Is your workplace creating an environment of stress?

The WHO lists the factors that make a workplace stressful and offers suggestions on how organizations can reduce employees' workplace stress

Aaheli Dasgupta

What is workplace stress?

Any response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures, and which challenges their ability to cope can be called workplace stress.

How is work pressure different from workplace stress?

Pressure is a very important aspect of any workplace; it helps a person stay motivated and alert. However, when pressure becomes excessive, it can be more damaging than productive.

What makes a workplace stressful?

Stress is experienced by individuals differently. However many agree that the less support a person receives, the more likely they are to experience stress at work. It has been found that the way work has been designed and the way organizations are managed are primary factors that determine whether a workplace can be harmful. Areference document created by the WHO ( World Health Organization) terms these 'stress related hazards' and identify them in nine categories. These may serve as potential red flags to look out for. They include:

  • Lack of support from the organization (in terms of resources, help etc.)

  • Lack of clarity about organizational vision and practices

  • Poor communication from managers 

  • Unclear job role

  • Too much work or too little work

  • Lack of growth, financially or work-wise

  • Unequal/insufficient pay

  • Job insecurity

  • Little or no decision making power

  • Underutilization of skill

  • Inflexible or unpredictable working hours

  • Inadequate or unsupportive supervision

  • Poor working relationships

  • Bullying, harassment or violence

What could an organization do to make the workplace healthy?

Several organizational factors can influence or create stress related hazards at a workplace. An organization can ensure the following to make the workplace healthy:

  • Ensuring that employees are aware about the structure, practices and purpose of the organization

  • Ensuring that the job requirement and employee's skill match

  • Clear job role and expectations

  • Clear communication channels in the organisation

  • Ensuring an amicable workplace environment

This list has been curated from Work and Organization Stress by WHO.