By Shelcy V. Joseph
As April is National Stress Awareness Month, it’s a good time to raise awareness on the major stressors in our lives. With that in mind, LinkedIn Learning recently released interesting findings on the key factors that lead to stress at work. The sad news is, nearly half (49%) of the 2,843 professionals surveyed reported feeling stressed in their jobs. From demanding responsibilities to arbitrary deadlines, the workplace doesn’t come without its share of stress.
Turns out, the top five drivers of stress for professionals in the workplace are:
Furthermore, these factors impact generations of workers differently. Gen-Xers, as shown, are the most stressed, and it stems mostly from their concerns about their job future. With the rise of Artificial Intelligence and mass automation of certain jobs, questions of which jobs will remain are prevailing. And Gen-Xers are less likely to have the skills needed to compete than Millennials.
Millennials, on the other hand, are the most stressed about their sense of purpose and the growth opportunities available at their companies. In an increasingly competitive job market, one remains an asset by constantly learning and sharpening their skills. And if the opportunities to do so aren’t present at work, they lose a good chunk of time that could’ve otherwise been spent staying sharp and marketable.
Interestingly, the data shows that the more you move up the ranks, the more stress you tend to experience at work. Common reasons are the growing workload, the absence of tools needed to do the work or a sense of not belonging at work.
One thing remains clear, the majority of employees experience stress at work, and stress has been shown to negatively impact performance and well-being. Learning how to manage it is key to restoring health and staying productive. The earlier you acknowledge it, the better it will be as you advance your career.
Let us address the main stressors at work and suggest ways to overcome them:
Sometimes, achieving work-life balance is a matter of saying no more. Being clear on what you can realistically take on and setting clear expectations. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t volunteer for projects or develop initiatives that fall outside your workload. Instead, it’s a call to establish what you can do with the set amount of time you have, while still catering to other things that are important to you (i.e. spending time with family and friends, reading, taking on a new hobby etc.) Knowing what to prioritize is key as it will help you focus on the most important projects and make you feel less stressed.
Confidence in Job Future
If you are worried about your future job prospects, think about the skills you need to compete in the changing landscape. Make learning a priority and carve out a few hours of your day to do just that. Maybe you can enroll in a coding class and challenge yourself with developing the skill set needed to become a software engineer. Maybe you can take a data analytics class on the weekends and meet the growing demand for data analysts.
Once you identify your new areas of interest (in the context of the changing industry), invest in yourself daily and learn. If you’re lucky enough that your job supports this, have a conversation with your boss and come up with a learning plan. If you have to do it on your own, set time after work and on weekdays and push yourself to do it.
Purpose/Direction at work
Here’s a secret: nobody has it all figured out. Give yourself time to experiment, to feel lost and to become more self-aware. We tend to pressure ourselves with expectations to have our passions and career moves mapped out, when in reality, it’s a gradual process. You may find out that you aren’t interested in public relations after interning at a media magazine, or you may find that you really love digital marketing after a short stint managing the social media platforms of a growing startup.
Bottom line is: every experience counts for something as they each teach you something about yourself and prepare you for the future. Keep an open mind, Stay curious and memorize the lessons. Have a general idea of what you want, but allow for adjustments to be made along the way, and you will come closer to your true purpose.
Office politics exist at every company, and unfortunately, in order to be successful at work, you have to engage with it a little bit. Familiarize yourself with the culture of the company. Chances are, if you accepted to work there, it’s in part because you share similar values. Get to know as many people as you can and spend time having lunch or talking to them in hallways. Build good rapport with them as these people can advocate for you, especially when you’re being considered for promotions. Don’t participate in gossip (this can only add fuel to the fire). Remain positive and true to yourself, and you will easily navigate work politics.
Access to tools to do your job
If, at any point, you feel you are missing the tools needed to do your job, channel your inner self-starter for some creative problem-solving. Think about ways to make systems more efficient or alternative tools that will make things smoother. If that doesn’t work, have a serious conversation with your boss and politely talk about the problem (while hinting at solutions). If you work at a big company where changes don’t happen quickly, hope for the best and communicate instances where it slows you down. Being positive (even when issues arise) and solution-oriented will always set you apart at work.