April marked National Stress Awareness Month, an event which has taken place since 1992 to increase public awareness of the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic1.

In a 2018 study by the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of respondents said they had felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope2. And in 2017-2018, 15.4 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety3.

This stress awareness month, Secondsight ran a poll to determine what the main cause of stress in the workplace is.

The results

With 33% of the votes, unmanageable workload was the highest voted cause of stress in the workplace followed by unrealistic expectations and deadlines with 23% of votes.

Next, with 16% was long hours. Poor work-life balance closely followed with 13%. The less voted causes of stress in the workplace were lack of support with 10% and job security with just 3% of the votes.

Managing workplace stress

You can’t control everything that happens in your workplace but there are certain steps you as an employer can take to help minimise the stress your employees are under. Here are our suggestions as to how:

Unmanageable workload – This can happen to the best of us, we tick 3 things off our list, but another 3 tasks are added to the bottom and it can feel like a never-ending battle. But how can you help employees tackle their workload? Firstly, working out where a lot of their time is spent can help discover major issues and often small changes and delegation can help give some time back. But make sure it doesn’t feel like you’re questioning what they are doing with their time, as this can make employees feel untrusted. Secondly, keep checking in with your employees. Just because their workload is light one day, doesn’t mean it will be the same the next. Lastly, keep an eye out for signs that they could be overloaded. Are they working from early in the morning to late at night? Are they sending those midnight emails? Keeping good, regular communication with your employees can really help reduce stress related to workloads.

Unrealistic expectations and deadlines – Faced with 5 tasks that all need to be done yesterday? Having unrealistic expectations and deadlines can cause a huge amount of stress to your employees. So how can you help? Try setting expectations and timelines from the outset, and where there are multiple tasks, make sure you help your employees prioritise these in the order of importance. Also, look at taking 10 minutes out of the day to help your employees plan their week, look at what could affect deadlines being met and try to find ways to reduce this disruption.

Long hours – Working a little later is sometimes unavoidable, however working beyond your normal hours isn’t always as productive as we think and can often lead to mistakes. Getting to the route of why employees are working long hours is a good place to start and this is often linked to the other above stresses in the workplace. Once you tackle the unmanageable workload and create more realistic expectations and deadlines, the pressure generally subsides, and normal working hours can be resumed.

No matter what the causes of stress in your workplace is, it is clear that communicating with your employees is key to tackling these issues. The wellbeing of employees is crucial for any business and encouraging regular breaks, a healthy lifestyle or just regular catch ups, could instantly reduce the stress of your workforce.

For more information on wellbeing in the workplace download our wellbeing guide.


  1. http://stressawarenessmonth.com/
  2. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-stress
  3. http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress.pdf