What can stats tell us about salary vs. stress in the workplace?

Ah, work stress. Whether it's due to a never-ending mountain of tasks, pressure from superiors, or failing to hit those dastardly KPIs, at one time or another, we've all felt it. Failure to tackle effectively could lead to mental health issues in the workplace.

What we at Agency Central have done is look at the stress levels for jobs and how they relate to salary.

What we're asking is: "Does your pay reflect the level of stress you go through during work?" We've done some research to give you the answers.


What is stress?

Stress, anxiety, apprehension, dread, distress, panic, strain, trepidation. Whichever way you want to phrase it, the work environment is one that can cause these feelings.

It is the result of demanding and / or adverse circumstances. Work is just one area of life that can bring about stress and worry, but it is a common occurrence for many.

All positions have an element of pressure, with some having specific ways of reducing stress at work.

How prevalent is stress in the workplace?


For all the statistical gurus out there, we calculated that for every step on the one to ten stress scale, an employee can expect to earn an extra £2,000 on average.



Now, the last thing we want to do is bring back unpleasant memories. That being said, it would be remiss not to look at how people are stressed in their working lives.

It is something that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) work diligently to uncover. Their Work related Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics in Great Britain 2015 surveyed approximately 41,000 households in each quarter throughout Great Britain. 

In 2014/15, stress accounted for 35% of work-related ill health, and 43% of working days lost - a concerningly high figure.

In all industries, the prevalence of work related stress was 1,220 cases per 100,000 people over the three-year period between 2011/12 and 2014/15. 


Dreaming of holidays ... how do you escape from the stress of work?

This study suggests that manufacturing (820 cases per 100,000 people) and construction (640) were amongst the lower rates of days lost to stress. 

By contrast, health and teaching professionals had high rates of stress-related absences along with business / media professionals. 

While the figures of days lost to stress are useful, they are also tempered by the consideration that it doesn't necessary reflect the actual stress level in that industry. 

It could be that some sectors are more understanding than others in giving staff time off if they are struggling. 

In terms of size of industry, the employees most affected by stress work for large companies, closely followed by small enterprises. The medium-sized organisations have much lower incidences of stress-related absence. 

Stress, anxiety, apprehension, dread, distress, panic, strain, trepidation. Whichever way you want to phrase it, the work environment is one that can cause these feelings.



The chief reason for stress according to the HSE is workload issues such as tight deadlines, too much responsibility / pressure / work to cope with. 

Other recorded factors include uncertainty of the role, in the sense of not having clarity about what the job entails. Organisational changes, lack of control and support all contribute to stress at work. 

Our study of how salary relates to stress

Because of our position in the recruitment industry, we have access to data about a multitude of jobs and positions in a variety of sectors, along with salaries - which we have used here. 

We then sampled salary data from a number of different sources, rated the stress levels of each role between 1 - 10, popped the results into a scattergraph and hey presto, this is the result: 





What does it tell us, I hear you ask? There is definitely a correlation here between stress levels and salary

For all the statistical gurus out there, we calculated that for every step on the one to ten stress scale, an employee earns an extra £2,000 on average. 

While not across the board, the general trend suggests that the more stressful a job you have, the more remuneration you receive, indicated by the light blue line in the aforementioned graph. This shows an upward trajectory of stress to salary. 

All told, we ranked the stress levels for almost 450 jobs, which is what you see on our snazzy scattergraph.

We accept that mistakes can happen, and that makes this particular job less stressful than where I've worked before.



Now, for all those curious as to how stress levels were decided, the results came down to the Brain's Trust at Agency Central attempting to interpret the data in the most sensible way. 

There's no getting away from the fact that stress can mean different things to different people. It can come down to a number of reasons: 

  • The difficulty of your boss. 
  • The pressures from management and subordinates. 
  • Worries about whether you earn enough to pay the bills. 
  • Satisfaction of work. 
What others think about stress at work

Jo Coates is an Account Director at Agency51, a digital marketing agency in York. She outlined the stressful aspects of her role, such as "unforeseen circumstances which can throw all your plans off course." It is something many people can relate to.

Planning ahead for the coming days, weeks and months is another element of the job that causes strain. However, as a leveller, Jo says the company's culture helps, make steps towards preserving the work / life balance and the fact that sometimes, people make mistakes. 

She said: "We accept that mistakes can happen, and that makes this particular job less stressful than where I've worked before."

What this shows is that stress can vary from person to person, and therefore can't be an exact science, despite the best efforts. 

Imagine having somebody's fate in your hands at the same time as working long, draining hours, sometimes reaching 48 hours a week, including nights and weekends? How does that not stress you out?!



Which jobs seem to correlate then? Let's have a look. 

High stress / well paid jobs

Doctor

  • Stress level - 10.
  • Salary - £36,600.

Unsurprisingly, this is top of the pile. A stress rating of 10 accurately sums up the pressures our doctors endure each and every day. 

