Top 10 Causes of Stress at Work

Stress in the workplace is a reality that most workers face daily. However, stress is now much more than just a few hard moments a day: it’s now considered an illness.

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According to a study conducted in the UK, stress is the most common work-related illness in the country. Likewise, in the US, 83% of workers admit to suffering from work-related stress, with 25% of them affirming that their jobs are the number one cause of stress in their lives.

Short-term stress at work is often unavoidable, and it can even be perceived as “healthy” by some individuals.

However, when it becomes long-term and hard to manage, it should be addressed before it affects an employee’s health and performance.

If you struggle with stress at work or just wish to know more about the subject to help someone who might be dealing with this problem, keep reading this article.

We’ll explain the top 10 causes of stress at work and why they should be addressed in a job context.

Top 10 causes of stress at work

  1. Excessive workload
  2. Lack of control
  3. Toxic work environment
  4. Bullying and harassment
  5. Lack of development opportunities
  6. Poor relationship with managers
  7. Lack of job security
  8. Changes in the workplace
  9. Poor communication
  10. Insufficient training

1.  Excessive workload

According to CIPD, The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, excessive workload is the most common cause of work-related stress. But why does this happen?

As humans, we have limits that should be considered regarding our capability of handling the workload.

However, these limits are often ignored, both by managers who wish to keep productivity as high as possible and by employees who strive to succeed at their jobs.

Nonetheless, you should consider that if someone’s work limits are crossed, it can lead to high pressure levels, resulting in stress and decreased productivity.

In other words, the more you attempt to work, the less productive you become.

If you’re a team leader and you don’t know how to deal with employees who complain about the workload, our guide is what you need.

Understand your team’s workload

Track time together with your team to get a clear picture about teams’ workload and ensure that every team member has an appropriate amount of work

2.  Lack of control

It’s easy to assume that leaders probably have higher stress levels when compared to their employees. However, that’s far from the truth.

According to a study conducted in 2012, leaders usually have lower stress levels than non-leaders. And why? Because of control.

People in control tend to have lower stress levels because they feel they have the power and influence to make decisions.

On the other hand, a subordinate feels like not having any power and is being controlled by others, which can lead to increased stress levels.

3.  Toxic work environment

We’ve all heard about toxic work environments. But do we really know how to recognize them?

A toxic environment is often related to daily dramatic situations, absence of order, and dysfunctional behaviors by peers or bosses, among others.

If you recognize some of these behaviors, you probably, or have previously worked in a toxic environment.

Dealing with this kind of environment can lead to stress, especially if the toxicity is directly aimed at someone. Employees can start not feeling comfortable talking with their colleagues, causing stress and a lack of productivity during the workday.

4 people bullying a woman of their team

4.  Bullying and harassment

In more extreme cases, demanding bosses can become manipulative, controlling, and unprofessional. This can result in bullying and harassment behaviors.

A research conducted by the British Trade Union Confederation (TUC) on workplace bullying discovered that 29% of employees had been bullied at work, with 72% saying that it often comes from their manager.

Getting bullied can have serious psychological consequences for whoever is on the receiving end of it. Some of these consequences are fear, sadness, depression, difficulty concentrating, and trouble sleeping.

All of these can lead, in the end, to stress at work, as it becomes a place where one doesn’t feel happy or welcomed.

Understand your team’s workload

Track time together with your team to get a clear picture about teams’ workload and ensure that every team member has an appropriate amount of work

5.  Lack of development opportunities

Starting a new job and hoping to work your way up to a raise or a promotion can be very exciting. However, when that development opportunity doesn’t happen, it can be a huge punch in the stomach.

The feeling of your work being overlooked or not appreciated can be stressful, especially if your colleagues are being promoted and you just feel stuck in the same place.

Read our guide to learn how to deal with stress at work.

6.  Poor relationship with managers

Dealing with managers and bosses can be stressful, and that’s normal. However, if a boss doesn’t know how to lead a team and reveals to be manipulative, controlling, and unappreciative, among others, that can cause stress on the employers that work directly with them.

A manager is someone you’re supposed to look up to, admire, and follow. If their behavior doesn’t correspond to someone who should be admired, this can lead to an employee feeling lost without any guidance.

In the end, this feeling will probably lead to stress at work.

7.  Lack of job security

The lack of job security is one of the top causes of stress at work. Do you know why? Because working is not only a way to achieve fulfillment or happiness – it’s also a way to earn money, pay bills and loans and maintain a certain lifestyle.

Considering this, it’s natural that a lack of job security could lead to stress at the workplace. If you don’t know if you will have your next paycheck guaranteed, you can feel scared for your future, which can lead to stress.

8.  Changes in the workplace

Humans are creatures of habit. And when we are faced with changes in our habits, it can lead to stress. That also applies to the workplace.

According to a study conducted by Barbara Wisse and Ed Sleebos, changes in the workplace can lead to feelings of uncertainty. Thoughts like “Will I lose my job?”, “Will I have a new boss?” or “are my colleagues leaving?” are completely normal. These feelings and thoughts of uncertainty can lead to work stress.

9.  Poor communication

This is one of the biggest challenges of remote work and one of the main challenges for those who lead a remote team.

Workplace communication is very important to most professionals. However, it’s normal that you’ll find team members who lack communication skills. And this can be bad for your stress levels – here’s why.

Imagine your manager doesn’t know how to lead a team and communicate. It can be frustrating to not clearly understand the specific goals of a project or how it should be performed.

This can lead to the projects going astray, requiring more work to get back on track. What comes with more work? Yes, more stress. 

And that’s why setting realistic goals and communication are so important – it guarantees that everyone is going in the same direction, no matter what.

Understand your team’s workload

Track time together with your team to get a clear picture about teams’ workload and ensure that every team member has an appropriate amount of work

a man learning at work

10.   Insufficient training

To perform a job, you usually need to be well-trained to perform it – it’s just common sense.

So, if you’re given a new task you were not trained for, your stress levels will probably begin to rise, as you’ll start feeling like you might fail in that specific task.


Now, you already know the top 10 causes of stress at work, some tips for handling stress at work, and other commonly asked questions.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a manager or not; if you’re living one of these signs and you might be living stress at work, talk to someone in the company who can change that.

There are several ways to motivate employees that can change the way you feel in a “blink of an eye”.


Which are the first signs of workplace stress?

Some signs of stress at work you should pay attention to are working longer hours, looking visibly tired, declining work performance, irritability, and lack of energy.

Why does work causes stress?

Work is a big part of our daily lives, as we spend 1/3 of a 24h day working. As something that plays such a huge role in our lives and something we heavily depend on for paying bills and achieving fulfillment and success, it’s natural that it can lead to high stress levels.

How does stress affect work productivity?
How can we deal with stress at work?

Even though workplace stress will probably always be a part of your journey, there are ways you can deal with it: stay organized, stay away from conflict, avoid multitasking, listen to calm music, take breaks as often as you can, and practice mindfulness.

Find out how multitasking affects your productivity

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