What is work-related stress?

Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland

Definition of stress

Stress can hit anyone at any level of the business and recent research shows that work-related stress is widespread and is not confined to particular sectors, jobs or industries.

HSE's formal definition of work-related stress is: "The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work."

Stress is not an illness – it is a state. However, if stress becomes too excessive and prolonged, mental and physical illness may develop.

There is a difference between pressure and stress. Pressure can be positive and a motivating factor, and is often essential in a job. It can help us achieve our goals and perform better. Stress occurs when this pressure becomes excessive. Stress is a natural reaction to too much pressure.

Work-related stress

Well-designed, organised and managed work is good for us but when insufficient attention to job design, work organisation and management has taken place, it can result in work-related stress.

Work-related stress develops because a person is unable to cope with the demands being placed on them. Stress, including work-related stress, can be a significant cause of illness and is known to be linked with high levels of sickness absence, staff turnover and other issues such as more errors.

Stress can hit anyone at any level of the business and recent research shows that work related stress is widespread and is not confined to particular sectors, jobs or industries. That is why a population-wide approach is necessary to tackle it.

HSE has developed the management standards approach to tackling work-related stress; these standards represent a set of conditions that, if present, reflect a high level of health, wellbeing and organisational performance.

This approach helps those who have key roles in promoting organisational and individual health and well-being to develop systems to prevent illness resulting from stress.

Balancing demands and pressures with skills and knowledge

A person experiences stress when they perceive that the demands of their work are greater than their ability to cope.

Coping means balancing the demands and pressures placed on you (the job requirements) with your skills and knowledge (your capabilities).

For example, if you give a member of your team a tight deadline on a project they feel they have neither the skills nor ability to do well, they may begin to feel undue pressure which could result in work-related stress.

Stress can also result from having too few demands, as people will become bored, feel undervalued and lack recognition. If they feel they have little or no say over the work they do or how they do it, this may cause them stress.

For more information, visit - www.hseni.gov.uk

Useful resources

This policy includes advice on the monitoring of teacher absence reported as sickness...
Please find the attached EA HealthWell Programme Poster. We would encourage you to print...
The purpose of this policy and accompanying procedures is to establish a clear framework...
Please find the attached EA Healthwell Hub Poster. We would encourage you to print off...
EA's Internal and External Support and Signposting Information for staff Health &...
This procedure applies to those staff who are members of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) (Northern Ireland).
Leave with this pay under this heading is not part of annual leave entitlement, is...
The objectives of the career breaks scheme are to provide new job opportunities in the...
Well NI is our range of workplace health promotion services which aim to improve people’s...
EA's Internal and External Support and Signposting Information
The Quick Fit programme offers positive steps to improve your health through diet and...
Parenting NI can deliver a range of 12 needs-led Employee Wellbeing Seminars to parent...
This is a six-session programme using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) concepts – the...
Unfortunately we are currently unable to deliver our health checks due to COVID-19. If...
Where we match the aspirations of the staff members with a likeminded organisation who...
Do you or does your organisation work with carers? Or does the work you do impact on...
This includes: Raising awareness of depression and Aware NI services at a wide range of...
Advice NI is the leading provider of nationally accredited Advice and Guidance, Legal...
Guided meditations
Handle stress and anxiety on the go
First aid advice
Guided meditations
Support for back pain