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Top 5 most stressful jobs

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Top 5 most stressful jobs

Ever wondered what the most stressful jobs are? Richard Coulthard, the Head of the stress at work department for Michael Lewin Solicitors, reveals his top 5…

Everyone experiences a certain degree of stress at work from time to time. Whether it’s because of an excessive workload, unreasonable demands or tensions with colleagues, stress at work is a fact of life.

Everyone’s perception of stress is different and people react to stress differently. In fact studies widely acknowledge that a certain degree of stress can in fact be healthy and can motivate individuals to achieve, but at what point does the stress become too much and cause someone to suffer with conditions such as depression or anxiety?

As the Head of Stress at Work Department, I’d like to say that my job is the most stressful but alas research does not seem to agree with me. There have been various polls and surveys about stressful positions, and although exact results differ from survey to survey, in the UK there certainly appears to be a recurring theme. That recurring theme is that public sector jobs are consistently considered to be the most stressful.

Whilst opinions vary, in my opinion, based on research I have read but also on my experience of clients we have acted for, I would consider that the 5 most stressful jobs are…

Social/support worker

Social/support workers are the unsung heroes of the public sector. We receive a significant number of enquiries for claims for Stress at Work but the most common profession we receive enquiries from are social/support workers.

Individuals working in these positions often have to work long, and often anti social, hours in difficult working conditions. Additionally, many people employed as a support/social worker can face aggressive or violent behaviour from patients they’re trying to help. There is often little protection for the individuals engaged in these roles from this potential verbal, and even sometimes physical, abuse.

I would also include care workers within this category as well.


People joke about teachers having huge amount of holidays but actually this isn’t true. Teachers will often work through school holidays in order to prepare for the coming term.

Teachers face an enormous number of conflicting challenges ranging from problematic students to OFSTED inspections. People might think teachers work a short day but the reality is very different, and outside classroom hours they mark school work, complete paperwork and deal with numerous other pressures which aren’t always appreciated.

Police officers

Perhaps one of the more obvious professions in the list, police officers have to work difficult shift patterns at anti-social hours, and are tasked with enforcing laws against individuals who often have little regard for the law.

Police officers are often confronted with challenging or violent behaviour, and whilst trained to deal with these situations, it can nevertheless take its toll on an individual’s mental health.

They’re also often engaged in circumstances where they may witness traumatic events such as the aftermath of a serious traffic accident, which can be upsetting and hard to deal with.

Health care professional

To me this encompasses all those professions providing health care services such as doctors, nurses or paramedics.

The continued budget cuts coupled with a demand for health care due to a rising population, means health care professionals are becoming increasingly burdened with excessive workloads and have to work long hours.

Many health care professionals, particularly those working as paramedics or in A&E, will often witness traumatic injuries and fatalities on a daily basis. This can add an immense emotional toll on the individual, let’s face it, who wants to deliver the news that a friend or relative has passed away?

It’s therefore not surprisingly to learn that according to the NHS Staff Survey 2013, almost 40% of staff has suffered with ill health as a result of stress at work in the last year.

Prison officer

Prison officers have to face the most violent and destructive members of the community. Such inmates can have little regard for authority and prison officers can often find themselves in situations where they are subject to abuse, threats and even assaults.

Even with training, prison officers work in an environment where there is a constant fear of violence or intimidation.

How to deal with stress at work

In order to adequately deal with stress at work, it’s highly recommended that you communicate openly with your manager about any issues or problems you are having.

If you think your health is starting to suffer as a result of work related stress, I recommend that you take the following steps…

1. Communicate with your manager about the issues. Then document it clearly in an email or letter so there can be no dispute that your employer was aware of the issues you’re experiencing.

2. Request regular meetings with your manager to discuss potential ways to remedy the issues you are having.

3. Request a referral to Occupational Health. Occupational Health makes recommendations from an independent perspective and can suggest adjustments to make your work life easier.

4. Ask whether your employer offers confidential counselling services or alternatively liaise with your GP.

5. Keep a diary of events and log any complaints you make, just in case your employer fails to take steps to alleviate the cause of your stress at work. This will put you in a better position should you attempt legal action against them.

Follow these steps and you can minimise the chance of making yourself ill as a result of stress at work.

We’ve got more tips on how to deal with stress at work here.

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(All comments have to be approved before they appear)

  1. dan Sunday, 26 Oct, 2014 at 6:57 am


    Chef isn’t on there ?? Lol

  2. jane stickland Sunday, 26 Oct, 2014 at 10:50 am

    What about hospital porters, we never get recognised, we work shifts which is tiring in itself,especially doing 7 night shifts in a row we are also pushing heavy loads all around the hosp, walking miles.more being put on us but not enough staff.we see every part of the hosp which can be traumatising.we are the inbetweeners that no-one remembers.yet we try and do all this with a smile and a joke to put the patients at ease.we are the forgotten few unless anything goes wrong.we are undervalued and treated more like robots than human beings.even had our porters lodge taken away to be made into an office..needless to say morale is on the floor.

    • Richard Coulthard Tuesday, 28 Oct, 2014 at 11:21 am

      Jane I completely agree with you. There are a lot of jobs which are inherently stressful. There is also major morale issues within the NHS as a whole. Recent surveys suggest that approximately 1/3 of NHS employees are suffering with significant stress in the workplace. This figure is rising.

  3. Jo Bloggs Sunday, 26 Oct, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    years ago it was considered theat the most strssful job was computer programmer and also the hardest. when did this change?

  4. Richard Coulthard Tuesday, 28 Oct, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Actually chef would have been number 6! We act for a lot of chefs with claims for work related stress following bullying and harassment as this seems to be a real issue within the industry.

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