5 causes of workplace stress for employees

A quick summary:

  • What is workplace stress? 🔎
  • Extreme workloads and deadlines ⏰
  • Poor management styles ❌
  • Micromanagement and lack of autonomy 👀
  • Lack of job stability 💸

Stressful situations crop up on us in everyday life. In many different forms. In the workplace, it sometimes feels like there are twice as many stress-inducing problems. A working environment that aims to minimise employee stress will see far greater results. 

We’ve spoken about mental health in the workplace, and how these five signs of poor health and wellbeing. Now, we’re turning our attention to the causes of workplace stress. 

The little – and big – things that strive to ruin our day, deplete us of energy and generally create a road of obstacles throughout the week. From extreme workloads to poor management, we’ve covered five of the biggest factors affecting your team’s happiness.

A female employees scratching her head in a stressful manner whilst looking at her laptop
What is workplace stress?

What is workplace stress

Let’s discuss what exactly workplace stress means. To put it simply, workplace stress refers to negative emotions such as pressure, anxiety and worry – typically in relation to workloads, deadlines and other hurdles. 

It can be a single factor that impacts our happiness, or a collection of reasons to be stressed. More often than not, small problems snowball into much bigger issues. 

This is when productivity and performance begin to slip, and some employees start looking at other job opportunities.


Tip: before try making sense of workplace stress, we recommend starting with emotional wellbeing and then revisiting this later on.

A male employee staring at his laptop in the office
Causes of workplace stress

5 causes of workplace stress for employees

Now that we’ve explored a brief definition of workplace stress, let’s turn to the five causes we think every leader needs to know.

Extreme workloads and deadlines

We all have workloads and deadlines to abide by. It’s a necessity to make progress. That said, some managers overload work on employees, leaving them feeling stressed and anxious. 

When we feel there’s no sight of achievement, no ending to long projects and tasks, we become demotivated to finish them. 

What’s more, excessive workloads and deadlines cause us to panic and work less effectively. It’s reaching the deadline that matters more, rather than our quality of work. 

Leaders should assess the kind of workloads and deadlines they are setting for employees. Are employees working overtime and unsociable hours? Have you noticed signs of burnout among employees? 

Poor management styles

Management and leadership matter in every business. It’s these operations that drive growth and success from an organisation standpoint. Toxic or failing management styles will see devastating effects on the workforce.

If anything, employers should start at the top when alleviating stress further down the hierarchy. Through appropriate training, organisations can create leadership teams that listen effectively, and care about employee health and wellbeing – all whilst balancing the demands of their own role. 

Ultimately, poor management costs money to the business. Through losing talent, companies must hire, onboard and train all over again – and that’s not free! 

In one survey report by PeopleManagement, two in five employees had left their job because of a bad manager. It’s clear why poor management makes high on our list of causes of workplace stress.

Similar read: Managers guide to preventing pre-meeting anxiety in employees

Micromanagement and lack of autonomy

Closely followed by poor management is a lack of autonomy and micromanagement. In instances where employees feel their every move is monitored and their work critiqued, they begin to feel stressed. 

Of course, there is always room for improvement, and as individuals, we must welcome constructive feedback. Unfortunately, micromanagement takes these expectations to the extreme. 

Employees who feel micromanaged are burdened with the pressure of criticism; they withdraw from sharing their ideas, thoughts or feelings. This can be overwhelming when dealing with micromanagement on a daily basis.

What’s more, a lack of autonomy in the workplace can make employees feel as though they aren’t good enough. We need the freedom of ownership over our workloads and projects – accomplishments are what motivate us to progress and chase bigger goals. 

By working in the shadows of this management style, employees are likely to become hostile toward their supervisors, and the general leadership team. 

Instead, leaders should create regular check-ins to discuss progress. This gives employees the opportunity to share their work without the extreme monitoring of micromanagement. It’s also worth setting KPIs and other metrics for which employees should aim to accomplish.

A female worker looking at her documents on a table with a puzzled expression
Lack of stability in the workplace

Lack of stability

Next up on this list of causes of workplace stress is a lack of stability. As the world emerges from the pandemic, it appears all the doom and gloom isn’t quite over. 

2022 began with a bang, but for all the wrong reasons. As tensions escalated between Ukraine and Russia, the UK economy began a downward spiral – one that would see record levels of inflation and an eat or heat crisis on the horizon. 

To put it into simpler terms, there’s a lot of instability and uncertainty in the world. These negative emotions find their way into the workplace through employees, and it’s the role of a leader to support them.

Some employees find themselves stressed and anxious, fearing the worst financially. Providing it is business-as-usual, managers should let their team know there’s nothing to worry about.

By quashing these fears, employees can continue to work at their best, recession or not. Failure to address these worries, and businesses face a workforce plagued by presenteeism, poor productivity and performance – and in an economic crisis, this could be dangerous.

Similar read: What is ‘leavism’ and does it impact my employees?

Hybrid and remote working arrangements

Finally, let’s turn our attention to hybrid and remote working arrangements. It may seem somewhat bizarre to include something that has had such a positive impact on work-life balance over the past couple of years. 

As the pandemic ushered in remote work for millions, health and wellbeing support for these employees didn’t follow suit. We too are of the mindset that hybrid and remote work… does work. 

However, without sufficient support for employees from a distance, hybrid and remote work can become problematic. With the rise of “Zoom fatigue” and with reports of employees working more than they did in the office, leaders must monitor remote employees.

Leaders should make it their goal to regularly check in with employees regarding their health and wellbeing. Ultimately, hybrid and remote work makes our 5 causes of workplace stress – but it doesn’t have to become an issue when dealt with effectively. 

A male employee sat at an outside desk looking at the sky and appearing stressed
Conclusion on the causes of workplace stress

Conclusion on the causes of workplace stress

There are many causes of workplace stress. Here we’ve simply scratched the surface. If you’re a leader of a team, a business or some other operation that involves a workforce, take note of these causes of workplace stress. 

By assessing your team based on these five areas discussed above, you can eliminate workplace stress – an elimination that will bring about better productivity, performance and general results.

Health and wellbeing have a lot to say about the success of a business. When employees are happier and healthier, they can excel – how are you reducing causes of workplace stress, preventing absenteeism and creating a successful workplace culture?