work related stress

What creates work related stress?


This is a part of an article in 5 parts, taking you through the physics of stress, and how to prevent it. You can start reading here – or go to one of the below sections to dig deeper into each element.


Losing an employee to a long sick-leave due to chronic stress is exactly that: losing. As employer we lose the people and the competences, and as humans and seen from society, we burn out people.

How much a person can handle is individual, but it is known, that combining stressors – as we call the factors that causes stress – increases the risk of getting ill with chronic stress.

But what are the stressors at work? Can we identify what factors in combination or alone would eventually lead to chronic stress? And if we can, is it then evident how to eliminate them?

I believe that the key is found the other way around, so lets look at what creates a motivating, fun and productive workplace. With a little help from Daniel Pink, Simon Sinek, Kolind & Bøtters and Alexander Kjerulf we get this:


A motivating, challenging, developing and fun workplace has four essential characteristics:

1. Social safety
You need recognition and timely feedback. You need to feel valued for who you are, and you need to feel supported by your community. You need relations.

2. Autonomy
You need to get the right amount of responsibility for the task with out being micromanaged, and you need to have the mandate to perform the job.

3. Mastery
You need to have the right competences to do the job, and you need to feel good about what you do and the quality of your work. You need the right experiences, but also the needed support form peers or managers, and you need to have time enough to do the task right. Achieving results is a big part of motivation and happiness at work.

4. Purpose
There must be a clear purpose for the company, for the team or the product you work on, and the work, and the specific tasks you are working on, has to make sense to you. It has to be meaningful.

That was the good stuff. If you revert this, you get the ‘recipe’ for creating work-related stress:

what creates workrelated stress

1. Lack of social safety
Lack of recognition, lack of support form peers or the manager and lack of social relations, makes us feet unwanted.

2. Lack of autonomy
Lack of influence on decisions that impact your daily work, hyper control and micro-management, and working on something, where you at the end of the day, do not have the mandate. But perhaps most common, at least in the corporate world I know of: lack of control of own time. When it is other peoples meeting-bookings that decide what you should do when, when thousands of emails floods your inbox and time, and when deadlines are unrealistic and set by others.

3. Lack of mastery
When you don’t have the skills and competencies to do the work. When you don’t have the right experience and don’t get appropriate support to do the tasks. When you lack time to deliver a result you are comfortable with. When you lack delivering results.

4. Lack of purpose
If the company purpose is unclear – or does not exist. If the translation of the purpose into the team, the product or the specific task is missing, and if what you do, it does not make sense

It is important to realize, that even if the above is essential for all of us, not all factors have same impact for everybody. People are different, and have different luggage in life, so a high stress factor for one, can mean nothing to another.

The important thing is to use this, and identify what causes the malfunction, and if and how, it can be changed.

My advise to you, is to print both of these slides out, and use them for reflection on both your own situation or for helping your employees – or peers.




photo: Holly Mindrup, via

About the author: Line Bloch

Line has more than 17 years of real-life experience as department manager, project manager, senior specialist and programme manager at Novo Nordisk A/S. Master of Science. Practitioner in ITIL, Service Management.

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