Workplace Stress – Causes And Prevention

Workplace Stress
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With April being stress awareness month, we want to further provide our knowledge and give advice around this subject. Last week we discussed the symptoms and health implications of stress, which can be read here. This week we will look at the causes of stress and some forms of prevention.

Stress Recap

According to the HSE, workplace stress is ‘a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work’. It accounts for over a third of reported ill health and 43% of ill health related absence from work. Stress can lead to numerous health problems, therefore it’s vital to know how to prevent it.

Causes Of Stress

The main cause of stress is thought to be unreasonable pressures at work. However, this is not the only cause of work place stress. Below are six other common causes.

Task Related Factors – Stress can occur if the individual feels they don’t have the mental or physical capability to complete the task.

Interpersonal Factors – An employee can become stressed through everyday interactions with people. For example, they could be subject to abuse, harassment or bullying.

Role Ambiguity – If the employee hasn’t got a clear picture on what their role entails, it can create a very stressful situation for them.

Role Conflict – Stress can develop if an employee is receiving opposing demands from different people. This can be especially stressful if they prevent them attaining their goals and objectives.

Lack of Recognition – If an employee isn’t receiving recognition or praise for a job done well, it can have a large impact on their morale. This could therefore lead to stress in the long run.

Personal Threat – Job security can be a large factor in causing stress in the workplace. The prospect of losing your job is a stressful situation for everyone. For example, through being made redundant.


Stress Prevention

In 2004, the HSE produced the first Management Standards for tackling workplace stress. The standards cover six areas: Control, Demands, Support, Relationships, Role and Change. It describes the causes of stress and the necessary steps in combatting it. Below are some examples on how to combat stress in each area.

Control – Where possible, employees should have control over the pace at which they work and should have a say on when they can take breaks.

Demands – The demands set by the employer should be achievable based on the hours worked by the employee. The job requirements should also match the skills and experience of the employee.

Support – Employees should be made aware of the support available to them if they are feeling stressed with sufficient policies and procedures being put in place to promote that support. Furthermore, employees should receive regular feedback as this will clarify expectations and show that they’re capable of doing their job.

Relationships – The organisation should have the appropriate standards in place to encourage employees to report inappropriate behaviour. These standards should also detail how managers will react to any reported behaviour which should help prevent the behaviour happening in the first place.

Role – Employers should provide the relevant information and requirements on the job role to prevent any uncertainty. In addition, systems should be in place to allow employees to raise any concerns with their role.

Change – If a change in job role is to happen, the employer should give plenty of notice to allow any preparation to take place and should provide support through the changes.

Manager’s Responsibilities

Managers play a critical role in identify and reducing employee issues. A manager should be willing to discuss any issues with employees and develop action plans on how to overcome any stress. Below are some other key responsibilities for managers.

  • Conduct stress risk assessments
  • Be aware of training and development needs of employees
  • Maintain good communication
  • Monitor and review workloads and work hours
  • Manage poor performance before it becomes a burden on other employees


Eric’s Top Tip

Eric has had this to say on stress ‘Make sure to manage your workload as it can be stressful if it all builds up. Look to add structure to your day so you know where you’re going to be during the day. In addition, Arrange regular one to one meetings with your supervisors as this will help identify any changes that need to be made to your workload. 


What Sure Safety Can Offer

Stress can lead to high absenteeism and decreased productivity. Sure Safety’s consultants can help by conducting risk assessments to identify factors that could be causing high levels of stress. In addition, we can provide stress awareness training to help you and your employees identify the symptoms and we can review you policies to make sure stress is identified.

To arrange a consultation , call 029 2086 8802 or email

Sure Safety can offer consultancy in the following areas: Health and Safety, Risk Assessment, Fire, Accreditation, Training and Policies, Planning and Management Systems. For more information on these services, look at our website.  Or you can check out our Twitter and Facebook.