Why is work stress bad for you and what are its signs and causes?

Why is work stress bad for you and what are its signs and causes?

Work stress is a major cause of illness and absenteeism with 12 million working days lost each year. A recent study found that workplace stress was the most common source of stress in the UK.

Around 60% of adults suffer from some form of work related stress with 20% experiencing moderate to high levels at least several times each week. The same study found that men are more prone to work related stress than women by one third.

Learn about the dangers of work place stress and how to spot it.

What are the benefits of work?

Before we get started it is important to point out that work can be a good thing. There are typically a lot of benefits about our places of work, even though at times the negatives may seem to eclipse these. Work can be beneficial to our lives and health as it provides us with a source of income to afford our rent, put food on the table and take foreign holidays. Work gives us a sense of purpose and identity, the opportunity to socialise and build friendships with others, as well as routine and structure.

Why is work stress bad for your health?

While some work related stress is normal, excessive work stress can be bad for your overall health. Workplace stress can impact your emotional and physical health, and even affect your personal relationships and life at home. It can prevent you from meeting your career goals and reaching your full potential.

Excessive stress contributes to a multitude of illnesses ranging from memory loss to cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes and heart attacks. It is also linked to diabetes, chronic inflammation and cancer.

For more details, you can read our separate more comprehensive article on the negative health consequences caused by stress.

What are the causes of workplace stress?

There are many possible causes of stress in the workplace. The list below shares some of the most common. If you are a sufferer of workplace stress, then it is possible for you to suffer from just one of these or an array – everyone’s experience is unique. Some of these stressors can even overlap with your personal life.

  • Long working hours / excessive overtime
  • Pressure to work at optimum levels all the time
  • Pressure to answer calls and respond to emails during evenings and on weekends
  • Poor personal performance
  • Poor performance of colleagues
  • Fear of being laid off
  • Tensions with colleagues or senior members of staff
  • Fear of bullying and harassment
  • Struggling to make ends meet with salary
  • Office politics (both work and non-work related)
  • Lack of control over how you do your work
  • Lack of support from colleagues
  • Difficulty taking proper breaks (e.g. time to eat lunch)
  • Organisational changes
  • Poor company culture
  • Lack of communication (e.g. interdepartmental)
  • Low job satisfaction
  • Low customer satisfaction levels

What are the common signs of work place stress?

In order to be able to do something about your workplace stress it is necessary to realise that you are suffering. Quite often you just know when you are feeling stressed; stress may change the way you behave and feel as well as your physical state. However – for the times when you are unsure – the list below contains some of the more common signs of work related stress and work stress symptoms.

  • Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
  • Feeling overwhelmed or helpless
  • Disinterested in life
  • Difficulty switching off and relaxing
  • Apathy, loss of interest in work
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating and remembering things
  • Decreased productivity
  • Shallow breathing or hyperventilation
  • Muscle tension or headaches
  • Feeling sick or light headed
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pains
  • Experiencing panic attacks
  • Stomach problems
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope
  • Avoiding certain situations
  • Fluctuating moods

So, what does this mean for you?

Given that you are likely to spend a significant amount of your time at work and the potential consequences of workplace stress are so grave for both your health and career, if you recognise yourself struggling from workplace stress it is important to take action now!

You may not be in control of everything at your place of work, however, it is important to realise that you are not powerless. You can take some steps to provide yourself more of a buffer against the negative effects of stress. This is true regardless of your ambition levels and workload. Doing something about your work stress can lead to you having higher job satisfaction and performance. This can have positive knock on effects for your personal life too.

Interested in finding out how stressed you are? Take our stress quiz now to find out.


This article was created for informational purposes only and does not necessarily represent the views of For Chaps Ltd. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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