9 Bad Work Habits That Are Making Your Job Stressful

businesswoman running lateThese days, stress and work often go hand in hand. Many of us can’t even imagine what our jobs would be like if they didn’t stress us out at least a little bit. In fact, a recent survey conducted for the American Institute of Stress found that more than 80% of Americans find at least one aspect of their jobs stressful.

Although many factors contributing to work-related stress are out of one’s control, there are many habits we engage in that can make our work days all the more nerve-racking. Here are nine bad habits at work that could be increasing your job stress, along with some suggestions on ways to overcome them:

1. Procrastination

Waiting until the last possible minute to do something isn’t good for anybody’s nerves. Studies show that people who procrastinate have higher stress levels, lower overall well-being, and poorer performance outcomes than those who tackle a task right away.

The best way to combat procrastination is to just get started. Even if you don’t finish what you start, getting the ball rolling helps and makes the overall project less daunting. Just do it; don’t wait. If you put everything off to the last minute, you’re certain to feel more stressed, not to mention you leave little room for revision or error.

2. Running Late

Let’s face it: running late is stressful. When you’re already late, it seems like everything takes longer, traffic is heavier, and people move slower. If you are always running late and in a hurry, you’re constantly stressing yourself out. Who wants to start their work day feeling stressed?

Break this habit by getting started 10 or even five minutes earlier. Conceptualize how much time you think you need to get ready, and then simply add 10 minutes (or five) to it. Those extra minutes will provide the leeway you need to help remain calm on the way to work, which inevitably impacts the rest of your day.

3. Not Taking Breaks

To maintain low stress levels, take a break! Breaks are important for maintaining your mental health.

If you think skipping breaks makes you more productive, think again. It can actually have the opposite effect. Studies have shown that taking regular breaks increases both productivity and creativity. Think of the mind like you would a muscle. If you overwork your muscles, they get fatigued. The same goes for your brain. It needs rest, too.

4. Poor Planning

When you leave work at the end of each day, you should have a general outline of tasks for the next morning. If you go in each day without a plan of action, you’ll be less productive, end up wasting time, and increase your stress in the long run when you have difficulty keeping up with your workload.

Decrease your stress by coming to work prepared and acknowledging your duties first thing in the morning or whenever you arrive. One of the last things you should do each day is make a to-do list of work that needs to be done the next day. There are many tools available to help with this, such as a traditional planner or an app that will help you keep you on task (there are several).

5. Focusing on the Negative

If you’re constantly complaining about your boss, your workload, or your coworkers, you’re making your job more difficult. Complaining alone rarely solves anything; it just brings you and those around you down. In the workplace, attitude is very much contagious.

You can’t hate what you do 40-plus hours a week and keep your stress levels low.

Complaining in small amounts can be healthy; it allows us to vent our frustrations and acknowledge our feelings. But when you make a habit of complaining, it can start to wreak havoc on your life and affect your coworkers. To change this habit, consider spending a few moments at the end of each day (after writing your to-do list for tomorrow) thinking and writing down up to three things that were positive about your work day. Maybe you exceeded productivity, maybe you helped a customer, or maybe you helped a coworker with something he or she was struggling with. Jot it down and remove yourself from the negative thought patterns we all fall into when situations in life seem crummy.

6. Hating Your Job

Consider that you will spend almost a third of your adult life at work. If you really can’t stand your job and find yourself dreading every Monday morning, you might want to consider looking for another job or changing careers. You can’t hate what you do 40-plus hours a week and keep your stress levels low.

To change this habit and get your life moving in a direction that brings you greater satisfaction, consider finding a therapist or career counselor to work with. If you meet with a therapist, he or she may be able to help you discover emotional or behavioral issues that contribute to your job dissatisfaction. A career counselor may help you discover something more in line with your values, work ethic, and interests.

7. Bringing Work Home with You

Sometimes, circumstances make working at home unavoidable. When you can, however, leave your work at work.

In modern society, many of us carry our phones, laptops, or tablets with us regularly. This helps us facilitate work in different ways, but it can also take away time spent with family, relaxing, or performing other self-care activities. If you find yourself answering work calls at the dinner table, make an effort to ditch the digital leash. If you can minimize the amount of time you think about work when you aren’t at work, you’ll likely find that your work-related stress will decrease.

8. Sitting All Day

Some studies indicate that working at a desk or sitting at work all day is about as unhealthy as smoking cigarettes. Sitting for prolonged periods puts an incredible amount of pressure on the spine and increases tension within the body. This often manifests as physical stress, which releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can be responsible for weight gain, physical health problems, and can affect your mental health as well.

The best way to break this habit is to simply get moving. Make it a point to stand for at least one hour a day or do an exercise on your break. Walk around your building, take the stairs throughout the day, or take a walk after dinner. While seated at work, you can also make sure you keep good posture and stretch regularly. Adding some activity throughout the day can also benefit your productivity.

