Stress at work: What keeps employees up at night

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A recent survey reveals disturbing results showing 95 percent of managers feel life is stressful at the office. As a result, stress caused 28 percent to take time off from work. And stress at work is not restricted to managers.

"Stress in the workplace is a major issue for businesses,” Managing Director of SoftSkill EMEA, Kevin Young says of the study. “Helping people to manage stress can have a positive effect on their effectiveness at work and reduce the number of stress-related absences."

The major causes of managerial stress at work are:

  1. Workload: 61.6 percent
  2. Deadlines: 50.3 percent
  3. Feeling undervalued: 38.9 percent
  4. Having to work longer hours than they should: 37.3 percent
  5. Having to take on the work of others: 34.1 percent
  6. Lack of control over the day: 31.9 percent
  7. Targets: 30.3 percent
  8. Type of work: 30.3 percent
  9. Too many emails: 28.1 percent
  10. Changes in organization that effect them or job: 27 percent

Respondents were allowed to choose more than one cause of stress.

Interestingly, when asked what keeps them up at night (Questions & Adivce on September 6, 2006), AccountingWEB readers don’t give any of these reasons.

“What keeps me up at night (I'm an EA, not a CPA) is worrying about a particular client's case. I find myself working out solutions to complex cases I had worked on earlier that same day. Some nights what keeps me up is new brochures to gain new clients. And some very rare nights I fear a lawsuit by an angry client: how am I going to placate them and get them back to happy?” Liz Zitzow says. “If I'm very lucky, what keeps me up is inventing some nifty new card-counting scheme for online poker.”

Brenda Richter, CPA from Santa Barbara, Calif., agrees saying, “Sometimes, I worry about my clients and their problems. I think about solutions and wonder if there is anything else I can do for them. Other times I worry about making a minor technical mistake. Between GAAP, FASB, SARS, SOX, IRS code, state tax codes, state licensing, etc., it's almost like you need a 67 page checklist just to answer the phone correctly.”

It isn’t just workload and control that causes stress. Sometimes it is other people in the office. The top ten colleague irritations are:

  1. Other people not doing their share: 56.1 percent
  2. Bosses changing mind about what they want you to do: 37.3 percent
  3. Lack of boss support: 29.7 percent
  4. Pressure from boss: 28.6 percent
  5. Interruptions by boss: 23.8 percent
  6. Feeling put-upon by boss: 22.2 percent
  7. Lack of colleague support: 21.6 percent
  8. Bullying by boss: 17.8 percent
  9. Feeling put upon by co-workers: 11.4 percent
  10. Bullying by colleagues: 9.2 percent

The survey was conducted by SWNS for SkillSoft, during the summer of 2006. Of the 3045 respondents taking part, 22 percent have management roles. Of the 22 percent, 43 percent work in a managerial capacity in the public sector and 57 work in the private sector. A separate study was also done to compare the private and public sector stress levels.

People learn to deal with stress in different ways. Some learn from experience, with families, friends and others acting as teachers. Others learn better in a more formalized setting, such as the free online courses SkillSoft offers to assist people in dealing with stress. The three courses can be taken until the end of 2006. They are available at anytime, by anyone, without charge, at

The three courses available are:

Coping with Stress

Stress is unavoidable , but this course, lasting approximately 3 hours, includes techniques to combat it, as well as ways to anticipate situations in order to reduce stress as a disruptive life force.

Time as a Resource

Stress can often be caused by poor time management. This 2.5 hour course deals with evaluation of task importance and the return on time invested, including techniques to improve focus.

Discovering Balance

Participants learn techniques to succeed under pressure during this 4 hour course, as well as methods to discover and maintain a balanced life.

"Non-managerial staff can benefit too; our research shows that they are almost as stressed as their bosses", Young said in a prepared statement.

Managing stress is becoming increasingly important for individuals and employers.

"Problems at work are more strongly associated with health complaints than any other life stressor-more so than even financial problems or family problems", according to the St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company, as reported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).


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