Most people think they have stressful jobs, and to a certain extent, this may be true. Tight deadlines, bad bosses, and competitive teammates are stressors for any employee. However, workplace stress rises significantly for employees who are routinely placed in dangerous situations or are responsible for the success and/or failure of other people. When one mistake can result in death or injuries, or one wrong move negatively impact an entire organization, the pressure is magnified.
What Are the Most Stressful Jobs?
CareerCast recently published the list of the most stressful jobs of 2018. Over 200 careers were measured by 11 stress factors:
- Death (own life at risk)
- Life of another at risk
- Hazards encountered
- Amount of travel
- Physical demands
- Environmental conditions
- Working in the public eye
- Meeting the public
- Income growth potential
While income growth potential might appear to be an odd factor to include, CareerCast noted that jobs that significantly reward performance tend to have a stress component.
10 Most Stressful Jobs of 2018 Ranked
On a scale from 0 to 100, these are the most stressful jobs of 2018.
1. Enlisted Military Personnel
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 1.3 million people are on active duty in the Armed Forces. Those who are subject to the dangers of combat are likely to experience higher levels than the general population of combat/operational stress (COS), combat operational stress reactions (COSR), and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).
While enemy dangers are an ever-present threat for combat soldiers, suicide among enlisted personnel is also a concern, and a study by JAMA Psychiatry found that suicide rates among personnel in the Army and Marine Corps were 25% higher than those in the Air Force and Navy. It’s no wonder that 42 percent of active duty soldiers in the Army say they plan on leaving the military at the end of their current obligation, according to the Mental Health Advisory Team.
Firefighters, who typically work 24-hour shifts, respond to fires, traffic accidents, medical emergencies, and other types of life-and-death situations. The National Fire Protection Association reports that less than half of the 63,000 injuries that firefighters sustain each year occur as a result of fighting fires.
During the course of a normal workday, these brave men and women are subject to falling buildings and debris, smoke inhalation, roadway accidents, exposure to various types of environmental agents – like asbestos - and violent encounters while performing their jobs. Also, being on-call for 24 hours and rotating schedules result in sleep deprivation. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there is also a pattern of respiratory diseases, and cancers of the digestive, urinary, and respiratory systems among firefighters. However, the National Firefighters Foundation found that suicide is more likely than a line-of-duty death.
3. Airline Pilot
Every time they take off, airline pilots have the lives of hundreds of passengers – as well as crew members – in their hands. Fortunately, plane incidents are few, but pilots routinely face changing weather conditions, mechanical malfunctions, unruly passengers, and the specter of terrorism. The 2017 TSA Year in Review reveals that 4,000 guns were confiscated at airport checkpoints last year – and 35 percent of these weapons had a round in the chamber. Also confiscated: a live flashbang grenade, in addition to almost 200 other prohibited, concealed carry-on items such as a knife hidden in a stick of deodorant.
The threat of in-air incidents combined with the responsibility for so many lives appears to be taking a toll on pilots. A study by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health reveals that 13.5 percent of pilots could be classified as clinically depressed, and 4.1 percent struggle with thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
4. Police Officer
Police officers tend to encounter the general public at its worst, so it’s no wonder that they would have significant levels of stress. From conflicts with uncooperative suspects to encounters with violent criminals, the threat of physical danger is always present. According to the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) Program, 46 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed, and 47 were accidentally killed in 2017. This is in addition to the over 57,0000 assaults each year. Police officers are also subject to PTSD, which can result in nightmares and a lack of sleep.
5. Event Coordinator
If a meeting, convention, or event isn’t a success, guess who will be blamed? If the rooms were too hot or too cold, if the microphone or the projector didn’t work, if the food or the entertainment wasn’t good, if there was a mix-up during registration, all of these issues will be blamed on the event coordinator.
It’s a fast-paced and challenging job that involves many moving parts. In addition to organizing and planning events for hundreds or even thousands of attendees, these individuals have to negotiate and oversee vendors, and juggle various activities while remaining within budget and on time.
6. Newspaper Reporter
All reporters face a high level of stress but newspaper reporters face a particularly high level of pressure to file stories in time to be published. At the same time, new stories are constantly breaking, and reporters need to follow these leads, interview subjects, and write accurate stories in a tight time frame. Also, since reporters often cover controversial stories, they sometimes encounter combative subjects who don’t want to be interviewed. In addition, a decline in newspaper advertising has forced many organizations to lay off newspaper reporters, creating even higher levels of stress.
Broadcasters face some of the same stressors as newspaper reporters. However, they also have the pressure of reporting live to local, national, or even international audiences. Because they’re on-air personalities, broadcasters also face the pressure of looking perfect - they have to remain calm during contentious situations and improvise if the teleprompter goes out.
8. Public Relations Executive
One bad tweet, one botched customer service experience, or one accusation of impropriety can imperil an organization. And if the company botches its initial response, it may never recover. Sometimes, an apology turns into a justification, or the company may try to deflect blame. How a public relations executive handles a crisis can make or break the company.
These individuals are also in charge of averting a crisis (or any type of bad press) in the first place. Being responsible for the company’s reputation is a mammoth responsibility.
9. Senior Corporate Executive
Senior corporate executives are also responsible for the company’s reputation – as well as its success or failure. Boards of directors and stockholders have little sympathy for executives when the organization is not performing well. However, a study by LeadershipIQ found that chief executives are more likely to get fired for poor change management, ignoring customers, tolerating low performers, failing to face reality, and being all talk and no action. Each one of these reasons is a separate cause for stress, so imagine having to deal with all of them at one time.
10. Taxi Driver
This is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. According to OSHA, taxi drivers are 20 times more likely to be murdered on the job, compared to other occupations. Taxi drivers (along with chauffeurs) also have among the highest rates of injuries, primarily as a result of traffic accidents. In addition to concerns about loss of life, taxi drivers also have to worry about being robbed and being stiffed for fares. They also work long shifts, frequently spending their time in traffic. In addition, the low wages that they receive create stress to accommodate as many passengers as possible.
Stress in Other Jobs
Even if you don’t have one of the most stressful jobs of 2018, you may be experiencing a high level of stress on your job. A survey by Accountemps reveals that employees are losing sleep over their work.
“The most common causes of job-related restlessness include an overwhelming workload, a looming business problem, and strained coworker relationships,” according to Bill Driscoll, district president for Accountemps.
“When employees are sleep-deprived and stressed, it can lead to lack of focus, procrastination, mistakes, and bad attitudes that can contribute to a negative work environment.”
Another Accountemps survey revealed that stressed and tired employees admitted to making the following mistakes:
- Made a $20,000 error on a purchase order
- Deleted a project that took 1,000 hours to put together
- Accidentally reformatted a server
- Fell asleep in front of the boss during a presentation
How to Can Managers Help Employees Cope with Stress?
While some anxiety is unavoidable, especially in high-stress jobs, Driscoll recommends that managers use the following strategies to help alleviate stress when possible:
• Help prioritize.
Meet with the individual to help them prioritize their workload and set realistic expectations about deadlines and desired outcomes.
• Offer resources.
Encourage your employees to take advantage of stress-management webinars, wellness programs and other resources available to them. Set a good example by utilizing these offerings, too.
• Build camaraderie.
Laughter and amity can lead to greater work satisfaction and happiness. Look for ways to lighten the mood through social activities and office celebrations.
You can have total workplace stress that affects your mental health even without dangerous situations. Stress at work is real, but once you determine what is causing your stress at work, you can take measures to combat it.
Terri Williams is a business, higher ed, tech, and finance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, U.S. News & World Report, About.com (dotdash), Realtor.com, and Business.com. Follow her on Twitter @Territoryone.