Dealing with pressure at work

Small business advice

24 October 2019

It’s very normal to experience a certain amount of pressure at work. Whether the pressure is due to an upcoming presentation or looming deadlines, there are a number of different factors in the workplace that can contribute to increased pressure levels.

While some people may enjoy working under a certain level of pressure, prolonged feelings of unmanageable pressure at work can have the potential to lead to burnout and stress, particularly if left unchecked. While the trigger for stress may have been work – 59% of UK adults experiencing stress cited work as the cause1 – it can have a negative impact on all areas of a person’s life. According to a Perkbox survey, sleep loss is the most prevalent impact that stress has on UK adults (65%), followed by experiencing anxiety (47%), disrupted concentration (37%), comfort eating (35%) and being less productive at work (32%)1.

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Pressure at work for SME owners

According to a survey of SME owners conducted by Xero, 83% of respondents stated that they had experienced stress in the past 6 months2. According to the research, the factors causing the most stress for small business owners are2:

Team icon - 38x38.png Managing staff (42%)

Admin icon - 38x38.png Admin (35%)

Company success icon - 38x38.png Feeling responsible for the success of the company (31%)

Compliance icon - 38x38.png Keeping up with compliance (26%)

Expenses icon - 38x38.png Paying for overheads and expenses (24%)

Pressure at work for SME employees

Employee’s stress can also have a big impact on the business due to lower productivity and motivation levels. According to the same Perkbox survey, 25% struggle to be as productive at work as they normally would be when experiencing stress, while almost the same number (22%) report feeling disengaged with their work as a result1.

So what may be causing employees to burn out at work? According to a survey by Deloitte, the biggest drivers of employee burnout were3:

Recognition icon - 38x38.png Lack of support or recognition from leadership (31%)

Deadlines icon - 38x38.png Unrealistic deadlines or results expectations (30%)

Time icon - 38x38.png Consistently working long hours or on weekends (29%)

Tips for managing pressure at work

While it can be difficult to avoid external factors that may cause pressure in the workplace such as deadlines or a big client meeting, we’ve put together some tips to help you and your team manage and cope with pressure at work.

  • Express your feelings. If something or someone is causing you concern, communicate in an open and respectful way. If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment can build and the situation may not improve.
  • Be flexible, within reason. Focusing on what you can do, rather than what you can’t, can really turn the situation in your favour.
  • Be assertive when saying ‘No’. Saying ‘No’ doesn’t have to upset anyone, the way you say it can make all the difference. Explain your position, for example if you are too busy to help out a colleague. If possible explain what you are able to offer in terms of assistance instead. 
  • Manage your time. Plan ahead and make sure you don’t over promise on what you can achieve. This can put you in control and alter the amount of pressure you’re under.
  • Find a quiet place. If you feel pressure increasing, take yourself out of the situation and find a quiet place where you can take a few moments to breathe deeply. You may find it useful to count to ten before going back to the situation.
  • Look at the big picture. Try to get some perspective on the situation. Ask yourself if it’s worth getting upset over and frame within the wider business context.
  • Accept what is good enough. Trying to be perfect in every way is not achievable, and can often leave you feeling like you’re falling short of expectations. Give yourself a break. It’s OK to lower your expectations of yourself a little.
  • Know what you can change and accept that there are some things you cannot change. Some sources of pressure are unavoidable. In such cases, the best way to manage it is to accept things as they are and move forward.

While some situations at work can make the pressure feel as though it’s unremitting, removing yourself from the situation and taking a break can help you to refocus and clear your mind. Whether that’s going outside for a walk around the block or having a cup of tea with a colleague, taking regular breaks at work can be really beneficial.

How we can help

At AXA PPP healthcare, all of our small business health insurance plans* come with access to our health information phone helpline, Health at Hand. With Health at Hand, you and your team can speak to a nurse or counsellor 24/7, 365 days a year. Whether you’re struggling with the pressures of work, or you have a health worry that’s keeping you awake at night, we’re here for you day and night. Our Health at Hand service also provides access to midwives and pharmacists** so you can get support no matter what your health question is.

Find out more about our small business health insurance, including what we do and don’t cover, and get a quote today.

*Stress is not covered under our plans.

**Health at Hand nurses and counsellors available 24/7. Midwives and pharmacists available 8am-8pm Monday-Friday, 8am – 4pm Saturday and 8am – 12pm Sunday.

Sources and references

1Perkbox, 2018

2Xero via Start Up Donut, 2019

3Deloitte, Workplace Burnout Survey

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