Top 10 Causes of Stress at Work

Author: Madalina Roman

It’s not unusual to experience workplace stress. This happens particularly when work demands increase, deadlines loom or workload catches up on you.

Nonetheless, the hard reality that stress at work is on the rise, is confirmed yet again.

A 2023 Gallup study states that 44% of its respondents said that they experienced a lot of stress at work on the previous day, while 21% of them reported feeling anger.

While job stress is brushed off as a normal part of the work environment, it can a generate a heavy toll on productivity, sleep disturbances, or mental and physical health problems.

Track overtime and workload with a user-friendly overtime tracker

With that in mind, in this article you’ll find 10 workplace stressors, so that you can get head of job stress before it affects your career development, and your work life balance.

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 work in general, but more so when it comes to heavy workloads.

However, these limits are often dismissed, be it due to yearly targets, or our own ambitions to succeed and keep up with job responsibilities. To that, the management style of leaders adds pressure on employees to stay as productive as possible.

Unfortunately, none of these stressors help in preventing stress, or improve our performance, but may lead to job insecurity, mental health problems, and poor job performance.

Nonetheless, you should consider that if your stress level because of excessive workload, has been going nowhere but up, it’s high time you reduced it.

Some helpful ways to tackle excessive workload are: capacity plan as early as possible against deadlines, while setting boundaries, and learning time management tips so that you can be more in control.

If you’re a team leader and you don’t know how to deal with employees who complain about the workload or help them prevent job stress, the guide at this link might help.

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, while ensuring that every team member has an appropriate amount of work

TIP: To track overtime, use the Overtime Tracker. To calculate overtime pay, use our free Overtime Calculator.

2.  Lack of control

As a team or business leader, it’s important to understand how much unnecessary stress your team handles due to not having 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.

In fact, according to a study conducted in 2012, leaders usually have lower stress levels than non-leaders. Why is that? Because of the control, a higher management role comes with it.

People in control tend to have lower stress levels as they feel they have power, influence, and ownership to make decisions. On the other hand, a subordinate, due to a limited decision-making capability or none at all, deals with a higher perceived stress.

In order to reduce the job stress levels your team deals with, you could award them more ownership and decision making power, so that they feel more in control.

3.  Toxic work environment

We’ve all heard about toxic work environments and how they generate high workplace stress. But do we really know how to recognize them?

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

Dealing with this kind of organizational culture can lead to mental health problems, a dysregulated nervous system, or even physical health issues, especially if the toxicity is directly aimed at someone.

In such stressful working conditions, employees can start feeling uncomfortable talking with their co-workers, or coming to work distresses them, which impacts productivity long term.

six possible causes of stress at the workplace

4.  Bullying and harassment

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

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.

Being 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.

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, there may arise career concerns that add up to the current workplace stress.

The feeling of your work being overlooked or not appreciated can be stressful, especially if other team members are 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 business leaders can be stressful. However, if a team leader’s management style causes more job stress than a task would for example, this becomes an occupational health issue that needs to be addressed.

Once a manager doesn’t know how to lead a team and reveals to be controlling, and unappreciative or put too much responsibility on an employee’s shoulders, this automatically causes stress on the team.

A manager is someone you’re supposed to look up to, admire, and follow. A manager should live and promote the organizational values, and the organizational culture. In turn, this would enable social interaction and would reduce stress.

In order to decrease job stress and nurture relationships, a manager could briefly discuss few personal life matters with his team in their one-on-ones’, do a stress management training together, or simply check in more with the team in stressful situations.

7.  Lack of job security

The lack of job security is one of the top causes of stress at work, and it negatively impacts employees’ work-life balance, too.

Work is not only a way to achieve fulfillment or happiness – it’s also a way to earn money, pay bills, or cover health care costs. Therefore, work stress plays an even higher role in people’s lives, not with consequences, but multiple.

Once job security is unstable, employee health might follow, too, as they could stay at work long hours to prove they deserve a role, or job or that wanted a raise, and their last priority would be to manage stress.

Considering the above, it’s natural that the lack of job security can lead to workplace stress, and it is a matter of occupational safety.

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, too.

According to a study conducted by Barbara Wisse and Ed Sleebos, changes in the workplace 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.

Living with uncertainty decreases one’s capacity to reduce stress or even notice it, as change management requires a lot of energy, and leads us to a survival state of mind.

While changes in the workplace are inevitable, protecting your mental health should be a priority. That is possible by doing some relaxation exercises or asking your business leaders to enroll you in employee assistance programs and learning about managing 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 stress, particularly in a remote set-up, is generated by a lack of communication or miscommunication, most of the time.

Imagine your manager or colleagues don’t know how to communicate a project’s scope or milestones. It can be frustrating to not clearly understand what you’d need to work on, or how it should be performed. This can lead to the projects being delayed, requiring more friction until delivery.

By prioritizing effective communication strategies, managers can help mitigate these stressors and foster a healthier work environment.

The easiest and most effective techniques can be establishing regular check-ins and feedback sessions, as well as setting realistic goals.

a man learning at work

10. Insufficient training

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

This sense of “not good enough” can trigger stress symptoms, such as anxiety or a lack of concentration, which are detrimental to both mental health and work efficiency.

Employees in psychologically demanding jobs or those working long hours are particularly vulnerable to these effects, as their roles inherently carry more stress. One of the ways you could reduce stress is by seeking proactively additional training or support.

Managers can also play a pivotal role in mitigating this stress by recognizing the need for comprehensive training and ongoing support.


Now, by being aware of the top 10 causes of stress at work and gaining some tips for handling workplace stress, you’re better equipped to handle it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a manager or not; if you’re experiencing job stress, talk to someone in the company who can help you reduce it.

And when it comes to techniques for handling workplace stress better, you could try several ways to motivate employees or create a time management plan for your projects, so that you feel more in control.


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.