Emotional demands at work

Work tasks and work situations that can be noticeably mentally stressful include dealing with people in difficult situations, resolving conflicts, and making difficult decisions under pressure that also include an ethical dilemma. The perception of acute serious risk or danger at work is also categorised as emotionally stressful working conditions.

Work tasks that elicit emotional reactions are stressful since the individual must actively manage their own reactions (Martínez-Iñigo et al., 2007). Researchers Taris et al. (2009) also find that high emotional demands have the same effect on well-being (lowering) as high quantitative demands at work.

Emotional demands

Is your work emotionally demanding?

The question “Is your work emotionally demanding?” is answered in the web tool with either Yes or No. The question is taken from the “Emotional demands” scale of COPSOQ II (Copenhagen Psychosocial questionnaire) (Berthelsen et al., 2014). The “Emotional demands” scale originally consisted of four questions with a score of 0–100 points.

Examine your own work situation using this tool.

Quickcheck tool

Emotional demands

  • At this workplace, there are one or more individuals who:
  • Get into emotionally stressful situations
  • Have to relate to the personal problems of others
  • Become greatly emotionally affected at  work
  • Have to contain their emotional reactions and behave professionally
  • Have to exhibit false feelings, i.e. feelings that they do not have, because the job demands it
  • Have a job where they are expected to please others regardless of how they feel.

When does this happen? How often does it happen? Which situations and which individuals does this apply to?

Eklöf M. Psykosocial arbetsmiljö: Begrepp bedömning och utveckling. Studentlitteratur, 2017 Lund.


It is important for the employer to create conditions that empower employees to draw the employer’s attention to particularly stressful working conditions.

Examples of measures that should be considered in relation to highly emotionally stressful work include regular support from a supervisor or access to another expert in the area, special information and education initiatives, help and support from other employees, and procedures for managing demanding situations in interactions with customers, clients, etc. Eklöf et al. (2014) found that emotional processing within the healthcare sector led to less impact from stress on healthcare professionals and increased patient safety.

Discuss with your colleagues, your safety representative and your manager how you can reduce any unhealthy impact from work.


Berthelsen, H., Westerlund, H., & Søndergård Kristensen, T. (2014). COPSOQ II: en uppdatering och språklig validering av den svenska versionen av en enkät för kartläggning av den psykosociala arbetsmiljön på arbetsplatser. Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University.

Eklöf, M. Psykosocial arbetsmiljö. Begrepp, bedömning och utveckling.(2017) Studentlitteratur, Lund.

Eklöf, M., Törner, M., & Pousette, A. (2014). Organizational and social-psychological conditions in healthcare and their importance for patient and staff safety. A critical incident study among doctors and nurses. Safety science, 70, 211-221.

Martínez-Iñigo, D., Totterdell, P., Alcover, C. M., & Holman, D. (2007). Emotional labour and emotional exhaustion: Interpersonal and intrapersonal mechanisms. Work & Stress, 21(1), 30-47.

Sverke M, Falkenberg H, Kecklund G, Magnusson Hanson L, Lindfors, P.

Taris, T. W., & Schreurs, P. J. (2009). Explaining worker strain and learning: how important are emotional job demands?. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 22(3), 245-262.

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