What is work-related stress?

Work-related stress is a feeling you may experience when you have demands at work that you feel you cannot keep up with. It may worsen existing mental health conditions or lead to the development of one if it goes on for a long period of time without being dealt with effectively.

According to Bupa (no date), over 11 million working days are lost every year due to work-related stress. Nearly half a million people in the UK have work-related stress at a level that makes them feel ill.

Causes of work-related stress

An illustration depicting feeling down Usually, work is a good thing for us as it gives life structure and most people gain satisfaction from working and meeting their goals. Pressure at work can be beneficial if it helps you to perform better and helps to motivate you through challenging times. However, if the pressure lasts too long at a high level, combined with increasing demands, you may start experiencing work-related stress.

Examples of causes of work-related stress include:

Sometimes, like with other causes of stress, there is no single cause of work-related stress.

Smaller things can build up over time or other external factors (not work-related) can influence your work-related stress, such as events going on in your personal life.

Symptoms of work-related stress

The symptoms of work-related stress are more or less the same as that of other causes of stress. However, there are also more specific symptoms that relate to you and your situation in the workplace:

Physical symptoms
  • feeling tired and that you have no energy
  • diarrhoea or constipation
  • stomach ache
  • aches and pains
  • feeling sick
  • headaches
  • putting on, or losing weight
  • chest pains or tightness in your chest
  • losing the desire to have sex
Mental symptoms
  • feeling that you can't cope with your workload
  • finding it hard to concentrate on a piece of work you need to do, and remember things
  • lacking confidence in your workplace
  • not feeling motivated or committed to your job
  • feeling disappointed with yourself at work
  • being indecisive at work
  • being indecisive at work
  • feeling anxious (for example, you might dread going to work, which happens to us all occasionally but if it’s every day there’s a problem)
  • feeling more emotional – you might be more tearful or sensitive
  • feeling irritable, or having a short temper
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • mood swings
Behavioural changes
  • being irritable and snappy
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • eating too much or too little
  • avoiding certain places or people
  • drinking or smoking more
  • taking illegal drugs to relax

(Bupa, no date)

More information

Feeling stressed is a feeling that we all experience from time to time and know what it feels like, for the most part. However, it's difficult to...
Find out more about stress


Bupa, no date. Work-related stress. [online] bupa.co.uk. Available at: https://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/mental-health/stress-workplace.

Did you know?

On average we spend almost a quarter of our adult life at work. It can give us a sense of purpose, structure and satisfaction – and enables us to finance our daily living. Sometimes however, work can cause stress and frustration and our health and self-esteem suffers.