Pressure of work is not the same as simply ‘being busy’ at or with your work. Everyone is busy at one time or another and that in itself is not necessarily a problem. The term ‘pressure of work’ is used to when an imbalance has arisen between what your work requires of you (amount, type of work and duties, working hours, lack of clarity, etc.) and what you personally are capable of (the workload you can bear, your ability to modify your work situation, etc.) It is a form of work-related psychosocial stress.
Tackling the pressure of work should be aimed at restoring that balance. An example of this could be allowing an employee who has just been through an intensive period of work sufficient scope to carry out less onerous work (recovery). In that sense, you could compare it to a physical workload, in the form of intensive training. Here, too, a ‘healthy’ balance between achievement and recovery is needed in order to prevent overloading and injuries.
If the pressure of work is too high and stays that way, it can lead to various health ailments, such as fatigue or stress, which could even result in absenteeism.
There are a range of factors that can play a role in relation to pressure of work, including:
- The amount and the nature of the work
- Having (or not having) sufficient scope to structure your own work according to your needs
- Clarity (or lack of clarity) regarding duties, objectives, and responsibilities
- Interruptions (planned or otherwise) and disruptions to the ‘flow’ of the work
- The match (or mismatch) between an employee’s skills and the requirements of their position
- Fulfilment, appreciation, and recognition, or the lack thereof
- The relationship with colleagues and supervisors, the ‘working culture’ in the team
- Inappropriate behaviour, such as harassment, bullying, or discrimination
- Personality features, such as perfectionism
- The employee’s home situation
Because these factors will differ from case to case and from person to person, it is not always possible to apply standard solutions to the problems associated with the pressure of work. A customised approach will always be needed when looking for solutions in each work context. It is therefore important that employees and supervisors discuss the pressure of work together, either on a one-to-one basis (during the annual interviews, for example) or in a group.
This involves giving various tips on reducing the pressure of work, according to each individual’s own abilities. It is quite possible that this will not by any means resolve every problem associated with the pressure of work. For example, each unit is expected to focus on the causes of and their approach to the pressure of work (at departmental, faculty or service department level) that are not (or only to a lesser degree) influenced by individual factors. It is not a question of one or the other – pressure of work will have to be tackled at every possible level.