Causes and consequences of stress at work

Share on
Causes and consequences of stress at work

Ignored for many years, workplace stress is now becoming a concern for employers and employees. This generally misunderstood disorder affects more and more employees and causes a lot of damage on various levels. According to The Workforce View survey conducted in 2019 in Europe by the ADP, France is the3rd European country most affected by the phenomenon of stress at work. It is therefore imperative to understand this evil in order to eradicate it. To do this, it is necessary to look at its symptoms, causes, consequences and remedies.

What is stress at work?

The term stress refers to the mechanism by which the body responds to environmental pressure when it feels unable to adapt to it. In the context of work, this adjustment disorder occurs when there appears to be an imbalance between a request or a professional situation and the worker’s resources. They doubt whether they have the necessary capacity to meet the demands of their job or to cope with the situation. This results in a range of emotional, psychological and physical reactions.

Everything is based on the employee’s perception of the constraints they faces and their abilities. Some employees may not stress despite the impressive number of requirements to be met while others will quickly experience anxiety and anguish. The amount of work or the extent of the situation therefore does not matter.

What are the symptoms of stress at work?

Stress at work has a multitude of symptoms. These can be physical, behavioral, psychological and emotional.

Physical and physiological symptoms of stress at work

A situation of stress at work usually results in physical signs such as:

  • sleep disorders;
  • fatigue;
  • headaches and migraines;
  • muscle tension and myalgia;
  • elevated blood pressure;
  • unusual sweating;
  • increased heart rate and rapid breathing;
  • digestive disorders, etc.

At the physiological level, stress at work is manifested by increased cortisol levels, disruption of metabolism and involvement of the immune system.

Psychological symptoms of stress at work

The psychological symptoms that appear in the event of a stressful situation at work include:

  • instability;
  • anxiety;
  • job dissatisfaction;
  • boredom;
  • irritability, tension or aggressiveness.

A person who suffers from stress at work may also have mood disorders and even be depressed.

Behavioural symptoms of stress at work

When the above signs appear in an employee suffering from stress at work, the latter develops certain behaviors in order to compensate for them. These are:

  • absenteeism;
  • consumption and addiction to products such as drugs, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco or sugar;
  • loss of motivation and concentration;
  • difficulty managing friendly and social relationships;
  • the tendency to isolate oneself;
  • loss of enthusiasm;
  • general bad mood.

Basically, when stress at work becomes permanent, it affects the physical and mental health of the stressed person as well as that of their colleagues. This results in a reduction of team cohesion, which impacts the company’s activities.

What causes stress at work?

Corporate stress can come from a variety of sources related to the worker’s professional and personal life. Here are the most common workplace stressors .

Job perception

Stress at work usually occurs when the employee feels that the demands of their job exceed their capacity. The latter puts themself in a state of anxiety in case of:

  • work overload;
  • lack of time;
  • repetitive or monotonous tasks;
  • activities that require more knowledge or processing of more information;
  • complex work;
  • mismatch between skills and work to be done;

To these sources of professional stress, we can add solitary or autonomous work. Making decisions independently can be stressful for some people.

Organization of work

Work organization is also a potential source of stress at work. When it is complex and the employee feels that they have no control over the planning of their tasks, they can feel stressed. Similarly, this disease can occur in case of:

  • role conflict (multiple managers and supervisors, contradictions between requirements, multiplicity of tasks, etc.);
  • lack of clarity or explanation of job expectations;
  • poor organization that wastes time, etc.

In addition, management that is not very participative or non-participative is one of the causes of stress at work. So, what type of management to choose for the management of a company?

Lack of support and poor relationships at work

An employee who lacks support from colleagues and superiors feels neglected or misunderstood. This lack of recognition leads them to devalue their work, to develop a feeling of malaise and to isolate themself. On the other hand, conflicts, threats, harassment, lack of trust, discrimination, prejudice, rivalries, etc., can also cause professional stress.

Lack of communication

The interest of internal communication in companies and employer branding is well established. Indeed, communicating well within a structure guarantees not only the well-being of employees, but also their performance. On the other hand, when communication is absent or bad, it causes unspoken, misunderstandings and fears. These situations cause permanent discomfort and chronic stress among workers and hinder their development. As a result, lack of communication is one of the causes of occupational stress.

Ethical suffering

Stress at work manifests itself inexorably in the event of value conflicts. It occurs when a professional finds themself in a situation that forces them to transgress their personal or professional ethics. The employee is also stressed when they do not have the necessary resources to provide quality work (quality prevented). The same applies when the work to be done damages the image of the profession.

Personal factors

In addition to these psychosocial risk factors, stress at work can be explained by personal reasons. The latter may be related to the employee’s private life or motivations. It can be a difficulty in reconciling personal life and work due to overtime, exposure to hazards, occupational risks and conflicts, etc. Also, a worker wishing to improve in order to obtain a promotion may suffer from professional stress.

Emotional demands, lack of autonomy, job insecurity, lack of hygiene and safety in the workplace are also among the causes of occupational stress.

What are the consequences of stress at work?

The consequences of stress at work are multiple and concern both the stressed employee and the employer.

The consequences of stress at work for the employee

For the employee, the negative impact of workplace stress is felt both professionally and personally.

