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Employability skills

Working under pressure

What is the ability to work under pressure?

This relates to how you respond when put under pressure. In a work context, pressure can be defined as;

The stress or urgency of matters requiring attention, the burden of physical or mental distress and the constraint of circumstances.

The ability to work under pressure involves dealing with constraints which are often outside of your control - these might be resource or time constraints, the difficulty of the task or having insufficient knowledge required to complete the task, or unforeseen changes or problems. Effective planning and time-management (to mitigate or allow for unexpected problems for example) can reduce the likelihood of some pressurised situations occurring, but will not eradicate them completely.

Why do employers value the ability to work under pressure?

Changes and unexpected events, problems or challenges can - and do - often occur, regardless of how well-planned or organised you are.  The ability to respond effectively to pressure and stress is therefore extremely important in any line of work. How you respond will vary from person to person; some people thrive on it and perform better when under pressure, others may panic or become ineffective. It is important that you are aware of how you act in such situations and what steps you can take to improve your effectiveness in such situations if necessary.

Examples of how the ability to work under pressure can be developed or evidenced

  • Dealing with an emergency.
  • Overcoming problems or issues to achieve a goal, e.g. losing assignment data or work.
  • Reorganising responsibilities in a group task if one member unexpectedly drops out.
  • Managing well when work is unexpectedly busy or short staffed.