Work-related stress levels are rising. So it’s vital that UK employers know what can cause stress at work and how to manage it. That’s why we have put together this guide to some of the causes of stress at work.
By the end of this handy guide, you should have a much clearer idea of what exactly causes employee stress and what you can do as an employer to help. We’ve also included some statistics, so that you can see just how big an impact work-related stress can have.
How Many Employees Experience Stress at Work?
According to Champion Health’s Workplace Health Report: 2022, 34% of employees experience stress that has a negative impact on them and 28% report that high levels of stress impacts their productivity. A further 1% of employees feel overwhelmed with stress and cannot cope.
Other workplace mental health statistics go on to reveal that 67% of professionals are experiencing stress at moderate to high levels, and that 1 in 6.8 people (14.7%) experience mental-ill health in the workplace.
With these figures in mind, the importance of understanding and reducing stress at work is imperative. As business leaders, we need to do what we can to stop this ongoing problem.
10 Top Causes of Stress At Work
According to Champion Health’s 2022 report, workload was the number one listed reason for stress at work, with 76% citing workload as a source of negative workplace stress.
So it’s clear, managers and employers need to take steps within their organisations to avoid this. This could involve anything from hiring extra staff to taking a more strategic approach to project management.
For employees that are struggling with workload related stress, Mind has some key tips:
- Ask your manager for help.
- Try to balance your time.
- Reward yourself for achievements.
- Be realistic.
Lack of control
With 35% of employees citing lack of control as a cause of stress at work, it’s a factor we need to address. But what do we mean by a ‘lack of control’ in the workplace?
Broadly defined in How Good Jobs Went Bad and What We Can Do About It, control at work involves having meaningful discretion over how, when, and where work gets done. So what does this mean for management, HR and other business leaders?
It means we need to create more autonomy between employees and their workload. In turn, this should help employees avoid burnout and minimise their stress at work. To do this, business leaders need to relinquish some control and allow employees more flexible working arrangements, such as control over their workload, working from home or other reasonable adjustments.
Lack of support
Stressed out staff feel unsupported at work, says Mind. Their data shows 47% of employees cite not enough support from managers as a very or fairly stressful factor of their work.
HSE also reports that employees who don’t receive enough information and support at work could experience workplace stress as a result. So, what can you do as a business leader to better support your employees and help them cope with stress?
Many experts recommend creating an open-door policy, where employees feel comfortable coming to speak to their managers about any problems they’re facing. Additionally, offering regular feedback (both positive and constructive) can also make a big difference.
One of the best ways to show support for your employees’ wellbeing and stress levels is to provide business mental health training. This will ensure employees are better equipped to deal with stress at work and will have the tools they need to stay healthy and productive.
Champion Health’s data puts senior staff as the 4th most cited factor affecting workplace mental health (25%).
The second biggest contributing factor to workplace stress is management style, which has risen from 32% to 43% in the last year, a report by CIPD states. They go on to say:
“The worrying increase in management style as a key cause of workplace stress highlights the need for businesses to invest properly in management training, as well as wider well-being initiatives.”
In Mind’s research, nearly a third (30%) of respondents said they wouldn’t be able to talk openly with their line manager if they were stressed. Of the 14 per cent who had a diagnosed mental health issue, fewer than half (45 per cent) had told their current employer.
It’s clear that to the UK workforce, a good manager is one that is open, honest and supportive. So, if you’re a business leader, it’s important to create an environment where your employees feel comfortable coming to you with any problems they’re facing.
A toxic culture at work can be another cause of stress. According to Champion Health, 18% of employees cite their peers as one of the leading causes of stress at work.
When defining a toxic work culture, Aditya Jain, an associate professor in human resource management at Nottingham University Business School, who has studied stress, wellbeing and mental health in the workplace, states:
“A toxic work culture is one where workers are exposed to psychosocial hazards. They may have little or no organisational support, poor interpersonal relationships, high workload, lack of autonomy, poor rewards and a lack of job security.”
In light of this, it’s important for business leaders to create a work environment and culture that encourages peer-to-peer support. This could involve anything from regular team-building exercises to social events outside of work.
Additionally, as a business leader, you should also be aware of any employees who may be struggling and offer support where necessary. For example, you could provide access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or signpost them towards other sources of support.
According to CIPD, only 50% of managers have undergone training to support their staff to better manage stress.
In addition to this, out of the minority of organisations taking action to tackle absenteeism and presenteeism, only 37% of managers have been trained to spot the warning signs of either.
