Major Causes of Stress at Work

people doing office works

It is true that stress along with the emotional component also has a physiological aspect. So to understand the nature of stress it is very important to consider not only the emotional and physiological reactions but also the external conditions that cause it. Stress occurs whenever individuals are overwhelmed by events or circumstances that go past their own personal resources.

With regards to work, stress is often a major part of any workplace. The stress levels at different workplaces are as varied as the jobs themselves. However, they can be put into two separate categories: ones relating to jobs or organization and ones relating to personal characteristics.

Work-Related Causes of Stress

Working conditions may cause many workers stress. Many workplaces are now very pleasant and comfortable for workers. Minimal noise and air conditioning provide many offices with a calming work environment. But this is not the case across the board. Many factories and construction sites are noisy, hot, and uncomfortable. Studies have shown that performance drops under these types of conditions. When the workplace is hot, noisy, and crowded, tempers can flare and the aggression level goes up. Employers should provide a comfortable work environment to get the best performance from their employees.

Of course it should be obvious that some jobs are more stressful than others. Emergency room doctors, air traffic controllers and police officers, to name a few ,all have high stress jobs. The amount of stress even on these jobs can fluctuate on a daily basis. If air travel is light, an air traffic controller might not experience as much stress as opposed to days when the workload is heavy. Some jobs have corrected the level of stress associated with their employees. Other jobs have more stress now ,than in the past ,due to advances in technology and because of the pressure of productivity.

How to Choose a Career

The level of stress within a job is also based on the extent that a job requires decisions, unpleasant physical conditions, and performing unstructured rather than structured task. In deciding on a career it should be important to decide how much pressure an individual can handle before accepting a job.

Work overload can also produce stress and while this is not surprising it is important to note that not having enough to do can also produce stress. Boredom can cause employees to feel not needed and useless. So it stands to reason that employees sitting around with little or nothing to do have stress and the job may also contribute to the lack of self-esteem. Employees are often spouses, parents, members of the community, in addition to workers.

All of these roles take time and energy and can produce stress. Some studies have shown that family stressors have a negative impact on women more than men, with work stressors affecting men more than women. Of course a good home life and /or good relationship can carry over into work as well. Surprisingly there is also evidence that shows multiple roles can actually reduce stress. This same study also indicates that women who work have fewer mental and physical problems than those who do not.

The flow of logic would suggest that since work causes stress that not having a job should be stress free. This is definitely not the case. Being unemployed can cause significant stress and cause negative effects on a person’s health. In 1972, Holmes & Masuda (E. Gunderson, 1974) compiled a Life Event chart (see below) that assigned different points with different stressor. Their study showed that people who experience events totaling more than 300 points would receive enough stress to have a 70 percent chance of experiencing a serious illness.

Life Event Stress Chart

Life events and the relative stressfulness of each event are shown below:

  • Death of a Spouse 100
  • Divorce 73
  • Marital separation 65
  • Jail term 63
  • Death of a close family member 63
  • Personal injury or illness 53
  • Marriage 50
  • Fired from job 47
  • Retirement 45
  • Pregnancy 40
  • Death of a close friend 37
  • Son of daughter leaving home 29
  • Trouble with in-laws 28
  • Trouble with boss 23
  • Change in residence 20
  • Vacation 13
  • Christmas 12

The most amazing fact about stress is that most medical experts believe that from 50 to 70 percent of physical illnesses are related to stress. These stress- related diseases are some of the most serious and fatal ones known to man: high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, ulcers, and diabetes.

Individuals who perceive their ability to cope is overwhelmed may experience stress. Stress at work like making numerous decisions, overload, and even a negative work environment exerts stress which in turn causes depression, illnesses, and poor self esteem. By using good coping strategies, being active and using relaxation for tension, individuals will have a greater opportunity to dislodge the damaging effects of stress.