Working With Workplace Stress

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male office worker feeling stressed at workIn the midst of a ‘cost of living crisis’ there can be no doubt that for those in work, there is a need to strive harder than ever to maintain employment, and maintain that wage packet coming in to help pay the bills. but what happens if your workplace is causing you stress?

For everyone in employment, your working life, and the demands it places on you, can have a huge impact on your quality of life in other dimensions of your wellbeing.

If the vocational part of your life is going well, it can bring you financial reward, status, stimulation and satisfaction.

Conversely, if it is not going well, it can bring you stress, undermine your confidence, and even expose you to negative conduct from others.

In these uncertain financial times, you may be fighting hard to hold onto your job no matter what, however when does it come to a point where the ‘price you are paying’ in terms of your physical, mental and emotional health to keep going in your employment is just too high?


There is no doubt both males and females can experience unacceptable or intolerable levels of pressure connected to their employment that are not sustainable over the long-term.

However, statistics and research highlighted in the vocational wellbeing section on this website, could indicate males can be particularly vulnerable to workplace woes.

For example:

  • Although both males and females struggle to achieve a work/life balance, males feel less able to talk about it.
  • Only 75% of males in the UK in 2018 were working satisfactory hours, compared to 86% of females.
  • In 2020 in the UK, a third of males felt their job was not meaningful, compared to a fifth of females.

The 2021 HSE Report on Work-Related Stress in the UK reported overall females were more affected than males, and that in term of males, those in the age bracket 25-44 were most likely to self-report work-related stress, depression and anxiety.

The HSE report also showed that levels of workplace stress, depression and anxiety where highest in:

  • The education sector.
  • The human health and social work activities sector.
  • The public administration and defence sectors.
  • Large employer organisations (with more than 250 employees).

It also showed the main factor that contributed to work-related stress, anxiety or depression was workload pressures such as tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support. Over half of those affected said their situation was made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

The question is are the HSE statistics a true indication that more females than males experience work-related stress, or is there something in the culture and background of males that stops them from self-reporting, or giving another justification (such as a physical health issue) for workplace absence?


THE HSE report gives an indication of one source of workplace woes, broadly speaking there could be said to be four potential sources.

  1. Unreasonable Workload: Being asked to do more than is practically possible for anyone to achieve with the time, training, resources and support your employer makes available to you.
  2. Poor Job Satisfaction: Being asked to slog on in a role where you get very little or no enjoyment, satisfaction or pride from what you are doing.
  3. Lack of Financial Reward: Being asked to work to a level where the financial reward you are being given for your efforts does not feel a sufficient, comparable or fair return for your commitment.
  4. Unwanted Conduct From Others: Being asked to work in an environment where you are exposed to negative, hostile or demeaning conduct from others.


If you are experiencing one of these four forms of workplace woe, the first thing to focus on is that although you may need to remain in your current employment for now to keep the wages coming in, an unpleasant or unfulfilling vocational setup does not need to go on for ever, and there are steps you can take to gain more control in the situation.

Step 1: Short-Term Actions

If you are experiencing workplace-related pressures, this is likely to be leaving you feeling mentally confused, emotionally volatile, and perhaps even physically fatigued.

This is not the best state to be in to calmly reflect on what is going and on at work, and consider your options for dealing with it.

Short-term, the priority has to be doing all you can to look after yourself mentally, emotionally and physically, to help recover from the impacts stress or pressure is having on you, and to limit any further adverse affects.

This means doing the best you can to eat well, using exercise to help manage moods, sleeping as much as you can, avoiding depressant substances such as alcohol, getting treatment for any physical symptoms, and calling on others to help and share the journey to recovery with you. This might include your family, friends or the likes of your GP who could help you to take some sick leave from your employment to give you time to settle and think.

Step 2: Medium Term Actions

Try to get it clear what is the source(s) of pressure and dissatisfaction in your employment, and why, and how it is leading to adverse impacts on you.

Get to know both your own organisation’s policies around workplace wellbeing and conduct, and also more generally what the law says you can expect as fair and reasonable treatment in a workplace environment, and what your workplace rights are.

The following websites can help you in this area: (employee rights).

Citizens Advice (rights at work).

NIDirect (human rights in the workplace).

HSE (workers' health and safety rights).

Equality Commission NI (equality in employment rights).

You will then need to make a decision, do you either take some action to address the workplace woe in your current employment, or do you decide to make plans to move on from your current employment and find something else?

If you decide to tackle the issue with your current employer, think through how you can do this, what you will want to raise, and would like as a resolution, and who can help you (such as a human resources department, a trade union representative, a workplace mediation service etc.).

If you decide the better solution for you is to move on to another employment setting, give yourself a bit of time to do this, and don’t just take the first alternative job that comes along (that could result in an even poorer working environment). Take practical steps to get your exit strategy moving such as preparing your CV, signing up with recruitment agencies, and even doing some mock interviews.

Whichever of these two options you take (tackling things with your current employer or moving on), expect the process to put additional mental and emotional demands on you, so proactively plan to increase your levels of self-care in these areas to help give you the energy and focus to see whichever route you choose through.

Step 3: Long-Term Actions

If you have come up against some form of workplace woe in your current employment, alongside taking the immediate issue on, see this as an opportunity to audit the vocational wellbeing section of your life, by learning from the experience, and being more conscious on what is the ideal work balance for you.

Have you ever sat back and thought for you, what is the ideal balance in your vocational life between:

  • Financial reward.
  • Job satisfaction.
  • Lifestyle fit.

For some, getting the best possible salary is the most important dimension of their working life, to give them the finances to pursue other life goals. Others are not so worried about how much they earn, but want to get up in the morning and really look forward to the working day ahead of them. There are also those for whom the most important characteristic of employment choice is having something that fits alongside their other life commitments and pastimes.

It is most likely that you will spend a good portion of your life in employment, and as you go through various phases of your life, what was a good employment fit for you at one stage, may change.

There are very few people who stay with the same employer, or even who undertake the same type of employment for the whole of their working life.

If it is time for you to take a new vocational direction, take the time to map out what you would like that to be, and then plan for the retraining, educational study or voluntary experience steps you will need to take to unlock your vocational potential.


MANN uP’s personal programmes can support you to cope with, respond to and navigate all sorts of vocational wellbeing issues.

Participating in a programme can help you find ways to mentally and emotionally self-care and stabilise, and have someone to talk over your options and plans with. MANN uP can also support you through your journey of taking on a workplace woe, and help you to tap into the vocational lifepath that will bring you most fulfilment.