Top 10 Most and Least Stressful Jobs

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Some jobs are inherently more stressful than others. But the world of work has changed drastically over the last several years. New jobs have been created, while technology has eliminated others. The pandemic and the emergence of remote work – followed by a “return to office” push – have also changed how we experience stress in the workplace and specific roles.

It may come as no surprise that careers in the military and public safety sector are considered among the most stressful jobs. Alternatively, job roles that allow for less interaction or more positive interactions are often less stressful. Keep reading for our lists of the most and least stressful jobs, along with tips for managing stress at work.

In a 2023 Work in America survey by the American Psychological Association, 77 percent of workers reported experiencing work-related stress in the last month.

The most stressful jobs

  1. Military personnel
  2. Police officer
  3. Firefighter
  4. Social worker
  5. Broadcaster
  6. Newspaper reporters
  7. Emergency dispatcher
  8. Mental health counselor
  9. Anesthesiologist
  10. ER nurse

Most high-stress jobs today involve frequent interaction with the public. Many of these public service roles require individuals to make quick decisions that can impact the lives of many people. And while jobs in healthcare have always been stressful, the effects of the pandemic put increased pressure on employees in that field. While the U.S. is past the height of the COVID health crisis, for some workers, longer hours, increased stress and navigating countless unknowns each day remain.

>> Read next: Stressed Out! Unrealistic Expectations Put the Pressure on Workers

The least stressful jobs

  1. Massage therapist
  2. Hairstylist
  3. Librarian
  4. Landscaper
  5. Orthodontist
  6. Art director
  7. Occupational therapist
  8. Medical records technician
  9. Web developer
  10. Data entry specialist

Unlike our list of the most stressful jobs, those that are the least stressful tend to involve less interaction with the public or simply a different kind of interaction. For example, people usually enjoy visiting a massage therapist or hairstylist, leading to more joyous interactions throughout the workday. 

While occupations like orthodontist or occupational therapist do fall under healthcare, the job pace is much slower in those roles and still allows a person more work-life balance than many other medical positions. Also, many of the least stressful jobs let workers focus on their responsibilities without too much interaction with others throughout the day, which can make the workday smoother.

What makes a job stressful?

It’s not just the inherent, high-risk nature or frequent public interaction of some jobs that are to blame for high levels of stress and burnout. There are other reasons why someone might be biting their nails at work.

Here are some additional reasons certain jobs may be more stressful than others:

  • Deadlines
  • Working in the public eye
  • Competitiveness
  • Physical demands
  • Emotional demands
  • Environmental conditions
  • Hazards encountered
  • Risk to one’s own life
  • Risk to the life of another person
  • Meeting the public

Although broadcasters do not face the physical dangers that police officers or firefighters do, they do have to meet strict, constant deadlines, which can bring about significant stress. Further, those working in the news industry often deal with the fear of lawsuits and a dwindling job market, which also contribute to high stress levels.

Many of the most stressful jobs are crucial to society, impacting safety and justice locally and at large. While police officers and members of the military protect us, news reporters and broadcasters are tasked with objectively sharing essential news that can affect people’s day-to-day lives. They may be looked down upon for their line of work by some or – even worse – publicly exposed in a way that could lead to potential harm.

Below, we explore some other job stressors.

Micromanagement

When every decision and email is vetted by a supervisor before any move can be made, it wastes a lot of time, especially when quality work can be achieved without constant check-ins. For a new hire, increased monitoring may be necessary for the first few months of their employment, but when it becomes part of the company culture, it can impact company morale.

“Lack of freedom around decisions can make you feel restricted when it comes to your autonomy,” said Marni Amsellem, a licensed psychologist and the founder of Smart Health Psychology, a health psychology consulting business. “When [employees] feel overmanaged, it … undermines their value and what they’re able to contribute, and that is going to create tension.” 

The best leaders will put their employees in positions to thrive, where micromanagement isn’t an issue. [Learn how to be an ethical leader.]

Distractions

For some, being “in the zone” and completing assignments back-to-back feels good. However, little things like answering a text message or chatting with a co-worker interrupt productivity, which can put workers behind and increase their level of stress. Keeping workplace distractions to a minimum creates more time for employees to stay focused and on top of their workload.

