Stress in workplaces


    In News

    • Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have issued guidelines to address mental health issues among the global workforce.

    What is Work-related stress?

    • Some of the many causes of work-related stress include long hours, heavy workload, job insecurity and conflicts with co-workers or bosses.
    • Symptoms include a drop in work performance, depression, anxiety and sleeping difficulties.

    Major Highlights by WHO and ILO 

    • Loss in economy and workforce
      • Depression and anxiety are thought to account for 12 billion lost workdays annually, costing the world economy close to $1 trillion, according to the WHO.
    • Countries having national programmes 
      • Five per cent of the working-age population had mental illness and only 35 percent of countries had national programmes for work-related mental health promotion in place.  
    • Increase in anxiety and despair 
      • COVID-19 caused a 25 percent increase in anxiety and despair, demonstrating how poorly governments anticipated its effects on mental health. 
    • The pandemic highlighted a persistent lack of mental health resources globally. 
      • Governments globally allocated just 2 per cent of their health budgets to mental health in 2020, with lower-middle-income nations allocating less than 1 per cent.

    Do you know?

    • Quiet quitting 
      • Quiet quitters are workers who decide to remain in their positions while pledging to perform only those duties related to their jobs and nothing else.
    • Quiet hustlers  
      • Are those who experience a mismatch in expectations at their principal place of employment. They may quietly start a side business.


    • Loss of productivity
      • The individual’s well-being is a reason enough to act, but poor mental health can also affect a person’s performance and productivity.
    • Socio-economic problems 
      • An unhealthy work culture accentuates broader socio-economic problems, such as inequality and discrimination, which affect mental health. 
    • Mobbing
      • One of the most common workplace harassment is bullying or psychological assault, commonly known as mobbing.
    • Other major challenges:
      • Low salaries
      • Excessive workload
      • Few opportunities for growth or advancement
      • Work that isn’t engaging or challenging
      • Lack of social support
      • Not having enough control over job-related decisions
      • Conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations

    Benefits of preventing stress in the workplace

    • Reduced symptoms of poor mental and physical health
    • Fewer injuries, less illness and lost time
    • Reduced sick leave usage, absences and staff turnover
    • Increased productivity
    • Greater job satisfaction
    • Increased work engagement
    • Reduced costs to the employer
    • Improved employee health and community wellbeing.

    Way forward

    • Training
      • WHO has suggested manager training to avoid stressful work settings and assist distressed employees.
    • Investments
      • We need to invest in reshaping the working environment to stop stigma and social exclusion and ensure employees with mental health conditions feel protected and supported.
    • Return to work
      • The guidelines also suggested improved approaches to meeting the requirements of workers with mental health disorders and prescribed interventions that promote their return to work. 
    • Paid employment mechanisms
      • It also offered paid employment mechanisms for people with severe mental health conditions. The guidelines emphasised the need for actions to protect medical, humanitarian and emergency personnel.
    • Work-related stress is a management issue:
      • Ensure a safe working environment.
      • Make sure that everyone is properly trained for their job.
      • De-stigmatise work-related stress by openly recognising it as a genuine problem.
      • Discuss issues and grievances with employees, and take appropriate action when possible.
      • Devise a stress management policy in consultation with the employees.
      • Encourage an environment where employees have more say over their duties, promotional prospects and safety.
      • Organise to have a human resources manager.
      • Cut down on the need for overtime by reorganising duties or employing extra staff.
      • Take into account the personal lives of employees and recognise that the demands of home will sometimes clash with the demands of work.
      • Seek advice from health professionals, if necessary.