Employees reveal the top 10 most stressful tasks at work

Asking over 1,500 people across the UK, a survey conducted by Sodexo Engage, the UK’s leading experts in employee engagement, has revealed which tasks at work employees find the most stressful. From presenting face to face, managing emails, to performance reviews; employees reveal that dealing with complaints is the most stressful work task. You can view the full data here.

In the last year, employees around the world have had to adapt to new ways of working because of the COVID-19 pandemic: it’s only natural for employees to feel the pressure. Whether that’s managing their daily tasks differently, or responding to challenges as part of their responsibilities; stress in the workplace, wherever that may be, is inevitable. 

If there’s an upcoming project looming or you’re dealing with a difficult client, it’s human nature to feel stressed when undertaking different tasks. In fact, 37.9% of people have admitted they’ve had sleepless nights over work-related stress, and this is why Sodexo Engage has surveyed employees to ask them directly which tasks at work people find most stressful and how employers can support them.

Table 1: The top 10 most stressful tasks at work

RankTask% Most stressed by
1Dealing with complaints26.8%
2Multitasking several projects with upcoming deadlines21.1%
3Back to back meetings throughout the day18.7%
4Performance reviews17.6%
5Talking on the phone to customers17.4%
6Presenting to people virtually or in person (internal or external)17.1%
7Managing emails15.0%
8Problem solving/Troubleshooting issues15.0%
9Working with large digital documents (excel, word, reports)14.3%
101-1 meetings with your manager14.0%

Dealing with complaints is revealed as the most stressful task at work

People cope with conflict differently, and the survey has revealed that dealing with complaints (26.8%) is the most stressful task. In second, employees find managing several projects with upcoming deadlines (21%) hard work on their mental health, along with having back to back meetings throughout the day (18.7%), taking up most of their time while managing their usual workload.

Across each employment sector, employees working in Arts & Culture found dealing with complaints the least stressful task, with only 12.9% seeing this as a cause for concern whereas multitasking with several deadlines came in top (18.5%). This also rings true for professionals within Architecture, Engineering & Building (34.3%) and Education (22.1%). 

Dealing with complaints is also a widespread cause of stress for various industry professionals including Healthcare (28.1%), IT & Telecoms (25.5%) , Manufacturing & Utilities (28.7%) , Retail, Catering & Leisure (37.8%) and Travel & Transport (35.3%). 

Industry Sector Task % Most stressed by
Architecture, Engineering
& Building
Multitasking several projects with upcoming deadlines34.3%
Arts & CultureMultitasking several projects with upcoming deadlines18.5%
EducationMultitasking several projects with upcoming deadlines22.1%
FinanceBack to back meetings throughout the day25.7%
HealthcareDealing with complaints28.1%
IT & TelecomsDealing with complaints25.5%
Manufacturing & UtilitiesDealing with complaints28.7%
Retail, Catering & LeisureDealing with complaints37.8%
Travel & TransportDealing with complaints35.3%

The number of self-reported cases of stress caused or made worse by work

According to data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), on average per 100,000 employees, 5,110 men and women aged 25-35 have self-reported cases of work-related stress. In fact, some employees even admitted reaching breaking point, with work becoming too overwhelming, 39.8% of employees left their job due to working in a stressful environment.

Employees are still too embarrassed to take time off due to stress

Due to the pandemic, many people have faced new challenges some would never have expected to happen. From juggling work-life balance to running a business while budgets are tight, according to Mind, more people have experienced a mental health crisis during the pandemic than ever previously recorded. And yet, 44.6% of survey respondents stated they would feel embarrassed to take time off work because of stress.

Commenting on the research, Graham James, Director of Commercial Development at Sodexo Engage says: 

“What’s interesting is that the most stressful tasks revealed are a day-to-day part of a person’s role, making them unavoidable in most circumstances. Employees will naturally feel stressed as the pressure amounts, however, if an employer has a strong support network in place, such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), providing their team the skills and reassurance they need to complete these tasks goes a long way in reducing stress, knowing their manager is there to support them in difficult situations.”

Author: Editorial Team

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