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No. 1 Stressor at Work: Deadlines

A woman working on a laptop in a warehouse.

Deadlines. The very word implies "pressure," can trigger performance anxiety and may cause even top-notch workers a great deal of stress.

In fact, a recent survey from CareerCast found that deadlines are the No. 1 reason for workplace stress.

The survey of 1,071 CareeerCast readers found that almost 3 in 4 were experiencing higher-than-moderate stress in the workplace. Respondents were asked to rate their job stress levels on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 denoting no stress and 10 signifying constant stress. Seventy-one percent of respondents said their jobs involved a stress score of 7 or higher.

The survey found that the most common cause of stress was deadlines (30 percent). The second most common was being responsible for the lives of others (17 percent), followed by competitiveness (10.2 percent) and physical demands (8.4 percent).

"The average American working a full-time job spends 47 hours per week at work," the report authors wrote. "Eighty-four percent of survey respondents are employed full-time, which means they are spending almost 40 percent of their waking hours facing stress on the job. Factoring in seven hours of sleep per night, that's a long time to be under a lot of stress."

Carlsbad, Calif.-based CareerCast hosts an online job search portal and publishes career management and HR advice.

Those in Public Safety, Entertainment Most Stressed

Deadlines are a fixture at most workplaces—whether it's an advertising agency with a drop-dead date for pitching a TV commercial to a client or a clothing manufacturer that measures performance by how many outfits a seamstress can stitch in an eight-hour workday.

So what can be done to ease the anxiety that deadlines appear to cause employees?

"There isn't much you can do about reducing stress if you are on the front lines and responsible for the lives of others, aside from changing careers," said Kyle Kensing, online content editor for CareerCast. "However, if deadlines are causing undue stress at work, ask your supervisor for additional resources to help with the project or find out if timelines can be relaxed to find some relief."

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Almost 59 percent of survey respondents said they would leave their profession if they could. However, training for a new career and attaining the same level of education would leave these same workers starting over from scratch, the report authors wrote.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents in customer service ranked their stress levels at 7 or higher. Public safety workers and those in the entertainment industry were the most stressed at work (91 percent had stress levels of 7 or more), and IT workers were the least stressed (50 percent reported stress levels of 7 or more).

Those working in education reported higher stress levels than health care workers, with 88.9 percent of education employees reporting a stress score of 7 or higher and 69 percent of health care workers reporting the same stress levels.

The top causes of stress, according to the survey's respondents, are:

1. Deadlines (30 percent).

2. Life of another at risk (17 percent).

3. Competitiveness (10.2 percent).

4. Physical demands (8.4 percent).

5. Working in the public eye (8 percent).

6. Lack of growth potential (7 percent).

7. Life at risk (7 percent).

8. Hazards encountered (5 percent).

9. Meeting the public (4 percent).

10. Travel (3 percent).

11. Environmental conditions (2 percent).

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