More time is spent working in the average person’s life than in doing any other activity – except maybe sleeping. Work tasks are usually combined so that workers are dealing with multiple projects at once.
Many people feel as if they never get ahead on what they’re supposed to do at work. That sense of lagging behind and pushing to complete projects can have a negative impact on the well-being of any employee.
Common Things That Stress Workers Out
No matter where it is that you work, there are still several common factors that stress people out about their job. Number one on that list is the fear of losing your job.
It doesn’t matter if the worker feels that it’s the worst job on the planet – to him, it’s still preferable over being unemployed. The fear of losing a job has several stressors that feed into this fear.
One of those is the fear of the unknown. Not knowing when or if you’ll be able to find a job if you lose the one you have causes many people to lie awake at night stressed at the thought – even if there’s nothing to back up that stress.
Losing a job is a loss of control, and most people need to know that they have job security. The main reason the fear of losing a job is number one on the list is because many people aren’t financially prepared for the fallout if it does happen.
With the majority of workers living paycheck to paycheck, losing a job can be like pushing over one domino in a long line of catastrophes. The first one goes and everything else falls.
The second biggest stress that workers deal with is the pressure to get tasks done within a certain time frame. Deadline pressure causes stress because there’s often a lot riding on making sure that job gets done or it will impact other parts of the project.
You don’t ever want to be the one holding up progress so you push yourself to get the work done. Part of the problem that causes deadline pressure is unfair expectations put on employees by a boss.
Part of it is that some employees procrastinate and then don’t have the amount of time that they need. Deadline pressure can also loom because employees are forced to multi-task in order to handle the workload.
The problem with this is that your brain is good at multi-tasking only those things it can do on autopilot – things such as taking clothes from the dryer while you’re having a conversation.
But individual tasks that the brain can’t respond to on autopilot can add stress if you try to do them at once. Deadline pressure can better be dealt with if an employee focuses on one part of the job at a time if possible.
Another thing that stresses out a lot of workers is the unfair compensation for work done. Most employees have certain parameters in their job. They know what tasks that they have to do and they’re able to handle those fairly well.
But what usually happens when you’re one of the employees who gets your job done is that people assume that you can handle more tasks. So you end up getting extra work dumped on you.
Most people don’t mind working hard – especially if they enjoy their job. But it can stress them out to work on extra tasks and then not receive the right compensation for it.
The reason that doing more for the same pay stresses workers out is because there’s a sense of injustice that many workers feel when this happens. You know that you deserve to be paid for what you do – and you’re correct.
But most employees won’t speak about it because they fear that they’ll be viewed as unable to handle the workload or as someone who isn’t a “team player.” Plus, employees don’t speak up and say that they need adequate compensation for work done because they’re afraid that they’ll get fired if they do.
Workers also get stressed out when they have to work required overtime. A lot of companies are scaling back on the amount of employees that they have. By doing this, they force the remaining workers to pick up the slack left behind.
So those who are still with the job are doing the work of two people. Required overtime has been linked to an increase in on the job injuries as well as more sick days by employees.
The reason for this is because your body can only handle so much stress before either mistakes are made or your immune system is weakened. When workers have to deal with required overtime, it can cause fatigue due to a lack of enough time off to relax or handle other things that have to be taken care of.
This can be a factor that can greatly amp up the stress. This happens because the worker is often having to choose between the job and at home responsibilities – especially if there are young children involved.
Coworkers are also big on the list that stress workers out. You can’t get away from these people since you work with them, so you have to learn how to deal with the stress that they cause you.
The coworkers that cause you stress are usually stressed themselves – and that stress is passed on to you. This is called secondhand stress. Coworkers cause stress by finding fault with your work or they whine about their lives – including the job.
Some coworkers cause stress by being your personal nag. They nag you about what you eat, when you arrive at work or when you leave. Others are amiable, but are always pushing their job responsibilities off onto you.
Some coworkers cause you to get behind in your work because they want to linger near you and tell you all about their lives. Or they’re sharing problems and want you to act as an advisor.
Supervisors or bosses can also stress workers. They can have unfair expectations such as announcing that they need a worker to stay late without giving him an advance warning.
Or they can dump a project on an employee at the last minute and still expect it to get done on time. Some supervisors can be impatient, pushy, rude and difficult to approach whenever there’s a problem. You can’t control how other people act. But you can control your reaction to their actions.
Managing Your Time Better at Work
One of the things that you can control is learning how to manage your time better while you’re at work. In order to make the most of the time that you do have and hopefully to avoid having to rush to get work done, you can make sure that you’re organized.
Organization really is the key to having a productive day at work. Keep a day planner or a spreadsheet on what project you need to be working on and when that project is due.
Always try to give yourself a few extra days for unforeseen things that can crop up. Break the task up by steps and assign each step to a day that the project has to be completed by.
This creates mini-deadlines that will make the task easier to complete. Keep to a schedule that you write down and keep it posted for easy reference. This comes in handy when you have a coworker who’s known for taking up a lot of your time by stopping to chat.
