Stress, Fatigue and Conflict in the Workplace


Work-related stress may occur where work demands exceed a person’s capacity and capability to cope.Stress is often linked with physical and mental fatigue.

It’s important to understand the difference between normal work pressure, which is usually to do with meeting a rewarding challenge; and stress, which is more to do with resisting a threat of some sort. Where there are urgent deadlines, work overload, poor relationships or where other things cause stress, we mostly cope – if there is a return to ‘normal’ within a reasonable time.

When work stress is on-going and contributes to emotional, psychological or physical illness, it becomes a concern and needs to be managed like any other hazard in the workplace.

Unmanaged, work-related stress is known to be linked with high levels of absenteeism, sick leave, staff turnover and human error. So as well as improving productivity, it’s also important to manage for the morale and health of workers.

Work is healthy when it provides:

  • a balance of effort and rest
  • some variety in and of tasks
  • a sense of control and autonomy (for example some personal control over when and how tasks are done)
  • good communication and collaboration
  • rewards, recognition and support
  • confidence in the organisation’s leadership


Over tired workers don’t perform as well, are less productive, and are more likely to have accidents and injuries. Worker fatigue is also linked with stress.

Many life factors can cause fatigue and it’s important that everyone in the workplace can recognise fatigue and develop practices to eliminate it where possible.

In situations where fatigue can lead to harm (such as driving or the operation of dangerous machinery) employers have obligations to take all practicable steps to ensure that fatigue is not likely to cause harm. Employers are not responsible for factors outside of work that impact on an employee’s ability to cope, or that lead to fatigue. But they are required to have systems that identify and deal with such factors when they may affect workplace safety.

Shift-work can be particularly hazardous because of the disruption to normal rest patterns. It’s important for workers to have adequate recovery time outside of work so they are safe and productive at work.

Along with adequate sleep, breaks during work hours are important for assisting a worker’s physical and mental well-being.