A bloody great tune by Queen and David Bowie but not such a great part of life – especially when it’s at work. There seems to be so much pressure placed on us all in the workplace and to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Freddy Mercury David Bowie

Feeling intense pressure and a sense of urgency makes sense for some jobs such as being a paramedic or a police officer – but why is this the case for office workers and where does this pressure come from?

We seem to live in a culture where being seen as busy is a positive thing – but is it really? When friends or colleagues ask how work is going the desired response is “oh really busy”. Sure this usually means business is going well – but is being busy all of the time really a positive thing for us mere humans? I think not.

I have always felt under pressure in the workplace and for me that stems back right to my childhood. Even though my parents never put any pressure on me to do well at school, I always felt I had to do well and had to excel in exams. I was always told to just “do my best” but it sure didn’t feel like my best was good enough when I didn’t do so well. Whether that came from the expectations of my teachers and not fulfilling my potential or competitiveness with my classmates or even just that I wanted to do well. This pressure followed me into University and it followed me into the workplace and as a result stress became a regular visitor in my life. In fact, it wasn’t just a visitor – it had full on set up camp in my living room and wasn’t budging for no one.

Some people thrive on pressure. It makes them perform better and they love the buzz it gives them, but on the whole most people seem to crumble under it. I seem to be constantly having a conversation with one friend or another who is busy having panic attacks or not sleeping or feeling totally stressed out due to pressure at work – so where is it coming from? Is it coming from us? Are we aiming too high and pushing ourselves to hard? Is it coming from poor management – who don’t know the boundaries of how far to push their team? Or is it so ingrained in our culture that it’s now just an everyday fixture in the workplace alongside the office stationery cupboard and the photocopier?

One of the most obvious answers in recent times seems to be the state of the economy. Jobs aren’t easy to come by, and as a result redundancy is a constant worry for the employed. By being the best employees we can be –we are arming ourselves against the threat of losing our jobs and that is a constant worry and intense pressure. For industries that are thriving however there is still a constant pressure – jobs and careers are usually highly competitive. People want to get promoted, get a payrise or get up the career ladder.

Whatever the reason for this constant sense of pressure in the workplace, it can’t be good for us. A little bit of stress is good to keep us motivated and driven, but a constant daily feeling of having to succeed, excel and always do better just isn’t good. This can be seen by the sheer amount of people getting signed off work with depression, stress, anxiety and exhaustion. So it’s important that we keep reminding ourselves, that yes our careers and jobs are important – but so is our mental health – and if we push ourselves too hard it is likely we will eventually break.

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