Mood swings
  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including constipation, nausea and diarrhoea
  • Rapid heartbeat and chest pain
  • Insomnia or lack of sleep
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Loss of libido

Managing work-related stress

Learning to manage stress is one of the best ways to combat it. While it is impossible to eliminate stress completely, being better equipped to deal with stressful situations can help people to cope better. The Help Guide recommends improving your stress levels and overall wellbeing by:

  • Taking responsibility for your physical and emotional well-being.
  • Avoiding pitfalls by identifying negative behaviours that cause stress in the workplace.
  • Learning better communication skills to improve your relationships with colleagues and management.

There are also a number of strategies employers can adopt in order to better manage and deal with situations that may cause stress in employees. The HSE has developed the Management Standards for work related stress which covers the six key areas it considers to be the primary sources of stress at work. These include:

  • Demands
  • Control
  • Support
  • Relationships
  • Role
  • Change

If these areas are well maintained, employee stress will be reduced. This will have a positive impact on productivity and also reduce absenteeism, saving the company money and boosting staff morale.

Have you experienced stress at work? If so, what was the primary cause and how did you resolve the issue? Tweet us at @Iesohealth or post a comment on our Facebook page.

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