Workplace Stress Meaning & Definition | EcoOnline US
Health & Safety Glossary

Workplace Stress


What is Workplace Stress?

Stress is the human body’s response to external pressure or when it determines a threat. Stress is caused due to the release of specific hormones in the mind, and it primarily occurs when people feel they are not in control of a position. 

While minor stress is easy to manage, prolonged stress can result in chronic illnesses and can also impair the immune system. Chronic stress, for instance, is a serious condition that may prevent people from being productive. 

Thus, workplace stress can be defined as the mental and emotional response of the body when employees feel that they are under significant pressure due to their workplace conditions. 

Workplace Stress Explained 

Some form of stress is always present in the workplace. Small amounts of stress can actually improve productivity and energize employees. However, over prolonged periods, this can turn into a serious problem. 

Workplace stress is generally a reaction due to a situation that may occur at work. It might be a conflict, or it might be caused by the nature of the job. Certain jobs have very high demands, which may cause employees to feel that they aren’t in control over the situation. 

In some cases, stress can be caused due to a single event, but usually, it’s a series of contributing factors, ranging from high pressure for deliverables to managing deadlines. 

Since there’s no singular cause of stress in the workplace, it’s often difficult to provide a comprehensive explanation. Certain elements, such as career development, task design, or job roles, can affect an employee’s stress levels. 

Some common sources of workplace stress include:

  • Conflicts with colleagues or management 
  • Isolation in the workplace
  • Poor task design (high workload, improper training, skills don’t relate to job roles)
  • Lack of career growth opportunities 
  • Unpleasant or harsh working conditions 
  • Exposure to workplace hazards 

How Can Employers Manage Workplace Stress

There are several steps that employers can take to manage workplace stress, some of which are discussed below. 

Focus on Task Design

Job or task design plays an important role in managing workplace stress. Good task design ensures that the employees physical and mental abilities are prioritized. There are several ways to improve task design:

  • The job should not be overly strenuous or demanding 
  • Employees should have some level of variety in their day-to-day tasks 
  • Employees should be given some authority to take decisions on their own 
  • Employees should receive recognition or support 
  • There should be avenues for growth so employees can work towards a better future 

Regularly Assess Workplace Conditions

It’s also important for employers to regularly assess the workplace and identify different sources of stress. More importantly, they need to figure out who might be harmed due to this and then plan for ways to reduce workplace stress

For instance, internal pressures, often caused by harassment or bullying, should not be tolerated. Companies need to establish strict protocols for dealing with such instances. 

It’s also important to review workloads and ensure that employees aren’t doing more than necessary. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is critical to reducing stress. 

Establish Mental Health Awareness and Support Programs

Creating mental health support and wellness programs is an excellent way to reduce workplace stress. Companies can provide a platform to employees to connect with a mental health professional or simply discuss their problems. 

Conducting a survey, for instance, can allow companies to identify the root cause for different stress factors within the environment. 

Foster Employee Participation

Numerous studies have shown that increased employee participation in workplace-related matters helps reduce stress. It makes employees feel valued and creates a sense of ownership. 

Employees should be able to provide feedback, whether directly or through a specific committee, and management needs to review it and decide.

Workplace stress is generally considered a management issue, as they are responsible for creating an environment for employees to operate in. From working on improving job responsibilities and providing a safe and secure working environment, there are plenty of steps that management can take to reduce stress in the workplace. 

Use EcoOnline’s Health & Safety Software to Reduce Workplace Stress

EcoOnline’s Health & Safety Software allows companies to assess workplace risks, identify stressors, and make record observations. It also improves employee participation as workers can report hazards, track events, and immediately report incidents in the workplace.