Guide to Recognizing and Managing Workplace Stress

 The majority of Americans experience workplace stress on some

level, but there are things you can do to help manage it.

If you’ve ever felt stressed, tense, or anxious because of your job ― you’re not alone. In fact, workplace stress has been steadily increasing over the past few decades, culminating in record levels of work-related stress since the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the majority of the workforce in the United States, stress is a regular part of their workday and a significant factor in their overall career satisfaction.

Ahead, we’ll discuss the impact of work-related stress, including how stress and burnout can affect us and what you can do to help manage your workplace stress levels.

Stress is a natural human response to things that our minds perceive as threatening or challenging ― and it’s something that we all feel from time to time. After all, between personal relationships, responsibilities at work and home, and other life events, there are plenty of reasons for us to feel “stressed.”

Work-related stress is the stress that people feel because of their job or occupation, and it’s something that workers in any industry or field can experience. In fact, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), roughly 65% of American workers consider work to be a somewhat or very significant source of stress.

While different factors can contribute to stress in the workplace, a few of the more common reasons for work-related stress include:

  • having responsibilities beyond your job role
  • having too many responsibilities in your job role
  • experiencing an increase in your regular workload
  • experiencing situations you have no control over
  • experiencing harassment or discrimination at work

Of course, everyone experiences stress for different reasons, so the causes of workplace stress can vary from person to person.

For example, one large study from 2022Trusted Source on over 13,000 workers in China found that factors such as education level, working time, and industry all had an impact on stress levels. And another smaller studyTrusted Source found similar results, with factors like work intensity and environment having a significant impact on stress levels in office workers.

Workplace stress statistics

Work-related stress is one of the most common sources of stress, affecting up to 83% of all people who work. And the percentage of workers who report experiencing work-related stress has continued to increase every decade, says the American Psychological Association (APA).

In fact, here are some statistics from various studies about the impact of stress in the workplace, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source:

  • 29% of workers report being at least a little stressed out at work
  • 40% of workers found their job to be “very or extremely stressful”
  • 25% of workers experienced frequent burnout our stress from their jobs
  • 25% of employees report that their job is their number one source of stress
  • 75% of employees believe that modern workers have more job stress than in the past.

Stress isn’t just an emotional response ― it can also cause physical symptoms. Some of the ways that stress can affect us physically include:

Prolonged stress can also lead to a number of health conditions. For example, burnout is a term that describes a state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged exposure to high levels of stress. Burnout can develop from a number of stressors, but it’s most commonly associatedTrusted Source with high levels of occupational stress, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

If you’re experiencing burnout, you might notice signs and symptoms such as emotional exhaustion, increased anger and irritability, physical exhaustion, increased aches, pains, and illnesses, and withdrawal from your job or loved ones.

Managing stress in the workplace may seem like just a task for employees, but the reality is that reducing work-related stress requires a comprehensive approach that involves both employees and their employers.

In one small study from 2018Trusted Source, researchers explored the work stress prevention needs of roughly 15 employees and supervisors from different occupations. According to the study, some of the possible stress prevention measures included things like adequate staff, appropriate workload, frequent breaks, and open communication, among others.

However, sometimes it’s not feasible for someone to wait for workplace changes to alleviate their work stress ― especially in industries that are more stress-prone, like healthcare and customer service. So, here are some potential tools you can use as an employee to help you manage your workplace stress:

  • Mindfulness: Research showsTrusted Source that engaging in mindful activities like meditation can help reduce stress and job strain and improve overall well-being.
  • Movement: Any type of exercise is beneficial for stress, but research suggestsTrusted Source that mindful exercises like yoga can help significantly reduce work-related stress.
  • Therapy: Therapy with a trained mental health professional can help you learn different coping strategies to better manage your stress levels at work.
  • Connection: If you’re feeling stressed or burned out at work, reach out to your manager and let them know how it’s affecting you. There may also be employee resource groups set up to help reduce stress in your company culture.

While there are many different approaches that you can take to help lower your work-related stress, it’s not always easy to take that first step. If you’re concerned that the stress from your job is having an impact on your quality of life, reach out to your doctor to discuss the next steps.

With the vast majority of workers across the globe feeling the effects of workplace stress, it’s no surprise that more people than ever are experiencing conditions like burnout. It’s also no surprise that almost half of the workforce has considered a job change as the result of work-related stress.

If we want to change the way that our jobs and careers affect our mental and physical health, we have to start holding companies accountable for their work culture. And when those workplace stress levels do start mounting, we owe it to ourselves to take a step back and take care of our own mental and physical health whenever we can.


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