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What’s Causing Your Work Stress? 5 Factors and How to Handle Them

Topics: Work Culture
Work-related stress is incredibly common these days. In fact, research shows that most workers are stressed most of the time. Seventy percent of workers ranked their stress at a level 3 or higher on a scale of 1 – 5, according to the results of a recent Paychex survey.
work stress
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In order to begin to tackle a problem of work stress, we first need to identify the causes. Some factors are more typical and significant than others.

1. The Work Itself Is Stressful or Even Traumatic.

Stress is often a matter of perspective. But, some jobs are stressful no matter how you cut it. Dangerous work environments, for example, cause stress. The work of firefighters, ambulance drivers, and members of the military exposes them to difficult, even traumatic, experiences that create stress. These professionals ought to be mindful of these factors and make stress-relieving practices a part of their weekly, or even daily, routine.

2. You Work Too Much

Americans work a lot, and it’s stressing them out. It’s not just how much they’re working that matters — it’s how the schedule impacts their families, too. Eighty-one percent of workers said they wished they could spend more time with their kids, according to that same Paychex survey. And, 31 percent said that working overtime has caused tension with their significant other or family.

In one survey, 31 percent of workers said overtime was causing significant tension with their family.Click To Tweet

The best way to combat this is to work less. But, in our modern culture of overwork, that can be hard to do. Pressure to work overtime is often subtle; it’s not always an overt requirement. The fact that 47 percent of workers said they work non-required weekends stands as evidence of the force of this pressure.

3. The Work Setting Is Tense and Uncomfortable

Workers don’t have to face significant danger or trauma to experience job-related stress. Other factors from the work environment can have a big impact, too.

“Sometimes your work setting creates physical stress because of noise, lack of privacy, poor lighting, poor ventilation, poor temperature control or inadequate sanitary facilities,” reads a report from the American Psychological Association on stress in the workplace. “Settings where there is organizational confusion or an overly authoritarian, laissez-faire or crisis-centered managerial style are all psychologically stressful.”

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4. You’re Committing Fundamental Attribution Error

A recent article in Harvard Business Review about work stress explains that something called “fundamental attribution error” can also be a factor. People tend to judge those around them by their behavior. However, when people judge themselves, they do so based on their intent. The result can be a lot of blame and assumptions, which increase stress. Instead of judging others and labeling them with character flaws, people should focus on consciously understanding their own emotions and giving others the benefit of the doubt. It might really help to reduce stress levels.

“So, the next time someone says or does something that activates your stress triggers, practice acknowledging and understanding your emotions,” suggests Anne Grady in the article. “Assume positive intent and look for the most hopeful interpretation of their behavior.”

5. It’s Not a Good Fit

When someone hates their job, it’s easy to feel stressed. Stress doesn’t only come from long hours and too much work — it can also originate from feeling miserable at work most of the time.

This is no way to live. If your job is causing lots of stress and unhappiness, maybe it’s just not a good fit. It might be time to look for other opportunities.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you think is causing your work-related stress? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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I’ve actually just been on short term disability because of extreme stress, anxiety and depression. I’ve been off of work for 1.5 months and it’s the busiest time of the year for the company that I work for. I am trying to find another job while I’ve been out of work, but it’s been a tough road. I’m looking for something that allows me to be home at night and on the weekends for my daughter. Retail just doesn’t allow that, and when you are the manager, everything falls on you to make sure it’s all done. My manager had… Read more »

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