With these stats in mind, it’s clear that more needs to be done to support managers in identifying and managing stress within their teams. One way of doing this is by offering regular training and development opportunities on the topic.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training can be vital for reducing stress effectively at work. This training ensures your managers can effectively support themselves and their co workers through times of work stress, and helps everyone manage their work demands effectively.
Champion Health data also identifies job security issues as a cause of workplace stress, with 17% of employees citing job security as a leading cause of stress at work.
Results from this study go on to confirm that job insecurity can be a relevant stressor, reinforcing the conclusions obtained in previous studies that also showed these negative consequences of job insecurity on mental and physical health.
To tackle this, it’s important for leaders to instill regular 1:1s and career development meetings. Within these meetings, conversations around job security and how you are committed to investing in your employees’ development is a must.
For employees, Raffi Bilek, a director at The Baltimore Therapy Center, offers this advice:
“One important way you can weather a toxic work environment is to find one or two good friends you can trust in your workplace and offer each other support and a place to vent.”
Working from home
In 2021, a study by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) found that the biggest increases in mental distress and loneliness during the pandemic were felt by the most isolated group – those working from home and living alone.
For remote employees, stress at work can sometimes spill over into their personal life. As such, it’s vital that workplace stress initiatives are also fit for remote workers, encompassing both their work and home life.
Leaders can support employees by checking in on them regularly, being understanding of any distractions they may have at home and offering flexible working hours where possible.
In addition to this, employees themselves can manage stress by communicating any concerns they have to their employer, sticking to a daily routine and making time for socialising outside of work.
Some studies have demonstrated that long working hours contribute to psychological stress and work stress.
To counteract this, employers should ensure they’re not overworking their employees and that everyone has a good work-life balance. Employees can also take measures into their own hands by communicating any concerns they have about their workload to their employer, using their annual leave entitlement and taking regular breaks throughout the day to avoid burnout.
With the recent rise of the 4-day working week concept, this could be something organisations look into implementing in the future. Benefits may include employees having time to enjoy their hobbies and interests outside of work, without sacrificing their job or career progression. In turn, this may lead to improved work performance, focus and creativity.
Stress outside of work
While some causes of stress may originate from within the workplace, stress outside of work can have a huge impact on your work performance and ability to work effectively, too.
- Financial stress: 30% of employees cited financial wellbeing as a cause of stress outside of work.
- Sleep problems: 29% of employees report money worries are impacting their sleep.
Therefore, in these uncertain times, providing financial wellbeing support yo employees is important from both a moral and a business angle.
What Can Employers Do To Reduce Stress at Work?
While a once-a-year campaign on National Stress Awareness Day might feel like a useful investment, there are so many more ways you can help reduce stress in the work environment.
Preventing stress for UK employees should be a key priority for any business, no matter the size.
There are plenty of things you can do as an employer to help reduce stress at work, but here are some key initiatives:
- Invest in mental health awareness training: this will help to break the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace and ensure employees feel comfortable discussing any stress concerns they may have. With either MH Aware of MHFA training, your employees will receive the support they need to understand mental health and how to promote good mental wellbeing in the workplace.
- Promote a healthy work-life balance: this can be done by offering flexible working hours, encouraging employees to take their annual leave entitlement and not setting unrealistic workloads and deadlines. You can also make sure your employees are taking regular breaks, both mentally and physically, throughout the day.
- Encourage open communication: ensure employees feel comfortable communicating any concerns they have about their work with their line manager or another senior member of staff. By doing this, you can address any issues early on and prevent them from escalating into bigger problems.
- Create a healthy workplace environment: this means ensuring the physical workplace is stigma-free, comfortable and that there are ample opportunities for socialising and for development. Other ways to ensure a healthy workplace environment that helps to reduce your employees’ stress levels could include encouraging employees to talk about their mental health and ensuring regular wellbeing check-ins with your staff.
Looking For Expert Workplace Mental Health Training?
At Great Minds At Work, we offer a range of Business Mental Health Courses that can help you to reduce stress in the workplace.
Our MHFA Aware course is a half-day awareness training session that covers all the key topics surrounding mental health, including how to spot the signs of poor mental wellbeing, how to support someone who is struggling and how to create a mentally healthy workplace.
We also offer accredited MHFA training that trains employees to become Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace. This course covers a range of topics including anxiety, depression, stress at work and more, and provides employees with the skills and confidence to support colleagues who are struggling with their mental health.