‘Work-related stress is a growing problem around the world that affects not only the health and well-being of employees, but also the productivity of organisations.’ Better health (2020).


Work-related stress arises where work demands of various types and combinations exceed the person’s capacity and capability to cope. Work-related stress is the second most common compensated illness/injury in Australia, after musculoskeletal disorders.


Common causes of work-related stress include:

  • Long hours;
  • Heavy workload;
  • Tight deadlines;
  • Insufficient skills for the job;
  • Over-supervision;
  • Lack of resources;
  • Few promotional opportunities;
  • Job insecurity;
  • Conflicts with co-workers or bosses;


Signs and Symptoms of workplace stress:

  • Fatigue;
  • Muscular tension;
  • Headaches;
  • Heart palpitations;
  • Sleeping difficulties;
  • Gastrointestinal upsets;
  • Dermatological disorders;
  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Discouragement;
  • Irritability;
  • Pessimism;
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to cope;
  • Cognitive difficulties – reduced ability to concentrate or make decisions;
  • Increased sick days and absenteeism;
  • Aggression;
  • Diminished creativity and initiative;
  • Decrease in work performance;
  • Problems with interpersonal relationships;
  • Mood swings and irritability;
  • Disinterest;


How can you cope with work stress?

  • Pay attention to your work-life balance. Burnout can occur if a person focuses their energy on one area of life while neglecting everything else.
  • Relaxation strategies: We love ‘Insight Timer’ with mindfulness starting at 5 minutes, making it easy to complete a session at work.
  • Problem solving: this is an active coping strategy that teaches people to take specific steps when approaching a challenge.
  • Think about the changes you need to make at work in order to reduce your stress levels and then take action.
  • Talk over your concerns with your employer or human resources manager.
  • Make sure you are well organised. List your tasks in order of priority. Schedule the most difficult tasks of each day for times when you are fresh, such as first thing in the morning.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
  • Don’t take out your stress on loved ones. Instead, tell them about your work problems and ask for their support and suggestions.
  • Drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, won’t alleviate stress and can cause additional health problems. Avoid excessive drinking and smoking.
  • Seek professional counselling from a psychologist.
  • If work-related stress continues to be a problem, despite your efforts, you may need to consider another job or a career change. Seek advice from a career counsellor or psychologist.


Benefits to employers helping to prevent stress in the workplace:

  • Reduced presentation of poor mental and physical health
  • Fewer injuries, less illness and lost time
  • Reduced sick leave usage, absences and staff turnover
  • Increased productivity
  • Greater job satisfaction
  • Increased work engagement
  • Reduced costs to the employer
  • Improved employee health and community wellbeing.


How to help reduce stress, as the employer:

  • Ensure a safe working environment.
  • Make sure that everyone is properly trained for their job.
  • De-stigmatise work-related stress by openly recognising it as a genuine problem.
  • Discuss issues and grievances with employees, and take appropriate action when possible.
  • Devise a stress management policy in consultation with the employees.
  • Encourage an environment where employees have more say over their duties, promotional prospects and safety.
  • Organise to have a human resources manager.
  • Cut down on the need for overtime by reorganising duties or employing extra staff.
  • Take into account the personal lives of employees and recognise that the demands of home will sometimes clash with the demands of work.
  • Seek advice from health professionals, if necessary.


Sources: helpguide.org (2020). Harvard (2019). Better Health (2020).