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A Stress-Free Workplace

Workplace stress occurs when work-related pressures exceed the employee's ability to adapt to these pressures. Learn about the causes of stress in the workplace and how to deal with it.

Stress is a state – not an illness. It is a reaction to too much pressure. Some pressure is good and can act as a positive motivator. When pressure becomes excessive and prolonged, it is experienced as stress.

Workplace stress occurs when work-related pressures exceed the employee's ability to adapt to these pressures. Too much stress can result in mental and physical illness.

Causes of stress

Everyone experiences stress and copes with it in different ways. Stress can have many different causes, such as:

  • Your job situation
  • Your family situation
  • Your schedule

Effects of stress on employees

Having too much stress, or having trouble coping with stress, can lead to a number of health problems. The warning signs that your stress level might be too high can include:

  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Feeling depressed

Managing work-related stress

Employees can use the following strategies to help manage their work-related stress:

  • Limit the amount of work you take home.
  • If you do take work home, do it in a place and a time separate from other family members (e.g., have a home office, do work after the children are in bed).
  • If available, use your organization’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
  • Make time to spend with your friends and family.
  • Make time for yourself.
  • If your working conditions permit, listen to soothing music.
  • Have personal goals and review your progress.
  • Learn more about stress and mental health.

Effects of stress on employers

Stress can affect a person's health and well-being but it can also take a real toll on the workplace. While the actual costs of stress in the workplace can differ for each company, many causes of stress are the same.

Employers can measure those costs (PDF file) and develop a plan that works specifically for their organization to help reduce the effects of stress on employees.

The benefits of having a stress-free workplace include:

  • Improved employee retention and recruitment
  • Improved employee engagement, which reduces presenteeism
  • Decreased disability coverage costs
  • Increased productivity and growth
  • Reduced risks of workplace accidents and injuries
  • Higher employee morale

Preventing work-related stress

Many Canadian employers are taking action (external link) on workplace stress. Using a Comprehensive Workplace Health Promotion (external link) approach can create an environment that builds on the efforts of management and employees to care for their well-being. Creating that environment involves:

  • Effective communication
  • Social support
  • Supportive beliefs, values, norms and policies
  • Supportive management practices
  • Job control and decision making
  • Leadership style
  • Work-life balance practices
  • Supporting individual health practices