Whether working for the NHS or for a private healthcare company, as a GP or Hospital Doctor, all come with their demands. For the purposes of our study, we'll focus on the latter.

A Hospital Doctor diagnoses and treats all patients admitted; these could have been referred by a GP or other healthcare professionals. 

Working a particular specialism, a doctor may also be managing a department, leading staff, dealing with paperwork and supervising trainees. 

That is a major level of responsibility, and according to our records, the average starting salary for this is slightly higher than £36,600. There is considerable potential for progression of earnings too. 

In 2014/15, stress accounted for 35% of work-related ill health, and 43% of working days lost - a concerningly high figure.



What makes this stressful?

Quick question: Have you ever heard the phrase 'it's life or death'? Perhaps you've seen it bandied around in a film, or glibly used when trying to heighten the importance of an event. Maybe you've used it in your own social circle for dramatic effect. 

Only for doctors, it isn't dramatic effect. They deal with that realisation everyday; the same realisation that's making these typing fingers sweat at the thought of it. 

Now imagine having somebody's fate in your hands at the same time as working long, draining hours, sometimes reaching 48 hours a week, including nights and weekends? How does that not stress you out?! 

Of course, the satisfaction of saving lives and bringing that joy to families must help, as well as the prestige of the job itself, must help. But stress is still there.

Body clock = all over the place. Sleep pattern = non existent. But hey, go and perform your miracles. 

Understandably, it's an occupation with high stress levels. 

We salute you. 

If Clark Kent is too busy saving Metropolis or the whole world, it's all fine and well but the paper will still need its back page lead story.

Editor

  • Stress level - 8.
  • Salary - £43,500.


A confession here. As somebody with an interest in journalism, when I watch anything Superman-related, I can't help noticing how Clark Kent barely files a story of note and leaves poor Perry White to pick up the slack. 

The bottom line is if the newspaper isn't full with content, it's the Editor's responsibility. 

And it's called the DAILY Planet - that means this has to be done every single day. A touch stressful, no? Well especially if you've got the likes of Kent swanning in and out whenever he pleases. 



Hitting publication deadlines piles pressure on Editors.

An Editor is ultimately responsible for the daily output. He / she chooses what goes where, the lead story, has final say on headlines, which stories make the paper, whether or not other possible leads should be chased up, and has final responsibility on the legality of content.

For a job with the stress level of eight, an Editor is rewarded with an average salary of over £43,500

What makes this stressful?

In short, the level of responsibility. Don't want to labour the Superman example any further (I do), but *spoiler alert* if Clark Kent is too busy saving Metropolis or the whole world, it's all fine and well but the paper will still need its back page lead story.

Not saying the Editor will write it, but they are responsible for making sure something else goes on that back page. It's the same with setting deadlines - the Editor has to make sure all journalists meet them. Managing a newsroom like that is no mean feat. 

Of course, journalists should check their own stories and they will be sub-edited, but the Editor has final responsibility on copy; if anything is defamatory or in contempt of court, it could have devastating consequences for a newspaper. 

On top of that there are unsociable hours involved and the Editor will have a superior to answer to, in order to make sure output and quality is in line with the newspaper values.

It's not quite the life of a doctor, but it is easy to see the stress in this role. 

Outliers

There are many examples of stressful jobs that get rewarded financially. We could illustrate more but you get the idea; there are positions out there that compensate for the level of strain it puts on the employee. 

Counsellors know their interventions can have an impact on human life. Is there anything that can be prioritised more? Wealth, materialistic goods, success can help with happiness, but health is paramount.



But what about the outliers? By this, not only do we mean jobs that have high stress levels but not necessarily high salaries, as well as jobs that fill workers with less distress, yet conversely pay well.

Our scattergraph shows the prevalence of these too.  

High stress / lower salary jobs?

Counsellor

  • Stress level - 9.
  • Salary - £25,000.

A highly skilled job that requires a training qualification with a professional body, work as a Counsellor provides its own challenges. 

This role means invariably you're trying to help people manage their feelings, so providing a confidential environment in which the patient feels safe is extremely important. 

They may need help with a wide range of issues, so relationship building, empathy, understanding and helping them see things differently are all part and parcel of such a demanding role.




Why is this role so stressful? 

Referring back to the doctors we previously lauded, counsellors know their interventions can have an impact on human life. Is there anything that can be prioritised more? Wealth, materialistic goods, success can help with happiness, but health is paramount. 

It's fair to say a Counsellor can go a long way to guiding those struggling on the road to recovery. 

Imagine having that pressure in the palm of your hands? As a Copywriter, it's hard to envisage such a level of responsibility - not that we aren't responsible people!

In our study, the stress levels of a counsellor were rated at nine, taking into account the number of patients, tracking process, keeping records, worrying about patient progression, amongst other things. 

Chauffeurs don't take their work home (not including the car), it's a fairly relaxed atmosphere and importantly, our records show that the job has a pays relatively well for a role that induces few worries.



