Work stress is real, you feel it every day, but you can rarely identify its sources.
The things that cause stress are countless. They can take many forms and can come from many sources. Stress can be positive. Sometimes. But, as with too much of anything, too much stress is never a good thing.
The same goes for job stress.
Too much stress doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a constant, continuous accumulation of factors and stressful situations. Some people seem to know better how to deal with them. They know how to switch off and “hit refresh”.
But, more and more people these days seem to have lost the awareness when it comes to what causes us to feel stressed, and, as a consequence, they have lost de capacity to deal with stress in an effective manner (pause, reflect, relax, recharge, start again with a better perspective).
In this article, we take a closer look at what could be the most important sources of job stress.
1. Heavy workload
If your work days are like a sprint, when you give everything for a short period of time, and you can take a moment to relax afterward, at the end of the day you’re happy and full of positive energy. You achieved something and you can even take a moment to admire the results of your work.
But if your work days look more like a marathon? When you keep grinding with no pause. And if we add to that the feeling of having worked the whole day without having done too much, the image is rather grim, right?
2. Failing to take enough time out and relax
See point 1. above. Are you a marathon runner or a sprinter? Can you effectively change your working style from working around the clock with no pauses to do highly focused work for shorter periods and take breaks in between?
3. Random interruptions
Being interrupted often causes not only a higher level of stress but also a lower quality of our actual work. Deep, highly focused, high quality work is becoming rare these days.
4. Lack of control over the outcomes of your work
You poured all your heart into it, but there are so many factors that influence the process, that you can’t seem to have any impact on the final result. Frustrating and, of course, stressful.
5. Mistrust, unwritten office policies and politics, low team morale
You can’t see time going by when you work with an enthusiastic, high energy team. I will let you imagine the speed of time with the opposite type of team.
6. Juggling work and personal life
Heavy workload, little or no time for admin work and personal life, the nagging feeling of so many things left on the to-do list, end up by taking their toll.
7. Being unappreciated
How did you feel the last time you did a good job and nobody seemed to notice it? And the time before? And the time before?
8. Lack of two-way communication, an inconsistent review process
When was the last time you received constructive feedback? Other than the annual review? (provided that could be considered constructive feedback).
9. Career and job ambiguity
This is more a consequence of the previous two points above. But let’s think about it for a moment: how would you feel to have a pretty good idea about how your career will look like in, say 5 years (or even 1 year) from now? Relaxed, right?
10. Unclear company direction and policies
Same as above. Just at a bigger scale.
If you want to learn how to better manage work stress:
Robert M. Sapolsky – Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers
David Allen – Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity