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Build Your Career Work-Life Balance

Stressed Out! Unrealistic Expectations Put the Pressure on Workers

Stressed Out! Unrealistic Expectations Put the Pressure on Workers
Credit: Mirtmirt/Shutterstock

Stressed about work? You're in the majority: New research finds that more than half of employees are stressed at work on a day-to-day basis.

The study, from the staffing firm Accountemps, revealed that 60 percent of U.S. workers say their work-related stress levels have increased over the last five years. Younger workers are feeling the most pressure. The research found that 64 percent of employees between the ages of 18 and 34 said they feel job-related stress, compared to just 59 percent of workers 35 to 54 years old and only 35 percent of professionals over the age of 55.

Large workloads, pressure-filled deadlines, unrealistic expectations from bosses and the pressure of trying to attain a healthy work-life balance are the main causes of stress for employees, the study found. [See Related Story: 3 Steps to Eliminate Workplace Stress]

The most common ways employees try to reduce their daily stress is by exercising, enjoying time with friends or significant others after work, engaging in a hobby, listening to music and taking vacations.

Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps, said business is moving faster than ever, and employees feel the crunch when it comes to imminent deadlines.

"Workers shouldn't suffer in silence," Driscoll said in a statement. "They can tap internal resources for help or seek advice from their managers to ensure they meet work expectations while maintaining a healthy work-life balance."

The study found that most managers recognize the tremendous amount of pressure their employees are under. Specifically, 54 percent of the executives surveyed acknowledged that their staff is stressed, and 55 percent have noticed that employee anxiety is on the rise.

"A stressed employee can have detrimental effects on the department or company, including decreased morale and productivity, and increased burnout and turnover," Driscoll said. "Managers should look for signs their staff is overworked — like missed deadlines or excessive overtime — and talk to employees to pinpoint triggers and implement stress-relieving solutions."

To help both employees and managers, Accountemps offers several tips for combating work-related stress:

  1. Use your time wisely. There is only so much time during the workday to get things done. Be sure to stay organized so you can keep on task and finish assignments on time. Also, instead of juggling multiple tasks at once, try dividing up time throughout the day to focus on each of your key projects.
  2. Ask for help. If you feel like your to-do list is too overwhelming, don't be afraid to talk to your manager about your workload. If you think you need help with an assignment, ask for it.
  3. Give yourself a break. It is important to take some time during the day to refresh. Step away from your desk and go for a walk or grab a snack. Even if you can't get away from your office, just take a few minutes to look away from your computer and think about some non-work-related things.
  1. Assist in prioritizing. Give your employees help in prioritizing what assignments need to be done first. Knowing which assignment you are expecting first, and when, helps employees better schedule their time. This is also an opportunity for managers to determine if there is too much work on employees' plates.
  2. Offer stress-help resources. Make sure all of your employees know about the stress-related programs your organization offers. Encourage them to take advantage of these offerings, which may include stress-help webinars, wellness programs and yoga or meditation classes. Also, set a good example by also taking part in these types of classes.
  3. Have fun. Even though jobs may serious, it doesn't mean you shouldn't try to have a little fun around the office. Find ways to lighten the mood by planning social activities or staff celebrations.

The study was based on surveys of 2,200 chief financial officers from companies in more than 20 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas and more than 1,000 U.S. office workers.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.