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A 2021 poll showed that 54% of employees reported feeling “stressed” or “extremely stressed” at work¹. That’s just over half of the average UK workforce.

Should this be the norm? Clearly work-life can be a trigger of stress for employees across the country. But the scales are swayed. There are more people who feel stressed at work than people who don’t. That’s a statistic that needs shifting.

From feelings of overwhelm to trouble sleeping, a lack of self-confidence and using drugs or alcohol to cope—there’s a myriad of ways stress can impact daily life. Long-term—or chronic—stress can lead to physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, also known as burnout². The phrase burning the candle at both ends springs to mind. But energy budgets eventually run out. And this can lead to serious health implications later down the line.

That’s why we can’t stress enough how important it is that the signs are recognised, acknowledged, and understood. By both employers, and employees. So we did a little digging. We’ve reviewed the data from the hundreds of thousands of calls that Health Assured has received over the past three months, to understand the top 5 workplace stresses faced by employees in 2021.

1. Job role

The top workplace stressor relates to the job role. This kind of stress might cause employees to feel unsure about what’s expected of them. Many employees in this calling category are seeking more clarity about their roles. Lack of objectives, no future direction and misunderstood expectations can lead to feelings of confusion, inadequacy and hopelessness. Over time, this can take its toll.

2. Job demands

Next on the list is job demands. Typical issues in this remit include a feeling of overwhelm, not enough hours in the day and a struggle to cope. Perhaps it’s an excessive workload, meaning employees are constantly ‘up against it’. Or it could be an inability to cope with certain tasks required from the job role. Callers in this category often report symptoms of burnout and stress-related absences.

3. Work relationships

Relationships can be a cause of tension across all areas of life. In fact, both family and partner-related calls ranked within the top 10 call categories of the past three months. Work relationships came in as the third biggest cause of stress in the workplace. These kinds of calls can range from conflict with colleagues to bullying and victimisation across the organisation. Stress relating to relationships can subsequently impact many other areas at work too.

4. Support issues

The next biggest contributor to stress in the workplace was related to support issues. These kinds of calls cover problems relating to management and other methods of employee support. Issues in this category include receiving insufficient support in the role and a lack of guidance from management. Employees having difficulty in this category can often feel frustrated, anxious and neglected.

5. Changes at work

The final category in the top 5 is—changes at work. Changes at work can include big organisational shifts or smaller scale team changes. Whether it’s redundancies, a flood of leavers or a shift in company policy—there can be a range of reasons for work-life changes. Change can bring uncertainty and new ways of working. This can sometimes be a trigger of stress for employees, making it hard for them to stay engaged with workplace culture.

Countless potential workplace stresses reveal themselves from the call data. But behind each of these calls is an employee struggling. This stress can affect productivity, performance, and absence levels. It can also seep into other areas of life, affecting relationships, work-life balance, and mental health. This is why it’s so important for both employers and employees, to grasp the impact of work-stresses and work towards a place of understanding, awareness and support.

Article written and supplied by Health Assured - October 2021

Data taken from Health Assured’s 24/7 EAP helpline between 01/06/2021-31/08/2021.


¹ 2021. Rising work stress and burnout - Headspace. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 September 2021].

² 2021. Stress - Every Mind Matters. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 September 2021].

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