Stress and Work: How Harmful Is It to Your Career?

Stress seems to be a normal aspect of life these days. From the moment you wake up, you’re thinking about upcoming deadlines and prep work for next week’s meeting. The commute to work alone can be overwhelmingly stressful and that’s before your day even begins. You often hear about the ways in which stress threatens your health, both physical and mental, but what about your professional career?

Although your career is technically independent of your health, it’s tough to be productive when you’re ill or suffering from chronic brain fog. The truth is factors regarding work-related stress come in all forms. For you, it could be your boss; for others, their stress may come from working in hazardous areas or their overwhelming workloads.

The point is the source of one’s stress tends to be less relevant. It’s the impact that stress, in general, has on one’s health and overall work performance. It’s important to note that, in small doses, stress can actually be beneficial to your career, helping you tackle deadlines and increase output. When high levels of stress are experienced on a day-to-day basis, however, this is when negative effects begin to surface.

In a 2012 survey conducted by ComPsych, 41 percent of employees said that they lose 15 to 30 minutes in productivity based on their stress levels. This period of time may seem minimal, but at the end of a workweek, that’s up to 2.5 lost hours. If you scale that across a large company, where hundreds of employees are experiencing this loss in productivity, that’s a lot of lost time. Here are some of the key ways in which stress affects you, potentially threatening your career, both short and long-term.

See Also: 4 Reasons You Should Never Feel Bad About Crying at Work

1. It Reduces Your Ability to Focus

We all have those days when we lack focus and it’s no secret that less gets accomplished. Being focused is what allows you to achieve your goals. It allows you to sit down, tackle an assignment, and prioritize tasks. Whether you’re focused on your day-to-day duties or a long-term goal, stress can significantly hinder your ability to achieve.

When you’re stressed, you experience an increase in neurotransmitters epinephrine, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals activate the area of your brain known as the amygdala, essentially suppressing your ability to concentrate and exhibit rational thought. This is why it’s critical to acknowledge your stress levels so that you can address them. If you continually lack focus, it’s going to show in the quality of your work.

2. It Harms Job Satisfaction

Although there have been reports of individuals experiencing increased job satisfaction when they were under stress, these findings were mainly due to the ways in which it made time pass by more quickly, as people feel pressured to get work done. When you’re under constant stress, it’s only a matter of time before your body starts reflecting physical and mental symptoms.

Over time, stress can cause chronic fatigue, tension headaches, hypertension, and even substance abuse issues. When work causes these symptoms, it’s clear that job satisfaction levels will diminish. An environment that makes you feel overly stressed day in and day out will reduce your ability to enjoy your career.

There are many external factors that can reduce your job satisfaction, and stress is most certainly a key underlying cause. If you’re less satisfied with your work due to the stress you’re experiencing, this can be a slippery slope.

3. It Increases the Number of Mistakes You Make

If you’re suffering from chronic levels of job-related stress, you’ll likely experience brain fog. This is simply when your brain becomes fatigued, and can range from mild episodes to more severe cases. When the cause of brain fog is not properly addressed, this when your professional career becomes negatively affected.

As brain fog worsens, so do your short-term memory, as well as your ability to think rationally, learn, and concentrate. As these symptoms become more apparent, this is when mistakes are made. Whether you submit the wrong proposal, completely miss a deadline, or send out the wrong batch of emails, brain fog increases your chances of making significant mistakes.

4. It Negatively Affects Your Ability to Communicate

In today’s career world, things are moving faster than ever before. As stress increases, it can affect your ability to communicate with your boss, clients, co-workers, potential business partners, and whoever else you need to interact with. Based on stress-related brain fog, it’s been reported that individuals find it difficult to express their thoughts and opinions, both verbally and in writing.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re really stressed, your mind drifts and you’re more inclined to feel overwhelmed? In these cases, conversations will not come as easily as they should. If you are giving a presentation or leading a staff meeting, effective communication is imperative.

Not only will stress within the workplace reduce your ability to communicate, but it can also influence your mood and personality. Whether you act out in anger or sadness, stress can lead to a drop in your mental wellbeing. Once again, this can significantly affect your working relationships. No one wants to work with someone who will lash out or is unpredictable in terms of their mood.

5. It Affects Overall Productivity

All of the potential complications of work-related stress mentioned above all yield one end result. When you lack focus, cannot properly communicate, make more mistakes, and enjoy your work environment less, all of these lead to a loss in productivity. Now, that could mean many things, including reduced income, fewer promotion opportunities, and overall success levels.

In a 2014 Tower Watson’s survey, in which 22,347 employees from 12 countries participated, over half of the study population reported high levels of stress which were causing them to be disengaged. Interestingly, one of the largest causes of stress was inadequate staffing. Employees are clearly feeling overwhelmed and it’s affecting overall productivity.

Considering only 15 percent of senior managers acknowledge that this is causing stress in the workplace, it’s important to voice your opinion if you feel overworked. By ensuring work is spread across a larger group of people, everyone will benefit, including the employer. In fact, stress in the workplace is believed to cost the United States industry over $300 billion annually, due to reduced productivity, turnover, and absences, as well as insurance, legal, and medical costs.

If you are currently suffering from chronic stress levels and believe that your health or career are being impacted, it’s time to address your current situation. Either you need to address the core causes of your stress or focus on effective stress management techniques.

Although there are plenty of recommended techniques, including yoga, deep breathing, exercise, and meditation, focus on what makes you feel calm and relaxed. Whether that’s spending time with your family, reading or painting, make time for yourself and the activities that reduce stress.

For those that suffer from stress based on their work environment, take a step back. What can be immediately addressed to improve your circumstance? Perhaps a quick meeting with your boss could help or a reduction in working hours. Remember, work-life balance is essential for your health and productivity. Take the proper steps today to improve your career and health in the future.

How else does stress harm your career? Let us know in the comments section below.

The New York Times