Loss of productivity

An employee who suffers from stress at work loses efficiency and concentration. Their abilities are diminishing and they are unable to perform their duties. This results in a decrease in the quality of work and a delay in the tasks to be accomplished. In some cases, stress leads the employee to make mistakes that can prove fatal for them, for a customer or for their entourage.

Adverse health effects

Stress at work also affects health. Depending on its duration and intensity, its effects can result in a deterioration of mental and physical health. Thus, when you are subjected to a state of stress related to your profession, you may suffer:

  • cardiovascular diseases;
  • mental health disorders (depression, trauma, anxiety disorders, suicidal tendencies, etc.);
  • worsening of chronic conditions;
  • MSDs or musculoskeletal disorders, etc.

Your condition also increases the risk of workplace accidents. You are more likely to neglect safety precautions.


Another consequence of stress at work: the loss of creativity and motivation. A stressed employee finds it very difficult to think. They become uncreative and is no longer motivated enough to accomplish their tasks. Some everyday and mundane actions like waking up to go to work become extremely difficult.


Stress at work also results in absenteeism. Indeed, when this evil overwhelms you and tears away all motivation, you no longer have the strength to go to work. This frequent absence can result in job loss and lead to financial problems.


Burnout is one of the greatest risks of chronic occupational stress. It is a state of exhaustion that sets in gradually. At this point, you are mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. You will then present signs such as sleep disturbances, pain, loss of energy, etc.

The consequences of stress at work for the employer

The consequences of stress on the employer or company include:

  • reduced productivity;
  • increased absenteeism;
  • high staff turnover;
  • discipline problems;
  • decreased quality of work;
  • the frequency of incidents and accidents at work;
  • the bad atmosphere at work;
  • damage to the company’s image.

In addition, in some cases, stress can force the employee to stop work. The company will then have to pay money to make a new recruitment and train the new recruit.

How to manage stress at work?

Stress at work compromises the physical and mental health of employees. Similarly, it causes enormous damage to businesses and the national economy. For this, it is essential to make the right decisions at the right time in order to reduce it.

How to reduce stress as an employer?

There are many solutions an employer can adopt to combat employee stress.

Identify risk factors

To reduce stress in the workplace, the employer must identify and evaluate the causes of stress among their employees. To do this, they can conduct a survey or collect employee opinions via a trusted employee review platform to determine potential risk factors.

Employee reviews make it possible to know the feelings, expectations, needs and desires of the staff. They help the manager to better understand their employees and to put in place effective strategies for the improvement of certain aspects of the company. In addition, when these reviews are positive, they help attract new candidates and talent. They improve the employer brand and the brand image of the structure.

Once the risks have been identified and assessed, the employer initiates various actions to eradicate them. The solutions to adopt will depend on the causes of the stress.

Adopt participatory management

What type of management to choose for the management of a company? For good stress management at work, the employer must set up a more participative management . This system consists of involving employees in the management of the company. It allows a better understanding of the latter in order to offer them better professional support. Thanks to this type of management, employees feel less dominated and more useful, which significantly reduces psychosocial risks.

Promoting well-being by changing working conditions

Poor working conditions are one of the main causes of stress in the workplace. Therefore, making changes to the framework can help combat this evil. More recognition, better communication, more training and autonomy are among other necessary elements to improve the atmosphere at work.

It is also important to implement a Quality of Life at Work approach and to take hygiene, safety and health measures at work. QWL: employer brand and employee loyalty as well as occupational health and safety measures can prevent psychosocial risks.

In addition, the employer must ensure that the work environment is pleasant and comfortable for its employees. For this, it must promote the framework of ergonomic seats, rest rooms, play areas, etc.

Organize group activities

Loneliness is a factor that can amplify feelings of discomfort and lead to chronic stress. Ipso facto, it is necessary for the employer, to organize group activities. These serve not only to maintain the corporate culture, but also to unite employees. The organizer must therefore know the essential tools to federate a team in a company. For group activities, you have sports, games, parties, group work, etc.

Review the organization of work and personnel

A reorganization of staff and work can help reduce stress at work. This solution is particularly effective when the problem comes from poor internal organization. The employer must ensure that the teams are led by a person with the soft skills of a manager. The latter must also have notions on issues such as:

The employer must also ensure that the work is well organized.

How to manage stress at work as an employee?

As an employee or a victim of workplace stress, here are the steps you can take to treat yourself.

Identify and avoid stressors

Good stress management at work requires first and foremost the identification of the causes of the problem. You need to pay attention to your body in order to detect what is stressing you. Depending on the identified reason, you will develop an action plan. Maybe you lack rest, are surrounded by negative people, overloaded at work, etc.

Doing physical activities

Regular sport is an effective remedy for stress. Not only does it help channel emotions and stress, but it also strengthens mental abilities. But be careful! You will have to choose your discipline carefully. You can opt for boxing, cycling, cardio training, etc.

Training in stress management

There are training courses that allow you to learn how to manage stress and emotions. The purpose of these workshops is to help participants detect and identify the causes of stress. You will learn breathing and relaxation techniques such as yoga, sophrology and meditation.

Get help

To reduce stress at work, you can consult a doctor to receive medical advice. You still have the opportunity to participate in individual interviews with a specialist who will give you sound advice to help you get rid of your state of stress. Another option is to seek help from a colleague or family member.

Hover over the stars then click to validate the rating
Click here to discover the offer Employer brand blog