Understanding work pressure (definition, types and remedies)

Updated 9 July 2022

Pressure is part of everyday life, whether it's an overwhelming professional or personal burden or a small, ordinary inconvenience that may go on for months, weeks or even years. The pressure employees may experience while working is work pressure. Understanding what pressure from work is can help you identify and manage it. In this article, we define work pressure, differentiate it from work stress, examine the types and examples of pressure from work and highlight the best ways to manage it.

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What is work pressure?

Work pressure is the urge you get to complete work-related tasks within a specific period to appropriate and acceptable levels. It's normal to feel under pressure when you recognise your work has deadlines and quality expectations. Managers and colleagues may also cause pressure at work. Pressure from work can also be a positive occurrence. For example, you can use deadlines, standards and targets to help you perform well. Handling pressure from work well can help you relax and excel. It's important to understand how to reduce pressure from work so that it doesn't develop into severe work stress.

Related: Interview question: 'How do you work under pressure?'

How pressure from work differs from work stress

Work stress is the reaction that occurs when pressure from work exceeds your threshold of spiritual, physical and emotional ability to bear pressure. Some employees can handle pressure from work effectively, preventing work stress. Other employees can experience work stress, especially when they ignore coping strategies. You can remain in control when experiencing pressure from work while work stress often indicates you believe you've lost control. While some pressure can be helpful if it increases your productivity, prolonged work stress can affect your concentration, well-being and productivity.

Types of pressure at work

Knowing the types of pressure at work can help you manage it better. They include:

  • Internal: You may experience this pressure when you expect to work harder and achieve more. You can push yourself to perfect your competency for a specific area in an organisation.

  • External: Other stakeholders can exert this pressure on you when they expect you to complete your assignments well within deadlines. For example, a manager can micromanage you or you may work under demanding conditions and circumstances.

Examples of pressure at work

Some of the circumstances which can exert pressure at work are:

  • having to deliver work to deadlines

  • there are inconsistent demands (like incongruous performance expectations)

  • having a manager who demands extraordinary performance

  • reorganising responsibilities in group tasks when one member unexpectedly becomes unavailable

  • working when the organisation is short-staffed

  • handling tasks during high demand seasons

  • emergencies requiring precise actions to mitigate losses

Tips to help you handle pressure at work

Here are helpful ways to manage pressure from work:

Identify what causes pressure at work

You can manage pressure from work effectively when you know the causes. An excellent way to identify triggers is by keeping a journal. Note your daily activities in the journal and analyse them to identify the tasks or expectations causing pressure at work. You can record actions, reactions and events in the journal. You may also capture your thoughts and emotions during the working day. Record your interactions with colleagues and managers as they may also pressure you at work.

Prioritise activities and expectations

You can subdivide complex projects, activities or expectations to prevent them from overwhelming you. This step can help you understand the issues to handle first and their chronological order. You could prioritise expectations or tasks by handling the simpler ones first to prepare you for the complex ones. Finishing straightforward activities can also motivate you to handle the other parts. Dividing complex targets into smaller ones may also help you cope. Achieving each subgroup can make them seem attainable and motivate you.

Related: What is prioritising?

Make healthy choices

Pressure from work can push you into bad habits like consuming too much caffeine and missing sleep. You can rationalise these habits when under pressure but managing your wellbeing can give you extra energy and help you focus. Eat healthy foods like vegetables, fruit, lean proteins and healthier carbohydrates. Drink plenty of water and make time for exercise. Meditation can also help you relax and highlight important issues. Healthy responses can help you handle pressure from work better.

Set boundaries

Draw boundaries if people delegate too much work to you or ask too much from you, causing undue pressure. You can also delineate your home life and work life. Leave your work in the office when possible. Set a specific time to stop working if you take it home. Know there's more time to work in the office the next day if you miss your daily targets. You can engage your family or do fun activities after the period. Having personal time can help you escape from work, providing a fresh perspective when you resume work.

Take time to recharge

Any job can have some amount of pressure. Recharge occasionally to eliminate accumulated pressure. You can do various activities when recharging. For example, you can tour a destination, sleep, get a massage or go hiking. The distance from work can help you depressurise and prepare you to resume work. Recharging can also help you remain productive. You may be more relaxed and focussed when you return than had you worked non-stop.

Related: How to become a massage therapist

Engage your manager

If your manager is too demanding or there are issues with your work environment, you can experience pressure at work. Engage with your manager to find solutions and inform them of your concerns. Some managers can listen and provide helpful insights or fixes to reduce the pressure. Keep the engagement professional and use the opportunity to communicate effectively without seeming to complain. You can make suggestions to help your manager know you are seeking solutions. Appreciate any efforts the manager makes to reduce your pressure as they also have your colleagues and the wider organisation to consider.

Manage your overachieving complex

You may have huge ambitions and be competitive at work. While these ambitions are normal, managing them can help you handle pressure from work. Attaining some goals may be challenging but appreciate your efforts and accept that other factors can slow your progress. Try your best with each task your manager or colleagues give you. Learn through your mistakes, review any targets you might miss and do your best next time. Prioritise future opportunities and forget any past issues. Recognise you have time to pursue any area where you feel you can improve.

Resolve conflicts

Conflicts with colleagues may cause pressure at work. For example, an argument can result in you doing all the tasks you may have delegated. Colleagues may also be hesitant to help you when you need their help. These occurrences can increase your workload and hinder your progress. Having more work can cause more pressure as you may find it a challenge to complete them well within their deadlines. A smooth relationship with your colleagues can help you. Handle tasks as a team, engage them to reduce mutual pressure at work and improve each other's output.

Related: Forming relationships with work colleagues

Seek support

Seek help if the pressure is too much to manage. Delegate some responsibilities to colleagues and inform your manager you've maximised your capabilities. You may also engage colleagues, family members, managers or professionals. Discuss your pressure at work, the causes and possible remedies for it. People around you can check your progress and recommend better ways to manage the pressure. Some organisations can recruit professionals or coaches to help you with pressure at work. These people may have the skills and experience to recommend helpful solutions.

Organise your time

Deadlines may cause pressure at work. You may worry that delaying your submissions or input can affect your work-life, derail your career or affect your image. Such issues can exert pressure on you. Managing your time well is essential to avoid them. Schedule your activities. Find your most productive time of day and use it to complete the most complex tasks. Then, relax and perform straightforward duties when you're less productive. Managing your time can help you feel in control of your work life, helping you manage pressure at work.

Related: What is time management? (Importance and how to improve it)

Wear your best outfit

You could experience extra pressure if you feel your colleagues are better dressed than you. Such an example could push you to overwork yourself to compensate. You may then set unrealistic targets, putting pressure on yourself and causing a distraction. Wearing your best outfit can help you feel confident, helping you prioritise what's important, your work. The focus helps you achieve your work objectives, reducing the effect that pressure from work may cause.

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