Can Work Stress *Actually* Be Healthier For You Than A Holiday?

Stress seems to be the word on the tip of everyone’s tense and hyper-caffeinated tongues. We’ve written a load of articles on overcoming work stress through mindfulness and as many that attest to the placebo influence stress has on office workers.

Whether work stress is a genuine phenomena or just social conditioning, if it’s affecting your health it needs to be dealt with. But would it be so crazy to look into how work stress can actually help us live longer?


Working oneself to death has generally be considered an aphorism with little grasp on reality but people are literally working themselves to death.

With the economy pushing retirement ages higher and higher combined with the residual ‘all work no play’ attitude implemented by early boomers, work stress is a natural byproduct.

Here’s some irony: we’re killing ourselves just to make a living.


That said, according to a new study from Personnel Psychology, work stress can be good for us as long as we have control over the situation.

The study reports: “These findings suggest that stressful jobs have clear negative consequences for employee health when paired with low freedom in decision-making”

“While stressful jobs can actually be beneficial to employee health if also paired with freedom in decision-making.”


So in short: jobs that offer lots of responsibility but plenty of agency to complete tasks lead to fulfilling but stressful work lives – not cold, frustrated death.

So why exactly does a lack of control cause such negative effects?

When you don’t have the resources, time or permission to deal with a demanding job, you find ways to cope. Some drink, others smoke but either way, you fill the crevasse bored by frustration with indulgences and quick-fixes to unhappiness.


It just shows that managers should be allocating greater freedom to employees of all seniority.

“A stressful job can be “energising” rather than “debilitating”, he said. “You are able to set your own goals, you are able to prioritise work. You can go about deciding how you are going to get it done. That stress then becomes something you enjoy.”