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Causes of Workplace Stress

​The causes of stress at the workplace come from multiple factors and are called psychosocial hazards or workplace stressors. The ILO defined psychosocial hazards as the interactions between and among work environment, job content, organisational conditions and workers' capacities, needs, culture, personal extra-job considerations that may through perceptions and experience, influence health, work performance and job satisfaction (ILO, 1986, p3)1.

Psychosocial hazards can relate to the content and context of work. Content of work refers to working conditions and work organisation, such as task design, workload, pace of work, work schedule, environment and equipment. On the other hand, context of work refers to the organisation of work and labour relations, such as organisational culture and function, role in organisation, career development, interpersonal relationships at work, and home-work interface2.

Stress reactions are influenced by individual characteristics such as personality, feelings and thoughts, and the ability to cope with stress, which in turn affect the experience of stress and responses to interventions.

workplace stress

Figure 1: Causes and consequences of workplace stress


  1. Adapted and modified from Kompier and Marcelissen (1990) Referenced in Eurofound. 2012. Health and well-being at work: A report based on the fifth European Working Conditions Survey. Dublin. Publications Office of the European Union.
  2. Abdin E, Subramaniam M, Chan A, Chen J-A, Chong CL, Wang C, et al. (2019) iWorkHealth: An instrument to identify workplace psychosocial risk factors for a multi-ethnic Asian working population. PLoS ONE 14(8): e0220566.

1 ILO (International Labour Office). 1986. Psychosocial factors at work: Recognition and control, Report of the Joint ILO/WHO Committee on Occupational Health, Ninth Session, Geneva, 18–24 September 1984, Occupational Safety and Health Series No. 56 (Geneva).

International Labour Organization (ILO). 2016. Workplace stress: A collective challenge, Report for the World Day for Safety and Health at Work (SafeDay), 28 Apr. (Geneva)