Work can be stressful and there are a number of reasons why.
Thousands of studies have been done to identify what causes people to get stressed at work.
Stress is now the leading cause of sickness absence in the workplace, both in the public sector and in the private sector.
There are several main sources of this excessive pressure.
How you are managed by your boss, a long hours culture, poor relationships among colleagues, lack of involvement or engagement in decision making affecting your job, organisational ‘change for change’s sake’ and unmanageable workloads or unrealistic deadlines can all contribute to this.
But by far the worst is your boss!
If you have a boss who manages you by praise and reward rather than fault-finding, who provides you with flexible working if it helps you with commitments at home, who trusts you and values your contribution – and lets you know they do – then you will thrive at work and go the extra mile.
As Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu once wrote on leadership: ‘A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When the work is done, his aim fulfilled, people will say ‘we did it ourselves.’
Another aspect of work that is causing enormous stress is a long hours culture.
The UK has the longest working day of any large EU economy.
A large proportion of the UK working population are working significantly above their contracted hours every week.
And that doesn’t include doing work at home on their computers or smart phones in the evening, at weekends and on holiday.
Indeed, they were so concerned about work intruding into family life at Volkswagen HQ that they block emails at the end of the working day and turn it on again in the morning!
Our long hours culture is partly responsible for our low productivity per worker – we are 7th among the G7 and 17th among the G20 countries.
Providing people with great flexibility to work from home as well as a central work environment is a possible solution in our service sectors.
As the British social reformer John Ruskin once wrote: ‘In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: they must be fit for it, they must not do too much of it, and they must have a sense of success in it’.
Professor Sir Cary Cooper is the 50th anniversary professor of organisational psychology and health at Manchester Business School, president of Relate and co-author of How To Deal With Stress.