The average salary for this is just over £25,000. Now, does that seem on the low side for an occupation that can generate such a level of worry? We believe so. Add to that the risks of Secondary Traumatic Stress that can be brought on through such a tasking job, and it's clear the salary doesn't compensate for this risk. 

It is far from the only example. 

Head Chef

  • Stress level - 7.
  • Salary - £21,000.

Some are grate at their jobs, while others have mushroom for improvement (so, so sorry); what is certain though is it's a role that is all encompassing.

In this pressure cooker environment, Head Chefs ultimately take responsibility for the overall success (or failure) of the restaurant, cafe or other eatery they work in. 

The hours are variable, with shift patterns at unsociable hours of evenings and weekends.

You are responsible for the quality of food. That is a given. But you're also the one who gets the flak for orders that are late, you have responsibility for planning menus, ordering food and carefully managing stock, while implementing health and safety procedures. 

If you're still not full, other responsibilities include organising rotas, training and recruiting staff, and making sure that everybody is on task and target. 


If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.


Is the stress level represented with salary?

Sounds hectic, doesn't it? They say if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, but perhaps your monthly take-home will make up for those pressures?

Not so, we feel. 

Our stress scale has these culinary masters rated at seven. In truth, it could easily be higher. Couple that with an average salary of just over £21,000 and it feels they are not amply rewarded for their efforts during the working day.

Customer dislikes the food? Head Chef's fault. Staff member rings in sick? Head Chef has to sort it out. Tonight's specials? Well, you know the answer. It's an awful lot of work, with management and financial pressures alongside. Does the salary compensate fully? You decide. 

Low stress / high salary jobs

Now that we've looked at those poor souls who are driven to distraction at work sans payment befitting their occupational distress, it's worth looking at the opposite.

The other interesting figures to note within our outliers are of those jobs that pay well but involve little worry - although I should stress that this is meant comparatively to the other roles we have studied. 

While not across the board, the general trend suggests that the more stressful a job you have, the more remuneration you receive.


Chauffeur

  • Stress level - 1.
  • Salary - £25,500.

A full UK driving license? Check. An experienced driver who enjoys being behind the wheel? Check. Like your work not coming home with you? Well you're tailor-made for life as a Chauffeur. 

Working either for one or a number of clients, a Chauffeur does just that: chauffeurs their employer to and from different destinations. 

You'll be a human sat nav and also help passengers with any bags / suitcases. Depending on client, door opening and closing duties may also be required. 

Stress represented with salary?

We have ranked this at a stress level of one. The reason? Chauffeurs don't take their work home (not including the car), it's a fairly relaxed atmosphere and importantly, our records show that the job pays relatively well for a role that induces few worries

That average salary for this role is almost £25,500

This will vary depending on the part of the country and the affluence of clients of course, which could cause stress, along with planning journeys around built-up traffic. However, in relevant terms, this role is less worrisome than many others. 

Although the employee has to be flexible, and unsociable hours can be expected, that is a wage not to be sniffed at given that once the car is parked outside your home, you can kick back and relax. 

As long as you take this career more seriously than Lloyd Christmas, it is a very attractive one indeed. 

Fitness instructor

  • Stress level - 2.
  • Salary - £20,000.

Slightly higher on our scale in stress with a rating of two, the Fitness Instructor role is also one that pays comparatively well for the level of anxiety it can incur. 

What does the role entail? It can be as inclusive and varying as each particular instructor chooses. 

If working for a company, it could involve group sessions to help people keep fit, including activities like yoga, pilates and weight training. 

Armed with first aid knowledge, an instructor will provide detailed fitness assessments and consultations for clients, lead group exercises, provide diet and lifestyle advice as well as supervising clients in proper usage of any machines. 

There is also the option for instructors to work for themselves, training individual clients on a personal basis. 


Leading a healthy lifestyle is renowned for reducing stress.


Stress represented with salary?

A Fitness Instructor can earn more than £20,000 for a role with relatively little stress. There are caveats here, as there are with many of the roles mentioned. 

Of course, keeping up to date with various clients and their requirements isn't the easiest, but it's a role that offers a fair degree of freedom and flexibility. While this has to incorporate the needs of clients, it still allows for hours of work to be varied. 

Even more significantly, there are opportunities to make the salary even higher by increasing the number of individual clients.  

That, added to the relative freedom of not having to take your work home (except for eating right and looking the part, but I'm sure you're driven like that anyway), makes it a very attractive job with less stress than others. 

Does stress increase with salary?

In a general sense, the more stressful your work, the higher the salary you can command. 

However, as with anything, there will be exceptions to the rule, and hey, if there's a role out there with the high salary, low stress balance that you are capable of excelling in, it goes without saying we would strongly suggest it as a career!

And for any recruiting needs, Agency Central have it covered. 

There you have it; the stress / salary correlation calculator. Catchy, eh? Where do you rank your job in this scale? Do you think your salary reflects your stress or not? Let us know why. 

Written by John Train