Is there such a thing as a job with no stress?
Is there such a thing as a job with no stress?
Has stress at work become normal? The American Psychological Association’s report on Workplace Stress[i] states that 69% of employees report work as a significant source of stress, and in 2001 Job Stress was estimated to cost the U.S. Industry more than $300 billion a year!
There is no doubt that Work Stress is a major issue, with huge financial ramifications for employers, but what about the costs in health and quality of life to the individual employee, their family and friends, and the community at large?
The advent of emails and mobile phones has turned work into a 24x7 experience for many, and thus it seems there is never a respite from the constant stress. Working as an IT Director in a Fortune 500 company, it became clear that there was no time of the day or week where I was not expected to be available, and if there was a need, to be working on emails or meetings. Colleagues would share stories of working from early hours of the morning at home, then going to the office for a full day, then returning home to read emails while watching TV with their families. This was not an occasional occurrence, but a normal day!
No matter what your job, given that your health and wellbeing are at risk, it’s time to consider the impact of workplace stress. A great starting place can be to simply evaluate if there is an undue amount of stress in your own work day, and from there you can decide on the next steps. Many might say “stress is just part of the job”, but given the costs to both the individual and companies, it is worth taking a few minutes to take stock with these questions:
- Do you skip lunch or eat lunch at your desk because there is too much to be done?
- Do you start early and finish late simply because there is so much to do?
- Do you take your work home when you really need to be taking a break?
- Are you constantly working outside work hours, for example doing emails or taking phone calls?
- Do you need constant coffee, tea or sugar snacks to have enough energy to work?
- Do you need alcohol at the end of the day to unwind?
The responses to the questions above, when presented to a group of people from many different walks of life – nurses, shop assistants, administrative workers, builders and cleaners – was that we have all had the same experiences . . . it didn't matter how ‘high up the corporate ladder’, or what the role was, or even what the industry. People from all walks of life were consistently working in a way that was detrimental to their bodies – and thinking that was the only choice they had.
Let’s look at stress from another angle: is the stress you have caused by the job you do, or is it as a result of how you respond, react and see yourself in that job?
Each role brings its own time pressures and demands. Is what you think of as being ‘dedicated to your job’ actually putting yourself second, in detriment to yourself, and hence your work? Is this approach to work creating constant stress, and in fact putting you on a pathway to burnout?
To unravel the true cause of stress, let’s consider a few different types of roles:
- An ambulance driver or an emergency nurse has what could be considered an extremely stressful job, knowing that people's lives and wellbeing depend on their actions. The question is, do all emergency medical staff take on that constant stress they see and live with every day?
- A CEO has the responsibility for the company and everyone who works in it riding on his or her decisions. Does every CEO carry stress because of this responsibility?
- What about someone who is cleaning houses, is this a stressful role? Some would say no, but what about the stress of the amount of work that needs to be done in a day, or the demands that homeowners may have for the standard of cleaning they want?
- What about an A-League football player? Surely that job is not stressful? But what if the football player said they carry the huge stress of winning or ‘playing well’ into every game, not to mention the physical demands on their body?
- A Call Centre operator needs to deal with the stresses of frustrated or possibly irate customers blaming them for things not working. Most would agree that being on the phone in a customer service role would definitely be a stressful job.
The fact is we could probably see potential stress in every job there is. So this begs the question: is it possible that the stress we live with is not about the job we have, but how we respond to the day-to-day needs of the job?
If there are two different people doing the same job, why is it that one can feel stressed, but the other not? This simple but irrefutable fact provides an important insight on how to deal with stress, and provides a clue that there is a way of living and working without stress being the norm.
This is where self-care comes in. By adopting self-care as part of how you live and work, you can start to address workplace related stress. You can discover how it is possible to care for yourself in the workplace, and also how to choose to respond (rather than react) to what is going on around you.
Small but empowering self-care choices made on a regular basis can make a huge difference in reducing the ongoing workplace stress that many deal with daily.