Feeling Stressed At Work- Symptoms, Causes, and Solutions

Feeling Stressed At Work-Symptoms Causes and Solutions

Do your best and let the rest go. You can’t be perfect, no matter how hard you try, so give yourself for making an effort, and try to stop stressing about the outcome.”- Anonymous

As professionals working across diverse disciplines, I’m sure you can relate to the sheer stress at work irrespective of whether you’re working from home or working in a regular office space. 

Anxiety, sleeping disorders, depression, anxieties, weight changes, frequent headaches, just to name a few. 

But why does it have to be like that? Do you have to make yourself miserable to be successful in your trade? No, never. 

I know that today’s extremely competitive market zone has pushed all working pros to the boundaries of mental and physical health. Be it entrepreneurs, managers, or employees, everyone is under constant pressure to deliver the goods and achieve set goals. 

It’s not uncommon to see people working overtime as the thin line separating work and life continues to diminish further

But wait. If you’re on the brink of “burn-out” and work-related stress has taken over your overall health, can you always blame it on seemingly never-ending pressure to meet deadlines at work? 

If you are blaming your job role and responsibilities for work-related stress then you are giving a blind eye to your role in contributing to your downfall. 

What? How can I be responsible if I get stressed at work? Are you nuts? 

Cool down, relax. I know you might want to throw a punch or two on my face for this, but reality bites, doesn’t it? 

I strongly feel that it’s our failure to realize our capacity and capability that, besides other reasons, makes us the sitting duck for work-related stress to consume us and leave us drained both physically and mentally. 

So, how serious is the ever-progressing problem of work-related stress? 

workplace stress

Numbers don’t lie. Let’s delve deeper into some verified statistics that highlight the severity of the problem that stares us in the face and threatens to damage all aspects of our lives permanently. 

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What is workplace stress?

Workplace stress. We hear about it so many times, but we usually have a basic understanding of it. 

In the words of the Canadian Mental Health Association, “ Stress is a reaction to a situation. We usually feel stressed at work when we think that the demands of the situation at work are greater than our resources to deal with that situation. Common sources of stress may include major life events, like moving or changing jobs. Long-term worries, like a long-term illness or parenting, can also feel stressful. Even daily hassles like dealing with traffic can be a source of stress.”

Common symptoms of workplace stress

You may be experiencing excessive workplace stress and might not know it. Yes, it can happen. You keep on working despite knowing that you’re not at your best, either physically or mentally. 

There are some common symptoms related to workplace stress. These symptoms can be physical, psychological, and behavioral. Keep an eye if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms mentioned below. 

Physical symptoms of workplace stress:

  • Muscular tension
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia or loss of sleep
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dermatological disorders
  • Gastrointestinal upsets, such as diarrhea or constipation

Psychological symptoms: 

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Discouragement
  • Pessimism
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to cope
  • Cognitive difficulties, such as a reduced ability to concentrate or make decisions.

Behavioral symptoms: 

  • Aggression
  • An increase in sick days or absenteeism
  • Diminished creativity and initiative
  • Irritability
  • Poor work performance
  • Problems with interpersonal relationships
  • Low employee morale
  • Frustration and impatience
  • Disinterest
  • Isolation

Stress at work- some staggering statistics 

The fact is we’re working in stress, and it’s getting worse. In 2019, the American Institute of Stress reported that 83% of U.S. workers suffer from work-related stress. Considering the impact of Covid-19 on a large number of businesses for over a year now, you can expect the figure to have increased further. 

  • 7 in 10 adults said that work-related stress affects their personal relationships (ADAA)
    • 41% of workers reported a loss in productivity due to stress, 33% said that work-related stress made them less engaged, 15% said they considered a job change because of stress (Coloniallife, 2019)
    • 80% of workers feel stress on the job, and nearly half of them wanted to learn stress management (The Marlin Company, 2001)
    • The consequences of stress-related illnesses (absenteeism, diminished productivity, and accidents) cost businesses an estimated $200 to $300 billion a year in lost productivity (HealthAdvocate, 2018)
  • Stressed workers incur healthcare costs twice as high than other employees (HealthAdvocate, 2009)
  • To cope with stress, many employees pick up unhealthy habits such as alcohol, prescription pain medication, and other substances (NCBI, 2017)

Looking at these work-related stress statistics, it’s not hard to understand why many organizations are taking this sensitive issue seriously. Workplace stress is not limited to an individual but encompasses other employees as well as the organization if not managed effectively in time. 

Next, we will take a look at some top workplace stressors.

“A stressed employee can have detrimental effects on the department or company, including decreased morale and productivity, and increased burnout and turnover.”- Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps

Top reasons for workplace stress in 2024

There are many reasons for workplace stress, and these can vary from organization to organization. 

For example, an employee may be stressed out because he’s assigned a plethora of tasks that are beyond his skillset as well as capabilities. Similarly, another employee in the same workplace may be stressed out because of conflict with co-workers, managers, or bosses. 

That said, some common reasons contribute to workplace stress. Some people may not get affected by them while others may find them overwhelming. Let’s take a look at these common culprits. 

  • Unrealistic deadlines

What’s the use of setting your team those deadlines that are near impossible to meet? Unrealistic deadlines and expectations at work arise due to a lack of adequate time or enough workforce to complete the task or handle the workload. Some managers might say they set seemingly unrealistic goals to push their employees to give it their all. 

In other words, these managers know that employees won’t be able to meet unrealistic deadlines, but they still do it just to get the maximum output. This logic is utterly insane! Unfortunately, employees work hard and see all their efforts go down the drain because their managers/organizations set expectations too high. Believe me, nothing could be more demoralizing than this.   

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  • Workplace conflict

This one tops the list in most, if not all, organizations. Conflicts are a common scenario in workplaces these days. It can be said that these are inevitable. However, it’s when seemingly small conflicts metamorphose into giant standoffs that things go awry for employees who are involved in them. Workplace conflicts result in lower productivity, increased absenteeism, and negative vibes in the workplace. 

Workplace conflicts

Some common workplace conflicts are: 

  1. Task-based conflicts. Task-based conflicts refer to situations when employees in interdependent tasks don’t agree about how to perform a certain task or interpret the company’s policies and procedures differently.
  2. Leadership conflicts. Leadership conflicts usually occur in the workplace when leaders from different departments collaborate to work towards a common target. Every team leader has his/her unique leadership style, and the mix of different leadership styles can contribute to confusion among employees. 
  3. Work Style conflicts. Work Style conflicts refer to situations when employees with different working styles are not able to collaborate efficiently. Some employees like to do their work alone while others prefer to work in groups. Some like to pay attention to detail while others like to finish the work early. 
  4. Personality-based conflicts.  Personality-based conflicts occur because of often false perceptions of co-workers’ attitudes. We all are different and when different personality types work together, it’s likely that we will not find it easy to work with people whose personalities we don’t like.  
  • Job insecurity

Would you be able to focus on your work when the dreaded sword of job insecurity looms large over your head? I don’t think so, and you don’t have to feel ashamed to accept this fact. We are individuals who work hard to make ends meet. Many of us are the sole breadwinners of our families. Covid-19 has hit businesses hard; shutdowns, salary-cut, and layoffs have become all too common. 

This is a highly unpredictable work environment where job security is probably at an all-time low. The fear of losing a job causes unwarranted stress in employees. As a result, they feel pressured to perform better than expectations, in a seemingly desperate attempt to save their jobs. Working in this pressure cooker-like situation eventually leads to stress, anxiety, and potential burnout in employees. 

  • Lack of training and resources 

So many employees remain under a great deal of stress because the lack of training and unavailability of human resources hampers their work progress. While well-trained employees can match the job and deliver the goods on the expected lines of the senior management, it’s not always the case. 

Untrained employees feel constantly stressed to meet the quality and deadlines parameters, but most of the time they fall short of the mark. Many times, due to lack of human resources, employees are asked to work on another task for which he/she is not suited. As a result, when an employee works on a task in which their skill set doesn’t match the job requirement, it leads to causing stress, nervousness, and anxiety. 

  • Diminished work-life balance

Poor work-life balance can wreak havoc on your mind and body. While a large number of employees seem to be relishing the benefits of remote work in the days of Covid-19, it’s easy for remote workers to step over the line and work beyond scheduled working hours. Similarly, many employees working in a regular office space also have to work for a longer duration, which drains them out both mentally and physically. 

This happens when work takes over your personal life; when your mind and body do not get a well-deserved break to rejuvenate. It is very important to strike the right work-life balance, and when it doesn’t happen, workplace stress becomes too big an issue to be overlooked. 

  • High employee turnover 

How does it feel like to work in an organization with a high employee turnover rate? Not inspiring, that’s for sure. Some workplaces seemingly fail to hang on to employees for a continual period of time. There can be many reasons for this, and it’s not always the organization’s lack of effort. Some employees also have a knack for changing jobs too often. 

Whatever the reasons, working in an organization where employees join and leave too frequently can be stressful. How? It’s because constantly having to onboard and train new employees and then see them leave early generates a lot of stress on managers, budget, and those employees who stick around (due to the inconsistency of the staff). 

Working on a project with an unstable team can be extremely trying if half of that team may not be there next week 

  • Lack of appreciation

You work hard and take the stress because you want to perform better and achieve set goals. Every employee who works tirelessly yearns for a well-deserving appreciation from colleagues, managers, and business owners. However, not being appreciated for all your hard work can be disheartening; it can deflate your high spirits, self-esteem, and the zeal to fare better. 

Lack of appreciation at work is reported as one of the top reasons to cause stress amongst the current workforce. Undoubtedly, the lack of appreciation at work makes employees look for a job elsewhere – a lack of appreciation is a huge driver of employee turnover!

Solutions to minimize workplace stress 

Solution 1. Keep an eye on your stressors

Do you know that one of the best ways to minimize your workplace stress is by tracking these stressors? How? It’s fairly simple and all you need to do is to keep a journal with you for a couple of weeks. Whenever you identify the situations that result in creating excessive stress, pen down your thoughts, feelings, and your responses. Also note down what the environment was like and who were the people and circumstances involved. Did you say anything or just kept on listening? Did you get a coffee or go for a walk? Jotting down such notes can help you identify patterns among your stressors and your response to them.

Solution 2. Build and maintain your social contact list 

Suffering from workplace stress all by yourself can consume you. Do you have a workplace friend or family member to share your workplace concerns? No? Believe me, get out of this deep hole and reach out to your friends, colleagues, and family members now! Sometimes, the best way to reduce your stress is simply share your stress with someone close to you. Such people are not far away from you. 

  • Your co-workers can be a solid support system at work
  • Strong network of supportive friends and family members is vital to managing stress in all areas of your life
  • Make new friends 
  • Reach out to old connections with whom you’ve not been in contact for a long time

Solution 3. Embrace healthy lifestyle 

healthy lifestyle

Are you really putting up a good fight against workplace stress, or are you just fretting and whining about it? Did you know that eating nutritious food, exercising, and surrounding yourself with positive people can make a world of difference in reducing stress? Do away with fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol, and smokes now. Instead, make below mentioned- healthy choices when you feel workplace stress is escalating.

  • Exercise daily
  • Meditation, Yoga
  • Make time for hobbies and favorite activities
  • Get enough sleep 
  • Eat nutritious food
  • Spend some time on things that bring you pleasure 
  • Say no to processed foods, alcohol, caffeine drinks, and smoking

Solution 4. Talk to your manager

Why not? You are experiencing stress because of work and your manager is the one who should know what his/her team members are going through at work. Your manager understands very well about the workplace stress, and it’s possible he/she has experienced it in the past (or going through it). You don’t have to lay out a list of complaints, but suggest an effective plan (with your manager) for managing the stressors to perform at your best on the job. Of course, your bosses and organization have a huge role to play in taking initiatives that promote employee well-being.

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Solution 5. Establish work-life boundaries

Now, this point cannot be stressed enough. Why carry your work to your personal space? This is one of the main culprits for workplace stress and potential burnout, and it’s time we establish clear work-life boundaries. You can take some steps to ensure that your work does not cross into your personal life and vice-versa. 

  • Don’t work beyond scheduled working hours (unless it’s urgent)
  • Don’t check your emails when you’re at home 
  • Don’t answer work-related phone calls during dinner 
  • Organize, declutter your office space
  • Create work & communication agreements with your team and family members

Solution 6. Use simple yet powerful team collaboration and project management software 

Most of your workplace can be owed to performing monotonous manual tasks and having a limited time to do more important things at work. Using a powerful yet simple project management software like ProofHub can help you considerably as you can automate most of your tedious manual tasks and achieve more productivity in less time. ProofHub offers powerful features under one roof in a centralized location to help you and your team collaborate on tasks better and register an incredible good performance at work. Also, its simple pricing plans make it an affordable tool for startups and teams of all sizes. 

Some powerful features of ProofHub include: 

  • Online Proofing
  • Gantt Charts
  • Kanban Boards
  • Task Management
  • Project Scheduling Calendar
  • Group Chat 
  • Online Discussions
  • Timesheets
  • File Management
  • Stickies and Bookmarks  

The bottom line 

Workplace stress has become a common scenario these days as pressure to meet deadlines and quality parameters continue to mount on working professionals. There’s no escaping workplace pressure, but you can find your way around it without making things complicated. 

The key to deal with workplace stress lies in identifying stressors, understanding your behavioral response, and sticking to a routine that revolves around creating fine work-life balance. 

I hope that this article has provided you with valuable insights you needed to keep the dreaded workplace stress at bay. Good luck.    

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