The Health Risks Of Workplace Stress

Defining Stress

Many employees today work in a high-pressure environment that can lead to feelings of stress, particularly when people feel that they cannot cope with pressures and other issues that arise. The Health and Safety Executive of the UK defines stress as the ‘adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand.’ However, the triggers of stress can be different for each individual, and factors such as skills, age, personal issues, or experience may all make a difference.

The Health Risks Of Workplace Stress - image 000Signs of Stress

Prolonged stress can cause a multitude of illnesses, not least high blood pressure, tension headaches, back pain, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and many other kinds of ailment. Although there are medications available to treat many of these complaints, it’s far better to avoid them in the first place. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize the signs of stress and take immediate action if any of these symptoms become a recurrent feature of a person’s daily working life.

For instance, if an employee begins to take more time off, arrive late, or show signs of nervousness or anxiety, these can be signs that they are feeling under pressure. Other signs could include mood swings, angry outbursts, and other enhanced emotional reactions – loss of motivation, confidence, or commitment can also be signs that something is wrong.

Sometimes signs of stress can be prevalent in a whole team, which often means that the work environment and management of staff need careful analysis to understand what is causing the problems. In an organization, this can include high staff turnover, arguments, excessive sickness and stress absence, diminishing performance, grievances, and complaints.

Work Areas that Affect Stress

In general, there are six key areas of work design that impact on stress levels and which need to be appropriately managed to stop employees becoming stressed, ill, and absent:


These need to be manageable within the job role and appropriate to a person’s ability, age, and experience. If there is a mismatch, this will begin to make the employee feel disempowered and worried.


People like to feel they have some control over their workload and work environment and that they are valued and listened to, so assessment of this aspect is crucial.


Whatever the level of staff member status, everyone needs a framework that provides both work and welfare-related support so that staff receive enough training and assistance with any work or personal issues.


With multiple personality types working together, it is inevitable that some people will struggle to get along and co-operate. Hence, it’s important that relationships are managed and problems resolved if issues begin to arise.


Jobs are organic, and people’s roles will sometimes change, or other employees join and alter the dynamic of the team. It is important that employees are given a chance to evaluate their position and address any problems or questions they may have as well as any new training needs if aspects of their job change.


As creatures of habit, many people fear change, so if a work environment or job role is set to change, it is of vital importance to communicate this systematically and sensitively. This should be done in advance of changes in order to deal with any real or perceived issues or actions that may be needed to ensure a smooth transition for employees.

Nip Stress in the Bud

As a leading reason why staff become demotivated and ill in a modern workplace, it is definitely worth periodic risk assessments built into workplace design to undertake the management of stress issues.

Stress can cause all manner of illnesses that can become seriously detrimental if exposure is prolonged. Issues such as high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease could all potentially be made worse by stressful conditions. Therefore, ethical leadership and work design are a massive investment in any workplace, and can not only reduce stress levels but may prevent them from arising in the first place.


Interesting related article: “What is Quality of Life?