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Recent survey reveals main causes of stress for senior management and leadership roles

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Research revealed that nearly half of the people in senior management and leadership roles experience the Sunday scaries multiple times during the year.

A survey done by an HR software provider Ciphr, conducted on 265 adults aged over 25 and working in senior management positions within the UK, revealed 83% of participants have on average 8 things that cause them stress in their current job position.

The frequency of the Sunday scaries also depends on the size of the company for which the participants work. While only 11% of senior executives and leaders working for SMEs with a maximum of 250 employees experience it at least twice a month, this figure has risen to 24% in companies with more than 1001 employees.

The term ‘Sunday scaries’ has come into use, particularly in recent years, and represents the severe feelings of fear and anxiety experienced in the evening or afternoon of the day before the start of the new working week.

For Western culture, this day is Sunday hence its name. In addition to the unpleasant psychological effects, this phenomenon also includes physical symptoms such as increased heart rate or insomnia.

Nearly half of the respondents reported experiencing this phenomenon, and one in twenty, representing 5% of them even reported it as a weekly issue. In the research, Ciphr discovered that senior managers are more affected by job stress than their colleagues in lower positions.

Neither remote nor hybrid working environments with limited face-to-face contact can be said to be much of an improvement with as many as one in five senior executives experiencing weekend stressing over the upcoming working week.

However, weekend anxiety is not the only reason why high-position employees have work stress. Up to 81% of the survey participants reported that they have at least three things that cause them inner turmoil in connection with their job. In the ranking of the top 15 most stressful causes, economic challenges like the cost of living crisis, high inflation and rising prices ranked first.

Since 2021, due to Covid 19, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Brexit, prices of essential goods in the UK have been rising faster than household incomes, resulting in a cost of living crisis which according to the Office for National Statistics affects up to 89% of adults.

Inflation, which is equally stressing people in senior management and leadership roles, hit a 41-year high last year reaching 10.7% in October.

In the middle of the ranking, with 15%, came causes such as fear of not performing well enough, fear of losing a job and productivity problems. Paradoxically, productivity problems can be reduced when employees are acknowledged for their work and have a feeling of job security.

In the last place on the list of causes that make people stressed were long working hours and the ongoing impact of Covid 19, which is slowly but surely being talked about less and less in society. Despite all the stress factors, only 4% of the participants in the survey said they did not like their jobs.

“Stress, in general, doesn’t always need to be perceived as a negative – lots of people really thrive under stress and high-pressure situations – and produce some of their best work.

“But when high levels of stress cause anxiety or the Sunday scaries, that’s when increased risks to the business can start presenting themselves, through ill health, higher turnover of senior managers, ineffective leadership, or poor performance,” said Ciphr’s chief people officer, Claire Williams.

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