Definition of Work Stress

Mary Gormandy White
stressed at work

Work stress is defined as stress that is generated due to conflicting demands in one's job. The amount of control employees have over their workflow can impact how significant work stress will be. While all work has an element of stress, true work stress is harmful in that an employee has emotional and physical reactions to job demands that are difficult to control.

Multiple Sources of Work Stress

Work stress comes from many sources. Some of the most common sources of job-related stress include:

  • Environmental Stress - Some stress that people experience in the workplace is related to the physical environment in which they work. This type of stress can be associated with workplace safety issues, the configuration of one's work area, the type of furniture or equipment that must be used in order to perform job functions, and other variables.
  • Uncertainty - People who aren't sure where they stand in their jobs often experience a high degree of work stress. This issue can be tied to fear of job loss, hoping for recognition or a promotion, a lack of feedback on one's performance, or other issues.
  • People Issues - A great deal of workplace stress is related to people problems, such as coping with difficult co-workers, dealing with a negative or uncommunicative supervisor, peer pressure, and more.
  • Performance Pressure- Feeling pressure to produce a certain quality or quantity of work can be a workplace stressor. This can be tied to sales or production quotas, manufacturing standards, impending deadlines, and other factors.

Facts About Work Related Stress

Several facts about the phenomenon remain consistent.

Stress Is Relative

Most people don't experience stress in the same way. What one person finds stressful in the workplace might be the very task or situation that others enjoy. Someone who is comfortable with public speaking won't find the act of making a business presentation to be stressful, for example. For people who don't like speaking in public, however, the thought of delivering a presentation can bring on a reaction that ranges from a mild case of nerves to a panic attack or stress-induced physical illness.

Stress Can Be Positive or Negative

Many people think stress, by definition, is a negative thing that they should attempt to avoid at all times. This myth is very common, but it is untrue. While too much stress can be detrimental to physical and mental well being, there are situations in which stress - managed effectively - can actually be beneficial.

While an approaching deadline can be described as a stressor, it's positive for some people and negative for others. Many people do their best work when they have a limited time to complete what they're doing, while others aren't able to cope with the pressure of an approaching deadline. Those who react negatively to impending deadlines tend to refer to them as stressful while those who work well under pressure often describe them as motivators.

Personal Definition of Work Stress

The best way to come up with a meaningful definition of work stress is to create one that takes your own personal experiences into consideration. Whether positive or negative, experiencing stress triggers emotions such as anxiety, pressure, excitement, fear, panic, and other feelings. Think about those elements of your current job and of positions you've held in the past that trigger similar emotions for you. When you are able to identify conditions and situations that lead to these types of responses, you'll know what work stress means to you. Once you have your definition in hand, you will better be able to control stress at work effectively.

Definition of Work Stress