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IOSH poll reveals causes of workplace stress

03 November 2021

TO COINCIDE with International Stress Awareness Week 2021 (1-5 November), IOSH asked its website visitors and Instagram followers: “What do you see as the ONE main cause of stress in the workplace?”

Analysis of 244 anonymous responses to our timely poll showed that the overriding message from workers emerging from the difficulties of the pandemic was that they feel overworked, understaffed and under pressure. This accounted for around 45 per cent of their responses, quoting the following chief stressors:

  • Excessive workload
  • Unrealistic time pressures
  • Unattainable targets
  • Long hours
  • Lack of staff
  • An ‘always on’ culture intensified by home working.

Additional comments submitted included:

  • “It feels like everyone is squeezed at the moment, with no sign of the work easing. We are struggling to fill vacancies that will help lighten the load”
  • “Expectation: what can be achieved with the people, resources and time available”
  • “Unrealistic expectations of performance and results without adequate resources”
  • “The pressure of working to cover many different activities in a workplace which is still reorganising and recovering from Covid”
  • “Managing workloads and finding a balance with the new hybrid model of working”
  • “The breakdown of work/home barriers. Constant contact through smart phones and emails.”

Further findings

And just when it seems workers are looking especially to management for greater understanding and support, they say they feel let down by their leaders. This reaction accounted for 25 per cent of responses, including charges of:

  • Poor management
  • Inadequate communication
  • A negative work culture
  • Lack of management support
  • Bullying
  • Little recognition from management.

Comments included

  • “Irrational senior management who don’t understand your roles or the time and resources required to complete work”
  • “Managers that are not in touch with the work done on the ground. Managers not listening to staff or not wanting to know their opinions”
  • “Poor communication – that’s when, how and what is shared. Insufficient or no information issued; staff told rather than consulted.”

IOSH Research Programme Lead, Dr Karen Michell, has written a blog for International Stress Awareness Week – ‘Support needed to tackle stress, burnout and moral injury’