9. Neglecting Work-Life Balance

It’s easy to get caught up in our careers and neglect other areas of our lives. If you find you’re working too much and playing too little, make the time in your life for recreation to help decrease your stress levels. If you’re able to take a vacation, consider it an investment in your health.

It is important to maintain a work-life balance. In addition to recreational activities, consider whether you are making enough time for your family or friends. If you continually focus on work and don’t take care of your other needs, you’re bound to end up feeling stressed. You need to always be practicing self-care or stress will take its toll.

If Work Stress Is Getting the Best of You, Help Is Available

Stress can be detrimental to your health. It is the root cause in many instances of mental and physical health issues, including anxiety, depression, heart disease, sleep disturbances, digestive problems, weight gain/loss, concentration issues, and memory impairment. Interestingly, many researchers also say that work is the most significant cause of stress among American adults.

Breaking the aforementioned habits can help you drastically reduce your work-related stress, but sometimes you might need to do deeper work emotionally, behaviorally, or cognitively to break a negative thought pattern or get back to a place where you can function at your best. Because of this, many therapists and mental health professionals are trained to help people cope with and overcome workplace issues. If you find that work-related stress is impacting your life in a negative way, consider reaching out to a mental health professional to increase your satisfaction and happiness at your current job, or to help you get on the path to a new, more fulfilling one.


  1. Jaffe, Eric. (2013). Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination. Association of Psychological Science. Retrieved from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2013/april-13/why-wait-the-science-behind-procrastination.html
  2. Korkki, Phyllis. (2012, June 16). To Stay on Schedule, Take a Break. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/jobs/take-breaks-regularly-to-stay-on-schedule-workstation.html?_r=0
  3. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013, July 11). Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037?pg=1
  4. Workplace Stress. The American Institute of Stress. Retrieved from http://www.stress.org/workplace-stress/

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Winifred

    July 30th, 2015 at 8:15 AM

    I work in an office filled with negativity that it is hard to shake those feelings even when I go in determined to have a good day.

    I know that it is not the best work environment for me but it is a job and I can’;t just up and leave!

  • Celia

    July 30th, 2015 at 2:54 PM

    I am a perpetually late person, I know that and have tried everything to break the habit but I just can’t seem to shake it. I wasn’t really raised that way, my parents were sticklers for being prompt, but I don’t know, there is something that is in me that will not allow me to be on time. Friends have told me that it is my way of being passive aggressive or thinking that my time is more valuable than theirs and that isn’t it, I don’t think, but I am afraid that it is going to land me in hot water some day.

  • roger

    July 30th, 2015 at 5:30 PM

    I find that the workplace can become very cliquey if you let it, sort of like high school but with people who are old enough to know better. There are places where I have worked when you can just feel the tension in the room if you come in but don’t really belong to the group. Who can be productive or want to even do anything resembling that when that is how you are made to feel?

  • Manny

    July 31st, 2015 at 7:07 AM

    What I see when I look at this list is that all of these things are things that can be controlled by us. I could stop running late, I could stop sitting around, etc so a lot of the work situation is what I make of it myself.

  • Rhea

    July 31st, 2015 at 1:10 PM

    we all become comfy and complacent so that makes it really easy to forget that we do have control over a lot of this.

    It is always easier to place the blame elsewhere.

  • Joanna

    August 1st, 2015 at 4:45 AM

    Very good advice…very helpful article…

  • Anonymous

    August 5th, 2015 at 8:37 PM

    A lot of people work a job they hate to pay the bills. If you think self-sustaining jobs are plentiful, you are seriously out of touch. The job market is so competitive, there is no way I’d even be hired now for the job I already have.

    People sit all day because work has to get done. If a deadline looms (and there’s always a deadline), you’d better be at your desk, and not wasting time. Same with taking breaks; workers are not legally entitled to any breaks except going to the bathroom. Yoi eat lunch at your desk because you’re out the door if you don’t make a deadline.

  • Shay

    August 9th, 2015 at 7:52 AM

    I would say that listening to the wrong person at work can make a huge impact on how your job treats you

  • marco

    August 9th, 2015 at 3:09 PM

    So procrastination and poor planning go hand in hand to me. Those are the times when you don’t plan for the unexpected and keep putting things off and then one day it is all mounted on top of you and it can feel like there is no way out of this situation. Those who plan more wisely and don’t leave things for the last minute> those are the people that I think that you will ultimately see become a success in their field.

  • Bonnie

    August 18th, 2015 at 9:58 AM

    “If you’re able to take a vacation, consider it an investment in your health.” I was not able to take any significant time off for 4 years. I kept being told, “Now is not a good time” due to the workload. I finally had a meltdown. The workload is not going to stop and if you work your employees like cattle, they will stop.

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