Why Having More Responsibility at Work Can Actually Mean LESS Stress

When it comes to your stress level, how do you feel about the impact that it’s making on your day-to-day?

While we’re talking all about making small changes for a big (positive) impact over on Episode 142 of Productivity Paradox to celebrate the release of my book, The Joy of Missing Out, this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about stress: what we can do to level it out, so to speak, and how it affects us.

Naturally, stress has been a topic of conversation a lot, both here and on the podcast, before, so before you dig in your heels and say, I’ve heard this stuff already!, let me share something with you that I found incredibly surprising as I was doing a bit of research on our old friend “Stress” here:

As crazy as it may sound… There are times when having more responsibility at work can actually lead to lower levels of stress.

I know, that statement essentially goes against every single thing we have ever believed or have been told about stress and how it can affect us—especially when it comes to having an increase in responsibility in our day-to-day lives.

But it turns out, it’s true: when it comes to our work, having more responsibility can actually benefit us overall.

So now, let’s take a peek at exactly how that works.


How More Responsibility Leads to LESS Stress


More Responsibility, More Control—

According to the Whitehall studies, which was performed in Britain to study the link between employee status on the corporate ladder and stress level, the popular opinion about stress being linked to higher positions and more responsibility was found inaccurate.

Rather than stress being linked to higher career positions (i.e., the assumption going into the study was that the higher up an employee was on the career ladder, the more stress they felt), researchers uncovered that the leading cause of stress was not at all connected to the number of responsibilities that each worker had, but to the level of control that they felt they had over their schedule—and their day-to-day in general—instead.

Those lower on the career ladder and with fewer responsibilities actually reported higher levels of stress than workers holding higher positions with more on their plate each day.

What these findings essentially boils down to is the power of choice that each and every one of us has as it relates to our day, and how we spend it. The more in control you feel over your time, your workload, and your schedule to boot, the less stress you’ll experience overall.

Sounds pretty simple when you put it that way, doesn’t it?


More Responsibility, More Use of Your Skills— 

Another discovery that came from the Whitehall studies is that having fewer responsibilities can leave you feeling stagnant from tasks that require little-to-no use of the unique skills that you possess.

As it turns out, the more responsibilities you have at your job, the more you’re able to put your skills and other talents to good use — which amounts to a higher level of job satisfaction, and lower stress overall.

And isn’t a greater sense of satisfaction something that we’re all striving for at work in the first place?


More Responsibility, More Variety—

I don’t know about you, but one thing that I never appreciated at any other job I held in my younger days is doing the same thing each and every day. After a while, it becomes a little numbing—and it leaves us, as workers (and human beings in general), prone to feeling burnt out and depressed.

After all, variety is the spice of life, so they say!

The surprising thing is that more responsibility actually means more variety when it comes to your workload.

The more you have on your plate, the more you’re able to break up your day into tasks that require different skills, and different levels of brainpower to boot, which minimizes the degree of monotony you experience overall.

So, the next time you’re considering whether or not you’re up to the challenge of another item on your task list… First, ask yourself if the extra load is aligned with your YES (remember our conversation from Episode 141 last week?), and then if it is, go for it.

If more responsibility leads to more variety, better use of your time and your skills, and more control in terms of your day-to-day schedule, then why not, right?


So, there you have it, the surprising ways having more responsibility at work can actually mean less stress (and more happiness at home and at work, to boot).

Has more responsibility at your job led to more (or less) stress? I want to know! Share your experiences in the comments below…

And be sure to check out Episode 142 of the podcast this week where I’m inviting you to consider your blast radius, and how your actions (no matter how big or small) can make a huge impact—not only on yourself but on those around you too!

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton