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Workplace Stress

Workplace Stress: The Silent Killer of Productivity Decoded


Workplace Stress; Excuse or Reality? Like any other psychological issue, there are a couple of societal taboos associated with the existence of workplace stress. Different people at work deal with stress differently but just like workplace stress is subjective in interpretation likewise workplace stress management is also subjective in nature and varies from person to person.

We believe that workplace stress is a life stressor acting like a double sword and impacting both mind and body. It has aggressively occupied more space in recent years with the changing nature and speed of work.

In this article, we will decode workplace stress by simplifying various complexities including the underlying causes, evident symptoms, and effects on organization, health, and productivity while concluding with some practical solutions for workplace stress management.

Decoding Workplace Stress

Decoding Workplace Stress

Stress is defined as an innate reaction of humans occurring intermittently when triggered by threatening situations induced by personal or professional responsibilities.

Workplace stress is the one caused by professional responsibilities. The discrepancy between job requirements and employee capabilities leads to strong responses that are collectively referred to as workplace stress. The demands at the workplace which are beyond the knowledge and capacity of the employee often inflict an unavoidable conflict which is commonly called workplace stress.

Workplace stress exists, in fact, overall work is a significant stressor ranking high among others as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports.

Workplace Stress vs. Workplace Challenge

A healthy push in a job is a necessity to further enhance your capabilities but it should only induce stress to the productive level. The stress beyond a certain level diminishes the capacity to bring productivity to work.

This marks the difference between workplace stress and challenge where the two concepts often face semantic confusion and people use them interchangeably leading to the misinterpretation of meaning and masking of actual issues.

A workplace challenge adds to work productivity as it boosts your energy to master new skill sets for excelling in your job. The workplace challenge acts as a motivational force that gives you satisfaction and revitalizes you physically and psychologically to work for your goals.

Workplace Stress Causes

Workplace Stress Causes

The interaction of working conditions with employee characteristics is a primary cause that leads to workplace stress. The impact of this interaction varies from person to person depending on the individual personalities. However, the most common cause of work stress arises from the lack of proper work organization where the employee is not able to practicalize management practices in the design of the workplace.

The work design itself is a source of workplace stress where the employee has very limited control over work processes. Along with these, the conditions at the workplace are usually very substandard with ineffective management from the company.

Some workplace cultures support unhealthy competitions which lead to a significant lack of support from colleagues and seniors. In such a situation, everybody tries to run alone to win the race forgetting that they want to achieve the same purpose in the end and collective work can instead decrease the load for everyone fostering a productive and healthy environment at the workplace.

Broadly, we can divide these workplace stress causes into two categories that are work context and work content. Starting the workplace stress causes with work context. The utmost cause of workplace stress is the confused role of an employee in his/her organization.

The job duties are kept unclear either intentionally or unintentionally but it causes stress among employees in which being unaware of their boundaries can even lead to conflictual roles. The race of career development, increments, and status is another pressure mostly coming from peers that is a workplace stress cause.

Everyone is running behind promotion opportunities but sometimes nepotism plays with the sentiments of some able individuals adding to their resentment while impacting the overall company performance. Job insecurity in this context consistently fears people who keep running behind in promotion opportunities but often face unfair evaluations of their performance. Workplace stress is also a result of misfit employees for a particular position either over or under-skilled.

Despite these, support from colleagues or interpersonal relations at the workplace enhance productivity. But the absence of these can impact negatively too, like some employees face workplace stress due to isolation or some even face harassment or discrimination but don’t get support from others.

Inconsiderate supervision especially for newbies is yet another hurdle at the workplace that gradually turns out to be a stressor. The overall behavioral issues at the workplace play havoc with leadership, communication, and clarity of work.

Work-life balance is another cause of workplace stress where the workplace does not support problems at home and home does not support problems at the office and ultimately the individual becomes over-occupied with managing both side-by-side.

The second category is work contents which includes various workplace stress causes including working hours which can sometimes be too long and strict that it is humanly not possible to fully work without any flexibility. The bad and misfit shift duties are unsocial for employees and it adds to their workplace stress.

