What are most common sources of stress at work?

Dealing with complaints, multitasking and back-to-back meetings top the list

What are most common sources of stress at work?
Dealing with complaints is the most common cause of stress at work, finds a survey.

Nearly four in 10 workers in the U.K. have left a job because of stress, and 35.3 per cent needed time off after feeling overwhelmed with stress.

Self-reported stress, depression or anxiety have been caused or made worse by their work in the past 12 months, according to a survey by Sodexo, and nearly half (44.9 per cent) of respondents say stress affects their home life with 37.9 per cent saying it has caused them to lose sleep.

Another 27.7 per cent say they have to take medications to cope with work stress, according to the survey of 1,509 respondents in April.

Twenty per cent of employees forfeited paid time off in 2020, and 43 per cent say they are more burned out on the job today compared to a year ago, according to a separate report released in May.

Common causes of work stress

So, what causes stress at work? The top three most arduous tasks are dealing with complaints (26.8 per cent), multitasking several projects with upcoming deadlines (21.1 per cent) and back-to-back meetings throughout the day (18.7 per cent),

Other causes of stress include:

  • performance reviews (17.6 per cent)
  • talking on the phone to customers (17.4 per cent)
  • presenting to people virtually or in person (internal or external) (17.1 per cent)
  • managing emails (15 per cent)
  • problem solving/troubleshooting issues (15 per cent)
  • working with large digital documents (14.3 per cent)
  • one-on-one meetings with a manager (14 per cent)

Even on vacation, many Americans check email and messages (90 per cent) and answer calls from clients or colleagues (70 per cent), according to a separate report.

Symptoms of stress

Everyone experiences stress differently, so being able to recognize the signs in employees can help employers approach the issue proactively before it leads to burnout, says Sodexo. 

Common feelings of stress can include feeling: irritable, aggressive or wound up; overburdened; anxious, nervous or afraid; unable to “switch off”; neglected or lonely; depressed.

When these feeling arise, people can often: 

  • struggle to make decisions 
  • snap at colleagues or customers 
  • struggle to concentrate
  • eat too much or too little 
  • smoke or drink alcohol more than usual 
  • become more emotional or cry

Some experts have expressed concern that the pandemic will lead to a mental health crisis among Canadians.

Combatting anxiety, tension

Sodexo shared the following steps to help employees deal with stress:

  • When dealing with complaints, teach employees to put their emotions aside, remain calm and remember not to take it personally.
  • When offering employees advice, ask them to acknowledge the issue, investigate the problem and focus on what they can do to help (even if the issue does not lie with them).
  • To address stress caused by multitasking, advise your team to implement planning, get them to use lists, group tasks together and prioritize urgent jobs.
  • When dealing with back-to-back meetings, ask staff to ask themselves if the meeting is necessary and if it is imperative to attend.

More than six in 10 working professionals in the U.S. said they experienced burnout in 2020, largely because of an unmanageable workload, insufficient rewards, a lack of control over work and lack of support from managers, found a separate survey.

Here are other ways to help employees deal with work anxieties, according to WellSteps:

  • Limit work shifts to 10 hours or less and make sure employees have adequate time to rest before their next shift.
  • Encourage employees to take regular mini-breaks.
  • Give employees the option of calling a “time out” when they feel overwhelmed.
  • Schedule regular breaks for employees who perform high-stress activities.
  • Consider the use of flextime or other alternative work schedules such as part time, staggered hours, job sharing, shift working, and even telecommuting. 

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