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Dealing with New Job Stress

06 September 2021

We all know first day jitters: the precarious balance between excitement and nerves; encroaching doubts about your ability to do the job with an overarching desire to prove yourself and others; and the uncertainty that comes with opening a new life chapter. It goes without saying that starting a new job can be stressful.

Stress and performance at work are related. An optimum level of stress will give you sharpened senses, heightened cognitive and physical abilities, and enhance overall performance. Too much stress can have a detrimental impact on your overall performance, reducing your ability to learn and think clearly, while too little stress reduces motivation. In this way, it is important to be able to get a handle on your stress so that you can cope, and even flourish, with learning a new job, and meeting new people.

Those Who Are Most Vulnerable to New Job Stress

A new job is stressful at any time, but even more so if you have been out of work for a while, have unstructured routines or have a physical, medical or mental health condition. A 2015 Back2Work study asked participants who had been assessed as having a physical, medical or mental-health condition, what they were most stressed about when starting a new job.

Common responses included:

  • Coping physically with full-time work
  • Coordinating relationships both at work and at home
  • Problem-solving
  • Health issues

In the same study, researchers investigated the effects of providing bi-weekly counselling sessions, where participants could discuss their progress and any concerns. Various counselling strategies were implemented, such as:

Teaching cognitive behavioural therapy to deal with negative thoughts about work, others and performance.

Motivational interviewing to assist the participant to set goals for the future rather than focusing on the current resistance.

Communication and problem-solving strategies to navigate relationships with peers and employers.

Before the support sessions, control groups reported a 4% retention rate for Stream 4 job seekers. Employment Services post-placement measures showed 37.5% retention. Our Back2Work counselling sessions yielded a 67% retention rate. These results show that, for groups that are particularly vulnerable to new job stress, extended professional psychological support can have many benefits. 

No matter who you are, new job stress can affect you, so if you’re about to start a new job, or are stressed about a career transition, here are a few strategies that may help.

1. Make sure your thinking is balanced.

This means making sure you realise you may not be as quick as your peers at the job. This is because you are learning. Have realistic expectations of yourself in the new role and this sometimes means not being too hard on yourself.

2. Remember you will be tired and may not have as much time or energy to invest in your personal life during this time.

Let family and friends know you might be off the radar while you settle into the job. Ask them, “How can we work around this?” and problem-solve a solution. This will balance out over time, once you are confident in your work, know the best way to get there on time and are comfortable with your new co-workers and responsibilities.

3. Have the right attitude.

Most employers say they are happy to assist new staff that have a positive, helpful and friendly attitude. Even when you are stressed, asking for help with the right attitude will usually result in a positive outcome.

4. Give yourself time.

The normal period of change is four to six weeks. As employment professionals, we know this is the critical period where there is a risk of falling out of employment. So, in the first six weeks, give yourself time to settle in.

5. Get support.

We know those who engage in support quickly gain the most benefits so if you feel like you need some coping strategies during your new job transition, talk to a health professional.


Back2Work provides quality health services to Employment Services Providers and supports job seekers back to work. For more information about our programs and services, please contact Back2Work here.