Another factor is the workload that either exceeds the capacity of an individual or does not make him express his potential fully with fewer work duties. The mismatching time and work pressure can also lead to workplace stress and often the employee gets irritated with tight deadlines.

The lack of autonomy and participation in the pace and work methods can also limit the employee enthusiasm instead can convert the positive energies into negative lack of interest. Lack of equipment and proper resources at the workplace also disturbs the normal working conditions. Lastly, monotonous, boring work or meaningless tasks can also lead to workplace stress.

Job Burnout

Job Burnout

Workplace stress, as discussed earlier, is not only emotional but the signs are physical and behavioral as well. Job burnout refers to situations where emotional stress translates into physical one marking apparent symptoms. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) refers to job burnout as physical or mental exhaustion due to high stress levels over a prolonged period in which workplace stress is a major stressor.

Most of the psychological conditions are linked with digestive troubles in a considerable quantity of people. One common symptom of workplace stress is a substantial increase or decrease in your appetite leading to drained energy. If the workplace stress is not that long then your digestive system will slow down its working and you will end up losing appetite. But if your workplace stress is left untreated it will lead to extreme gastrointestinal issues like either diarrhea or constipation. These issues can also become disorders if they reach chronic levels and not being addressed timely.

Workplace stress can also lead to a disturbed sleep cycle. People usually face insomnia at night thereby leading to a lazy day ahead. There are many other sleeping difficulties as well that bear an impact on the next day at the workplace.

Along with gastrointestinal and sleep issues, some other physical symptoms of workplace stress include fatigue, recurrent headaches, unidentified muscular tension, dermatological issues, or even heart palpitations.

On the other hand, the behavioral symptoms of workplace stress include being alone and isolated from other colleagues, lack of interest in work tasks and enjoyable activities in the office, persistent mood swings, the level of irritation increases and patience decreases, frustration, aggression, more absenteeism, less interpersonal relationships and more sick leaves, and lack of creativity and work productivity. Lastly, the psychological symptoms of workplace stress include a pessimistic approach to seeing problems, cognitive difficulties, less focus and concentration, problems in making decisions, low morale, job dissatisfaction, short temperament, discouragement, depression, being overwhelmed, and anxiety.

Effects of Workplace Stress on Organization

We have discussed in detail the effects of workplace stress on individuals in the form of job burnout where light has been shed on physical, emotional, intellectual, and behavioral symptoms. But when the people working in an organization are not able to work properly and give their maximum efforts to the organization then the organization also faces a backlash.

Let us see some of the effects of workplace stress on the organization. The first one is an increase in complaints from employees on every other task assigned to them or about their fellow employees over behavioral issues or work-related collaboration. Another one related to this could be poor performance and productivity which will be discussed later in detail. The absenteeism in the office will increase due to multiple reasons that can either be valid or just excuses to escape like sick leaves, family emergencies, accidents, etc. The motivation and morale of the employees decrease and it ends up in high labor turnover impacting the organization.

Workplace Stress, Employee Health, and Work Productivity

The symptoms of workplace stress are already discussed but here we will also highlight a few warning signs that show the situation as alarming. Firstly, cardiovascular diseases are caused by less autonomy at the workplace, secondly, musculoskeletal disorders, thirdly, workplace injury, and lastly, psychological disorders are included in the list of severe health conditions caused by workplace stress.

Companies intentionally create challenging working environments as a necessary evil to increase productivity by increasing pressure. However, the extreme working conditions make employees stressed leading to decreased productivity and increased absenteeism, and even if they get the opportunity they often switch jobs leaving a negative impact on the company. To increase work productivity it is needed that the company should acknowledge the employees and some awards or monetary prizes should be given for best work performance. Also, the organization fosters a culture of values and individuality of employees and continuously gives career development opportunities.

Workplace Stress Management

Workplace Stress Management

Workplace stress is unavoidable because of the ever-increasing demands at work but it is manageable. Workplace stress management takes place at two levels: individual and organizational.

At the individual level, if a person is facing workplace stress he/she needs to cope with it on their own. If they are not willing to come out of it then no other force or effort can make it happen. Firstly, if you are facing any problem with timing or workload, you need to be open about your concerns. You can walk into the office of the human resource manager or employer to talk over this and sort it out. Then, you might need to take a look at your work performance and the way you manage your work.

These small changes can help in workplace stress management. You should organize your work according to the priority basis. You can use a to-do list to list all tasks of the day according to their importance. You can start the day with the most complex and difficult task so that you can relax the entire day and focus on simple things. The important or difficult task should be done at a time when you are fresh, not frustrated. It gives you extra energy and reduces stress for the day.

When you are making a list of tasks make sure to give ample time to yourself in which you can relax. Regular relaxation is important for keeping your mind and body sound and active. This can also include yoga or meditation. Keep a focus on healthy and clean eating. Make exercise an integral part of your daily routine.

Cut off drinking, drugs, and smoking even if it gives pleasure it is not healthy and leads to additional health problems. Spend time with your loved ones and vent out your anger in front of them to seek some support but make sure not to vent out on them. If the level of stress becomes unmanageable, you might need to seek some expert assistance.

At the organizational level, employers should give enough importance to the mental health of employees. A significant focus should be put on recognizing workplace stress and on identifying the stressors to deal with them at the earliest. It should be included in the organizational set of rules to take all measures to make the employees feel safe and less stressed at the workplace.

Some of these efforts might include a proper training session for the employees on hiring, promotion, shift in duties, etc. The employer needs to provide a safe and secure working environment for the employee to work without any health hazards. The organization should be welcoming enough to understand the grievances of employees and recognize stress as important to be de-stigmatized.

There should be a stress management policy of the company formulated in consultation with employees and health professionals. Human resources management should be effective enough to only organize necessary duties while recognizing the demands of employees’ personal lives.


In a nutshell, workplace stress is a product of unhealthy practices for both employees and employers. Likewise, the impact of this comes down on both the individual and the organization leading to a lack of productivity and growth.

We have discussed the health hazards that a stressful working environment can bring and how these will backlash on the company. It is, however, manageable by inculcating simple steps in everyday life by both the individual and the organization.

Frequently Asked Questions About Workplace Stress

1. What is workplace stress?

Workplace stress is the body’s response to excessive demands or pressures at work. It arises when there’s a mismatch between the employee’s abilities and the job requirements.

2. Is workplace stress different from a workplace challenge?

Yes. A challenge motivates and energizes, pushing you to learn and grow. Stress, when excessive, overwhelms and hinders productivity.

3. What are the main causes of workplace stress?

The causes are varied and include:

  • Unclear job roles

  • Poor work organization

  • Lack of control over tasks

  • Unhealthy competition

  • Long hours/workload

  • Lack of resources or support

4. How does job burnout relate to workplace stress?

Job burnout is the result of prolonged, unmanaged workplace stress. It manifests as physical and mental exhaustion.

5. What are the signs of workplace stress?

Symptoms can be physical (fatigue, headaches, sleep problems), emotional (anxiety, irritability), or behavioral (isolation, decreased productivity).

6. How does workplace stress affect an organization?

Stress can lead to increased absenteeism, lower morale, decreased productivity, higher turnover, and more employee complaints.

7. Can workplace stress impact my health?

Yes. Workplace stress is linked to serious health issues like cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and psychological problems.

8. What can I do to manage workplace stress?

  • Communicate concerns to your employer or HR.

  • Prioritize tasks and organize your workday.

  • Incorporate relaxation techniques into your routine.

  • Eat healthily, exercise, and get enough sleep.

  • Seek professional help if needed.

9. How can organizations help reduce workplace stress?

  • Provide clear job roles and expectations.

  • Foster a supportive and inclusive workplace culture.

  • Offer stress management training and resources.

  • Ensure manageable workloads and reasonable deadlines.

  • Recognize and reward employees’ efforts.

10. Is workplace stress inevitable?

While some level of pressure is normal, excessive stress is not inevitable. Both employees and organizations can take steps to prevent and manage it effectively.


  1. User Avatar
    June 7, 2024

    Yes lack of resources, over load demand to get things done efficiently and effectively

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