Lack of communication and feedback

A boss who doesn’t provide or solicit any employee feedback – good or bad – can cause workers to worry if they’re doing a good job. That constant worry can put a sizable dent in productivity. Having clear and open communication on both sides can eliminate confusion and any concerns that would otherwise cause stress.

Low salaries and/or no opportunities for advancement

Having a job that doesn’t pay well is stressful for a number of reasons. Not only is there the constant strain of not meeting your financial responsibilities, but jobs with low salaries or no room for advancement cause workers to feel undervalued, hopeless and depressed.

Effects of healthy and unhealthy job stress

Not all stress is negative; the truth is, it’s a spectrum. Healthy stress can motivate someone to finish daily tasks and meet goals, said Amsellem. However, unhealthy workplace stress leads to a host of problems.

When anxiety dominates someone’s daily thoughts, that’s a sign that the level of stress they’re dealing with is harmful to their health. Chronic stress is associated with:

  • High blood pressure
  • Weakened immune function
  • Heartburn
  • Insomnia or tiredness
  • Weight gain
  • Head and stomach aches
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability

Burnout – mental, emotional and physical exhaustion – is the culmination of trying to manage stress for too long. Any job where a worker is dealing with people constantly puts them in jeopardy of burnout. Emergency service workers are especially vulnerable. Conversely, someone who is too isolated from others and carrying a heavy work burden entirely on their own can burn out too.

How to manage stress at work

When you have a stressful job, it’s critical to find productive ways to deal with it – but doing so also depends on the nature of your role. If you’re in a physically demanding position, you may consider setting aside time for regular meditation, reading or something that doesn’t require a lot of movement. However, if your role requires you to sit most of the day, you may find that vigorous exercise actually helps you destress.

These additional recommendations can help you manage stress as a business owner or employee and boost productivity.

Manage your time efficiently.

Nothing’s more frustrating than an unfinished to-do list, but sometimes it’s not us; it’s the list. For your next assigned project, rather than add the entire project to your to-do list, consider the scope of the project, then prioritize the most critical elements and divide those elements into small, manageable assignments that can reasonably be completed at the end of each day. Using this strategy can help you turn in projects on time and error-free, and you won’t be completely frazzled when it’s done.

Set boundaries.

Today, it’s easier than ever for work to follow you home. Our smartphones can keep us chained to the office if we don’t set clear boundaries. For those literally working at home, it can be even harder to separate personal and professional time. If an email or phone call comes in after work hours, try not to answer. Taking your work email off your phone or having a designated phone for work that you can turn off at the end of the day gives you a break, which in turn gives you the energy and focus needed when it’s time to work again. [Read related article: How to Improve Your Work-Life Balance Today]

Find positive responses.

Stress is a fact of life, and while we can’t eliminate stress entirely, we have control over how we respond to it. Avoid unhealthy coping strategies like turning to junk food or alcohol to quell anxiety. Exercise or do whatever relaxes you, whether that’s solving a crossword puzzle or spending time with family and friends. If venting about work to someone helps you feel better, do that. The key is to engage in healthy activities that bring you peace and explore outlets that are “social, physical or creative,” said Amsellem.

Regardless of your profession, speaking with a healthcare professional can help you find the best ways to personally eliminate stress and take care of yourself.

Every job has some level of stress, but the nature of it may vary in type and frequency. That’s why it’s so important for each person to learn how to manage stress in a way that works for them.

It’s unlikely that public service jobs will become less stressful in the future, but with technological advances, the creation of new jobs and today’s rapidly changing work environment, it’s safe to assume we’ll see more changes among the most stressful and least stressful jobs in the years ahead. A decade ago, few would’ve imagined the popularity of work-from-home setups, Zoom burnout or a number of other elements, both good and bad, that people now have to deal with in the modern working world. As job roles evolve, work stress is an inevitability. But business owners, managers and employees themselves can work together to minimize the consequences.

Casey Conway contributed to this article. Source interview was conducted for a previous version of this article. 

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