Why mental health at the workplace should be the priority in 2021 and beyond


Are you feeling stressed at work? If yes, find that you’re not the only one. A staggering 79% of Brits experience work-related stress.

What are the causes of work-related stress? What about the symptoms experienced by employees? And, most importantly, how do you tackle work-related stress? Keep reading below to find out!

Work-related stress is the most common form of stress in the UK, as found by Perkbox in their 2020 UK workplace stress survey. Compared to the 2018 data, the number of Brits experiencing stress at the workplace has increased by 20%. Today, 79% of them feel stressed by or at their jobs. What’s more, only 1% of working adults in the UK claim they never experience stress at work.

Now, considering the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, the fact that more people are experiencing stress at their workplaces isn’t a surprise. The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in companies, affecting their employees as well. Now, the second wave of the Coronavirus crisis is making its way, forcing businesses across the UK to close their doors again, consider laying off more of their employees, or finding themselves incapable of paying their workers. And, what thing is for certain, when business owners are feeling stressed, so do their employees.

Now, let’s dig deeper into what causes work-related stress and how do employees experience it. Later, we’ll discuss how people can deal with job stress in 2021 and beyond.

Work-related stress and what is causing it

We’ve all felt stress at least once at our jobs. Whether there was a tight deadline, a conflict with a work colleague, or a task that challenged our abilities, we’ve all felt the pressure of our jobs. Yet, stress is a normal part of having responsibilities at our jobs. And you shouldn’t be worried that your job is too stressful if you only occasionally feel stressed about a task. But if stress is a big part of your time spent at work, that’s when you know that you are experiencing work-related stress.

The World Health Organization sees work-related stress as the response employees people can have to work demands and pressures. WHO also mentions that stress appears when these demands and pressures are not matched with people’s abilities and knowledge to fulfill them, which challenges their ability to cope.

According to WHO, some of the causes of work-related stress include:

  • Poor work organization
  • Poor management
  • Unsatisfactory working conditions
  • Lack of support from work peers
  • Excessive demands and pressures

There are many other reasons why people may experience stress at their job, including:

  • Working long hours
  • Heavy workload
  • Tight deadlines
  • Changes to tasks and duties
  • Job insecurity
  • Boring and repetitive work
  • Changes within the company

Now you know what’s causing work-related stress. But let’s see how employees actually experience it.

The signs and symptoms of work-related stress

For some people, work-related stress is something that comes and goes. For some, it’s something that ends when their shift ends too. Yet, for many people, job stress can become an unbearable burden that is affecting them way beyond their working hours. They take the stress from work with them at home and unwillingly reflect it on their personal lives as well.

All too often, people are struggling with work-related stress and its consequences on their private lives too. Some may think they have no solution other than to bear with it. Some may not even realize what is causing their unhappiness and makes them feel unwell, both mentally and physically.

Here are the most common signs and symptoms of work-related stress:

Physical symptoms

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Muscular tension
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Gastrointestinal upsets
  • Backache
  • Shortness of breath

Psychological symptoms

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Inability to focus
  • Inability to be productive
  • Pessimism
  • Low mood

Besides the physical and psychological signs of stress caused by work, people can also experience or display behavioural symptoms. Such behavioural symptoms can be: aggression, being defensive and cynical, finding fault, outbursts of anger, diminished initiative, isolation, or, very common in people with severe stress problems, problems with interpersonal relationships.

How to deal with work-related stress

From a management point of view, as found by Perkbox, work from home policies, flexible working hours, regular one to ones between employees and managers are the most common measures that can help employees manage work-related stress.

Yet, not all employers are open to such changes. Or, even if they are, their area of activity may simply not be compatible with these modern-day office measures. In such cases, doing something to tackle work-related stress goes to these employees who are experiencing it.

Stress caused by your job isn’t only affecting your mood. Your mental and physical wellbeing are also taking a toll. What’s more, your interpersonal relationships from other aspects of your life are affected. So, simply bearing with work-relating stress isn’t an option, at least not a viable solution for the long-term.

Here are some tips for coping with work-related stress:

Talk to someone about it.

Sometimes, simply venting about the stress you are experiencing at work can help you release some of the negative emotions you have been gathering so far. Talk to someone you trust, such as a friend or a family member. Yet, if you have several of the work-related symptoms, it’s best to speak to a therapist about what you are experiencing. If you lack the time or feel more comfortable talking to a counsellor from a distance, online therapy is an excellent solution.

Learn how to relax.

Ironically, to release some of the work-related stress you are feeling, you need to learn how to relax. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or practising mindfulness have been proven to help relieve stress. Even if you are at work, when feeling stressed, take a 5-minutes break to breath in and out, meditate, or simply observe your present thoughts and emotions.

Talk to your supervisors.

Specialists have linked productivity at work with good mental wellbeing. So, it’s in both yours and your employer’s favour for you to work in an environment that promotes wellbeing. Have an open conversation with your supervisor about what is making you experience stress and what you think might help you improve your wellbeing, and productivity at the same time.