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Work-related stress

Work-related stress (PDF, 503.52 KB) describes the physical, mental and emotional reactions of workers who perceive that their work demands exceed their abilities and/or their resources (such as time, help/support) to do the work. It occurs when they feel they are not coping in situations where it is important to them that they cope.

A certain level of stress or challenging work can be motivating for workers and can increase performance. However, overly challenging work, which is beyond a person’s skill level, can create excessive stress resulting in performance decrements. Stress follows a curved relationship, such that low and high levels of stress are associated with lower levels of performance whilst moderate levels of stress result in a higher level of performance.

Health effects

When stressful situations go unresolved, the body is kept in a constant state of stimulation, which can result in physiological and/or psychological illness and impact on health behaviours. Common health outcomes linked to stress include cardiovascular disease, immune deficiency disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, musculoskeletal disorders and mental health conditions.

To understand more view the link between psychosocial hazards/factors and musculoskeletal disorders.

Mentally healthy workplaces toolkit

Resources for managers and supervisors

Managers and supervisors play a vital role in the identification and management of work-related stress risks and are in the best position to notice any changes in behaviour or signs and symptoms of stress in their workers.

The Mentally healthy workplaces toolkit provide a series of practical tools and resources for managers and supervisors to create a workplace that is mentally healthy. Mentally healthy workplaces are associated with lower levels of stress, reduced absenteeism and reduced occupational injuries and illnesses.

Preventing and managing risks to work-related psychological health (PDF, 503.52 KBPreventing and managing risks to work-related psychological health) explains the different psychosocial hazards and factors in detail and provides example control measures and interventions you can consider in preventing and managing risk.

Psychological health for small business fact sheet (PDF, 393.27 KB) provides small business owners with some simple tips and strategies for managing work-relatedstress.

The Health Safety Executive in the UK have developed the Line Manager Competency Tool allows managers to assess how effective they are at preventing and managing work-related stress through their management style and behaviour.

Resources for workers

There may be many things in your job or workplace that can make you feel stressed. Feeling stressed at work for a long period of time can lead to a mental disorder such as depression or anxiety.

These are some of the things that could make you feel stressed at work:


You may be more likely to develop a mental health condition if you are always working long hours or your job has high levels of demand. If this is happening in your job or at work, it's important to talk to your manager or someone from the human resources team, health and safety team, a union representative or another person at your workplace that you feel comfortable talking to.

Useful resources:


Employers have a responsibility under a range of laws for the health, safety and welfare of their employees. This includes identifying whether bullying is occurring and taking steps to eliminate and prevent it. If you feel you are being bullied at work, you can take any of the following actions:

  • check your workplace's policy on bullying and follow the process to report your situation
  • keep written records
  • talk to people you trust, like friends or family
  • talk to the person engaging in the bullying behaviour about their behaviour, if you feel safe doing this
  • report it to a manager, supervisor or human resources representative
  • enlist the support of a union representative or other support person
  • contact Workplace Health and Safety Queensland's Advisory Service
  • contact the Fair Work Commission
  • contact Queensland Police if you have significant concerns for your immediate safety.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland's Advisory Service can:

  • provide information on bullying and how to prevent it
  • provide advice on how to raise the issue of bullying in your workplace
  • refer the matter to an Inspector (where appropriate).

Dealing with workplace bullying – a workers guide may also help workers determine if workplace bullying is occurring and how the matter may be resolved.

Conflict with a colleague

There are two main types of workplace conflict:

  1. when people's ideas, decisions or actions relating directly to the job are not the same
  2. when two people just don't get along.

You can get support from talking to:

  • your manager (or to their manager)
  • Human Resources
  • your union
  • your employer's Employee Assistance Program
  • a friend, family member or other support person
  • your doctor or psychologist.

Useful resources:

Discrimination and harassment

If you're seeking advice about discrimination on the basis of personal characteristics, sexual harassment or racial or religious vilification, contact the Queensland Human Rights Commission or the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Performance management

Employers have the right to take reasonable performance management action with employees. This means that your employer can give you feedback about how you are performing in your job. Your employer should follow the policy that your organisation has about performance management. If you feel you are being unfairly performance managed, the following resources may help you:

If a mental health condition has impacted your ability to perform in your role, you should talk about this with your doctor or specialist. You should also talk to your employer about whether they can make changes to your job or support you in other ways during your recovery.

Useful resources:

Violence or threats of violence

If you are exposed to assault or threats of assault, we recommend you contact the Queensland Police Service and inform them of the incident.

Exposure to a traumatic incident or event

Almost everyone who witnesses or experiences a traumatic event will be emotionally affected, and there are many different ways in which people will respond. Most people will recover quite quickly with the help of family and friends. For some, the effects can be long-lasting. If you do experience symptoms after an event, it can happen immediately or even some time afterwards. If your symptoms are distressing or persist for more than a few weeks, you should seek assistance from a health professional. For support following a traumatic event or critical incident contact:

  • your manager or supervisor
  • human resources team
  • A health and safety representative
  • a support person at work or a union or association
  • your employer's Employee Assistance Program (if they have one)
  • your doctor or treating health professional.

Useful resources:

It is important to raise workplace stressors and risks that you believe are, or could be affecting your mental health with a manager or other appropriate person at your workplace, e.g. human resources advisor, health and safety representative, union representative. Any discussions about sensitive or personal issues should be private and confidential, and should not be discussed with any other person, unless you have given them permission to do so. Where the issues may be affecting employees more broadly, discussions must be objective and not identify individual employees.

Last updated
05 July 2019

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