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How to Manage Work-Related Stress – Tips and Strategies

TimeWellScheduled

“If your employees perceive your workplace as a threat, then you cannot build the trust your team needs to collaborate and innovate effectively.“ – Natalia Peart, PhD, Fortune 1000 executive leadership consultant.

Work-related stress is a common challenge that affects millions of people worldwide. It can reduce productivity, harm mental health, and even lead to physical health issues.

While everyone feels stress at some point, it affects us all differently. Knowing what stressors are can help company leaders manage work-related stressor and better equip employees to cope with stressful situations.

This article discusses stress in the workplace, provides practical strategies to manage work-related stress and  tips to increase mental health awareness. 

What is Stress?

Stress is the body’s natural response to changes or challenges, triggering physical, emotional, and intellectual reactions. Many different situations or life events can cause stress.

Stress responses are often triggered when we experience something new or unexpected that threatens our sense of self or feel we have little control over a situation. There are two main types of stress: 

Acute stress

Acute stress is short-term stress that comes and goes throughout the course of a day. It occurs in response to sudden events or actions.

For example, slamming on the car brakes, during arguments, or when taking on physical challenges like climbing a tall ladder; this type of stress helps us to manage dangerous, new or exciting situations. 

Chronic stress

Chronic stress is stress that lasts for extended durations. For example, Individuals can experience chronic stress by having money problems, being in an unhappy marriage, or undergoing trouble at work. Any stress that goes on for weeks or months is chronic.

Often, individuals can unknowingly become accustomed to chronic stress and not realize it is a problem. Chronic stress can lead to health problems if left unchecked.

Effects of Stress

Short-term effects of stress include:

  • Headaches
  • Shallow breathing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Upset stomach

Long-term constant stress can increase the risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Back pain
  • Depression
  • Lasting muscle aches and pains
  • A weakened immune system

What is Work-Related Stress?

Work-related stress occurs when individuals experience excessive pressures over extended periods of time. The cumulative impact of high job demands will inevitably lead to negative health consequences. Research regarding workplace stress has shown that:

  • 91% of US employees said that feeling high levels of stress has negatively affected the quality of their work (Sobera, 2024).
  • 83% of US employees felt emotionally drained from their work due to stress (Source: Sobera, 2024).
  • 41% of US workers cite ineffective company communications as a cause of work stress, and 35% attribute their stress to their bosses (Paleo Stress Management, 2024).

Causes Work-Related Stress

What Causes Work-Related Stress?

The nature of work is a significant source of stress impacting our professional lives, personal well-being, and general health. It is important the we keep our stress levels manageable.

The cause of work-related stress can stem from several different factors in the workplace. The most common work related stressors include: 

1) Excessive Job demands

High workloads or unrealistic expectations can overwhelm employees. 

2) Lack of Control

Employees may feel stressed when they have little autonomy or influence over work tasks. 

3) Insufficient Support

Inadequate assistance or guidance from supervisors or colleagues can contribute to stress. 

4) Strained Relationships

Interpersonal conflicts or bullying in the workplace can lead to stress among employees. 

5) Unclear Roles

When employees are unsure of their responsibilities or expectations, it can cause stress. 

6) Organizational Changes

Changes such as restructuring or downsizing can create uncertainty and anxiety among employees. 

When Is Stress Considered Unhealthy?

Stress is considered unhealthy when it persists (chronically) over long periods or overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, affecting physical and mental well-being.

Chronic stress, characterized by ongoing feelings of pressure and tension, can lead to adverse health outcomes, including cardiovascular issues, digestive problems, and a weakened immune system.

What’s more, unmanaged stress may contribute to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, impacting relationships, work performance, and quality of life.

Managing Work-Related Stress

Managing our stress levels is necessary in order to function optimally at one’s job. The following tips are designed to help employers and employees deal with work-related stress:

Tips for Employees to Help Manage Workplace Stress

  • Prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Incorporate short breaks throughout the day to alleviate stress and improve focus.
  • Incorporate relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or stretching exercises during breaks.
  • Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life to prevent burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  • When feeling overwhelmed by work-related stress, seek support from colleagues, managers, or professional counselors.

Strategies for employers to Help employees manage Workplace Stress

  • Offer resources such as employee assistance programs, counseling services, and stress management workshops.
  • Encourage a healthy work-life balance by offering flexible work arrangements, promoting time off, and discouraging excessive overtime.
  • Create a culture of open communication where employees feel comfortable expressing concerns and seeking support from managers or HR.
  • Regularly review workload distribution and adjust responsibilities as needed to prevent excessive stress and burnout among employees.
  • Demonstrate healthy stress management practices as a leader by prioritizing self-care, taking breaks, and actively promoting well-being initiatives within the organization.

 “Stress itself isn’t the problem, lack of recovery time is. We need stress to survive and perform, but overexposure to stress combined with under-recovery is what can lead to real problems.” – Rob Stephenson, Mental Health Activist. 

Final Comments

Dealing with work-related stress requires the cooperation of both employees and management.

Therefore, organizations must  incorporate stress management practices and encourage a supportive and synergetic work culture allowing employees and managers to mitigate the root causes and impact of workplace stress.

Encouraging open communication about mental health and providing the necessary resources to deal with mental health issues are the key to building a stress free workplace and resilient workforce.

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