Stress in the Workplace – Stress Factors to Recognise and Effective Ways to Both Manage and Support Stress in the Workplace


At some stage, everyone will experience a form of stress in the workplace, whether that is specifically work-related or the impact from personal factors outside of work. Stress can manifest in many ways, from minor stresses to huge stressors that can have a significant impact on day-to-day life.

“Stress can be defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. Stress is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats in our lives. Everyone experiences stress to some degree.” – World Health Organization.

Many of us spend a large proportion of our time in work, so it’s unsurprising that a great number of people will experience stress at work. According to the American Institute of Stress, 80% of workers feel stress on the job and nearly half say they need help to learn how to manage stress.

Stress factors in the workplace

Various factors in the workplace can be linked to stress, we’ll explore potential work-related stress factors in a little more detail and offer practical advice to manage stress effectively or support others experiencing stress.

  • Demands of your job – This could be in relation to working long hours, increased workload, and working to tight deadlines.
  • Lack of control – Having limited control over your role and role direction can over time lead to stress for individuals.
  • Relationships with managers and colleagues – Conflict in team relationships and lack of team alignment can result in negative work environments which can lead to stress.
  • Significant change – Change can disrupt day to day routines and leave employees feeling out of the loop and result in stress, especially when change isn’t communicated in the right way.
  • Lack of clarity and understanding – If an individual feels they have limited understanding of a role and a lack of clarity about their work and contributions, they can feel dis-engaged and demotivated. This can put pressure on their day to day role and lead to a feeling of stress.
  • Insufficient support – Without adequate support and direction from a manager, this can result in decreased morale and impact potential stress.

In the 2022 Global Workplace Report by Gallup, 44% of employees across the world stated they experience workplace stress on a daily basis. Not only do work situations impact individuals, but personal life events and experiences may also result in stress that filters into the workplace. Stress can also lead to increased absenteeism with around 1 million workers in the US missing work each day due to stress – The American Institute of Stress.

It’s important to recognise the signs yourself if you’re experiencing stress but it’s also important for colleagues, especially managers to be aware of common signs of stress too.

If stress isn’t managed effectively, it can lead to physical burnout. The World Health Organisation defines burnout as a person experiencing feelings of exhaustion or energy depletion, reduced professional efficiency, and increased mental distance from the job and negative feelings around the job. Mental Health America conducted research on workplace stress and highlighted that 76% of people who took part in the survey felt that workplace stress affects their mental health and have experienced burnout as a result.

Managing stress at work

  • Ensure you take breaks and gain balance – Taking short breaks away from work throughout the working day is important for your wellbeing and concentration. It’s also important to strike a healthy work life balance and take adequate time off work through paid leave.
  • Prioritise self-care and mindfulness – This is unique to each individual and is a way to reduce stress by a method that works most effectively for you.
  • Talk and don’t be afraid to ask for help – While it can be daunting, talking about the stress you are feeling and reaching out for help is a huge step in the right direction to managing your stress factors more effectively.
  • Look after your health both physical and mental – Physical and mental wellbeing work alongside one another. Focus on your eating, drinking and sleeping habits as well as increasing the amount of physical activity you are participating in.
  • Establish what causes stress, and what overcomes it – Defining the root cause of stress will allow you to create an effective solution to manage the stress you are experiencing.

What can businesses do to help support employees?

While individuals can find effective ways to cope and manage stress in the workplace, it’s important for employers to be aware of potential signs of stress, and support employees in managing stress.

Facilitating a supportive and approachable work environment will encourage employees to feel comfortable to approach managers to get the support they need when dealing with work-related stress.

Managers and team members can be aware of signs of stress to look out for such as changes in work performance, emotional behaviour, signs of withdrawal such as lateness and reduced social interaction plus other signs which are highlighted in this factsheet by CIPD.

Tips for Managers

  • Always remain open minded and considerate to how the employee might be feeling, empathy and confidentiality are both equally as important.
  • Ensure you allow sufficient time to have a meeting or conversation with the employee within the working day.
  • When asking questions to establish causes of stress, how the employee is feeling and considering the best actions to take – Ask open questions.
  • Carefully listen to what the employee tells you, take everything on board and be patient as some conversations may be difficult for the employee to delve into.
  • Work together with the employee to find an effective coping method, recognise when external professionals may need to be considered.

Throughout the year there are days and significant dates which focus on building awareness of stress in the workplace and effective ways to manage workplace stress. While these days are positive and a great way to recognise common stresses at work and encourage ways to support, workplace stress happens all year round.

Below we have highlighted some useful resources for those seeking ways to manage workplace stress, managers keen to establish more effective ways to support teams and for those keen to increase their awareness and recognise the signs of stress.

Useful resources: