Stress affects our lives in all sorts of ways, and they’re rarely good. It harms brain function and the nervous system. It impairs our ability to learn. It causes anxiety and headaches. It’s been described as a mental health crisis. Fatigue. Muscle tension. Stomach problems. Relationship problems. Life problems.
In short, there’s a veritable epidemic of stress happening around us. If you’re going to feel and perform at your best, preventing and reducing stress at work should be your number one goal. Doing so can improve everything, from your physical health and your sleep to the way you react to everyday obstacles.
Here’s why you’re feeling stressed at work— and how to tackle your work-related stress starting today.
What does it mean to be stressed at work?
A little bit of stress now and then won’t necessarily kill you. The problem is when the source of stress — like your place of work — becomes chronic. And for most people, that’s exactly what happens. 77% of people report feeling so stressed that it’s begun to affect their physical health.
It’s one thing if you typically feel great at work and have the occasional headache over a project. But if your daily routine has become a taxing drudgery that affects life outside of work, it means stress may be getting to you, which requires long-term solutions.
Understanding work stress symptoms
Before we get into what this means, let’s also consider what stress means. The stereotype of stress is that we must be overworked, frazzled people, pulling out our hair every time we have bad news. But pressure shows up in all sorts of different work stress symptoms, including:
- Anxiety and irritability: We may chalk it up to feeling occasionally “hangry” rather than feeling stressed at work, but irritability and anxiety at work can be a sign that stress is setting in.
- Sadness: Ever experienced the “Sunday night blues”? It’s what many people fight with when they consider the weight of another workweek in front of them. You might not associate this feeling with stress. However, according to the Cleveland Clinic, even fewer physical symptoms like general sadness can be indicative of stress getting to you. If you feel miserable (but not especially anxious) about work, it may still be a less traditional sign of chronic stress.
- Physical symptoms: High blood pressure, muscle tension or jaw clenching, aches and pains, exhaustion (while simultaneously having trouble sleeping)... the list goes on and on. Few of us are used to the idea of mental stressors causing us real physical problems, but most medical experts agree that stress can be an underlying cause for all sorts of physical symptoms.
But stress isn’t only about what it does to you. It may be indicative of problems with your relationship with work. As of a 2019 survey — before the pandemic — a majority of respondents were ready to quit their jobs due to stress.
For that reason, stress can be a source of toxicity that can have negative effects wherever you look.
What are the most common causes of work-related stress?
Causes of stress can be different for everybody. But there are some common causes that should help you understand why so many people report feeling the onset of work-related stress.
Too many tools
We’re all familiar with the constant rings, pings, and buzzes that serve as the soundtrack to our workday. One 2019 study found that 54% of employees have at least five different computer programs running at once and 56% use at least three different tools to collaborate.
Ultimately, technology should make our working lives easier and less stressful. But it seems that the opposite tends to happen. In the same survey, 59% of workers said they feel like they waste time switching between apps.
While these tools are necessary in the modern working world, employees shouldn’t feel buried in them. They should be seamlessly integrated for efficient workflows, and the entire team should also have one project management solution to serve as a single source of truth.
Drowning in emails
One of the most potent and predictable stressors is the feeling of overwhelm. You know the feeling: there’s much to do and too little time to do it in. This causes people to tax their decision-making energy again and again as they strive to make square pegs fit into the round holes of their life.
It’s hard to imagine a few pixels on a screen could control our lives to this extent. But in the digital world, the email inbox is our lifeline to our work. Having more demands on our time than time to complete our tasks is the fastest route to overwhelm.
The feeling of overwhelm doesn’t only come from the inbox. It can also come from any demands we feel placed on us by our circumstances.
For 35% of respondents, a key stressor on work pressure is their boss. This is especially true for people who feel that their boss is over-demanding without providing enough validation for the work performed.
One thing we don’t like to admit is that this can compound with the rest of our lives. What if you have children to raise, for example? The demands of parenting, a poor financial situation, or other personal life stressors only add to the feeling that you have too much to do and not enough time to do it.
Wonder why you come out of a meeting feeling like you’re behind on your day? According to a University of North Carolina survey, over 70% of meetings are unproductive. And when a meeting is truly a waste of time, it even runs the risk of becoming counterproductive. This adds to the workload of employees while taking time out of their day.
In other words, it’s a recipe for feeling overwhelmed.
Agile teamwork is a great way to keep everyone on the same page. But what happens if the managers don’t care, your colleagues don’t pitch in, and the work never seems to get done? It puts more of a load on your shoulders.
While a too-relaxed organizational culture might seem like a way to reduce stress at work, it can counterintuitively make people feel antsy about the meaning of their work.
Lack of support from management
For many people, there’s nothing wrong with a full slate of work — as long as they can handle it. But without support from colleagues, technology, and resources to get their job done, an ordinary task can become a stressor. Make sure employees have the support they need to work independently without feeling overwhelmed.
Keep in mind that stress doesn’t always reflect the reality of a situation. If a person feels that they do have the support to rely on if they need it, they might avoid the feelings of overwhelm that come with a full slate of work, even if they tackle it all themselves.
Work from home challenges
When the COVID pandemic hit, some people foresaw advantages to working from home. But they soon learned why people invented offices in the first place.
Distractions at home can interrupt the workday, causing you to get behind. When you get behind, overwhelm kicks in, and you’re soon spending as much willpower as you can just to catch up — let alone get ahead of your work.
How to reduce stress at work with Wrike
Stress is a chronic thing. One day of hard work isn’t going to give you all of the health problems associated with stress. But that only makes it more dangerous, as it’s hard to nip it in the bud. That’s why it’s so important to establish firm habits lasting throughout the year.
Managing stress at work begins with supporting yourself and remains ongoing as you sustain positive habits.
One key point: get the support you need and give employees the support they need when you’re working to reduce stress for an entire team.
Sometimes that means reaching out to co-workers and employees. But if you’re looking to improve your daily habits, you need software that can reduce your workload where you’re sitting right now. This should give you the freedom to take the breaks you need and avoid the feelings of overwhelm.
Wrike is a game-changer here. Consider some of its features:
- Collaboration: Poor collaboration and communication can lead to too much work placed on one person’s plate. It’s a recipe for stress. But Wrike’s project management software means instant collaboration on project files, task assignments, and reporting. This can keep entire teams in the loop and distribute work so that the load is even.
- Interactive Gantt charts: Feeling like you’re behind is a recipe for stress. But imagine opening Wrike and checking a project Gantt chart that shows you’re actually ahead. You have some wiggle room. Some time to breathe. These charts are easy to set up (just drag-and-drop) and keep entire teams on point by giving them one glance to check on their progress.
- Templates: Creating more work than is necessary is a sure way to build habitual stress. Imagine the stress of being a farmer without a tractor. Well, it works the same with software. Our purpose-built templates employ pre-built workflows so you can focus on the work and less on the administration of a project.
Put it all together and you’ll start getting ahead of stress, even on a company-wide level. Or you can focus on what you can do at your desk to manage your stress. But in doing so, you’ll not only make your workday feel lighter — the rest of your life might just feel a little bit lighter too.
Ready to reduce your stress levels? Start with a free trial of Wrike today.