You can point to your schedule and say, “I’d love to talk, but I’ve got less than two minutes to stay on schedule.” Another way that you can manage time better is to stop multi-tasking.
This really does waste more of your time than it saves. Keep your focus on finishing one task at a time. You also have to be firm about distractions. To stay focused may also require that you let it be known that you just don’t have time for the usual office stuff that goes on.
The joking, pausing to look at coworkers’ photographs or joining others at the water cooler for a mini gossip session will need to be back-burnered until you have a breather.
If you don’t manage your time at work, it really does manage you. Trying to handle everything yourself can be something that eats up a lot of your time. This can be especially difficult for those who like to be in control of all the aspects of a project from start to finish.
But you really do need to learn to delegate what can be handled by others. While not everything can be passed on to someone else to complete, you’ll find that there are a lot of mini-tasks within a task that can be.
This leaves you free to keep working on bigger points in the project. It will get done faster – and on time. It can be easy to lose big portions of time by taking too many breaks.
The average worker who takes a five or ten minute break, doesn’t actually get back into the swing of working until twenty minutes later. If you take three or four of these breaks a day, you’ve lost a lot of valuable time.
To help manage your time, you can also come to work a little early. If you show up just fifteen minutes early for five days, you’ve gained an hour and fifteen minutes of extra time.
Arriving early helps you get your mind in the right mode to get started working. Many people show up at work on schedule but don’t actually settle down to work until fifteen or twenty minutes later. Getting a head start can help you get ahead and help control the stress.
Learn Better Communication Skills
Not knowing the right way to communicate your needs at work can cause you to become more stressed. Usually, when someone is feeling mistreated, when they try to have a conversation about it with someone at work who has the ability to change that stress, he or she ends up getting flustered.
When communicating at work, make sure that you don’t use inflammatory words. Stay open-minded and don’t be judgmental. Your perception of the situation may not be 100% accurate.
The situation may not be personally aimed at you, so try not to be offended. Make sure that you listen. Listening is a skill in communication that can be effectively used to solve the majority of situations.
Pay attention to the tone of your voice. If you have an abrupt way of speaking, that can be construed as rudeness and it may put the person you’re talking to on the defensive.
Speak in a soft voice and stay on point regarding the issue. Don’t be critical of the other person – even if you know that they’re a problem. It won’t solve anything.
Instead of saying, “Because you do xyz, I can’t get my job done,” rephrase that. Say, “It’s harder for me to get my work finished with too many interruptions and I really need time to concentrate.”
By stating the problem, you make it clear what you think is going on. But then, instead of leaving it open ended, offer a solution if you know it. Such as, “I can get the project done on time, but it would speed things up if another person handled this part of it.”
Not speaking up when you need to can lead to frustration, resentment and a spike in stress. When there is an issue, don’t dwell on it and don’t lose sleep over it.
You’ll feel better emotionally if you address whatever you need to talk about right away. This can clear the air and provide a better working environment, too. Remember that no one person can be 100% right all of the time.
There are times when the way you look at a situation can be off. You may want every section of a task handled a certain way while your coworker wants it approached from a different angle.
If it’s not going to impact getting your work done, then be willing to offer a compromise and find a common ground that will help to strengthen your working relationships rather than making them a battleground.
Collaboration and accommodation can bring an air of cooperation to the workplace. Sometimes, despite how well you get along with people, there will be conflict on the job.
It’s best to solve conflicts quickly so that they don’t become major issues. Treat the other person with respect in any conversation – even when you feel stressed or mistreated.
Don’t see the problem and the person as a unit. Separate one from the other. Make sure that you have all of the facts. Be an active listener. State what you think the other person is saying. Name the problem and then discuss solutions. Work to find a solution that appeals to all parties involved.
Reducing Stress on the Job
There are several ways that you can reduce the stress you’re under at work. These can be simple steps that you take to find fast relief from the stress and pressure.
First, as soon as you get a break or go on lunch, talk about what’s going on with a trusted friend. Venting emotions can relieve stress and prevent it from continuing to build.
If you can, move away from whatever is causing you stress. If it’s a coworker, you can say a quick, “Excuse me, I’ve got to head over here for a second.” Then disappear into the restroom for a quick breather.
If the weather is nice and you have a break, go for a walk outside your workplace. You can discreetly perform some meditation habits that you’ve learned from practices that teach users how to minimize stress.
For example, yoga teaches users some helpful deep breathing exercises. Listen to some relaxing music while you’re at work if you can. Something that’s soft and soothing can help you reduce stress.
Taking a moment or two of silence can also help reduce stress. Just sit quietly and center yourself. Some people find it helpful to use guided visualization exercises.
Practice muscle relaxation. With this technique, you can relieve stress by concentration on contracting and then relaxing the muscles in your body. Start at your head and work your way down to your toes.
Redirect your thoughts to something more positive. Try not to dwell on stressful situations. Instead, think about the positive things that have happened to you over the last month.
You can also use aromatherapy. If possible, use a diffuser. You can put some Neroli oil in to heat. Neroli oil helps alleviate tension. If you can’t use a diffuser at work, then place drops of the oil on a cotton ball and place it nearby where you can smell the aroma.