Do you routinely work more than 50 hours a week?
Do you bring work home to complete on nights and weekends?
Do you have a hard time relaxing because you are always thinking about work or feeling you should be working?
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If so, you could be workaholic. Workaholics have crossed the line from working hard to working too hard. As the name implies, a workaholic has an addiction to work, and like other addicts, a workaholic often will neglect family and friends and will frequently forego vacation time to take on more work commitments.
Troubling results of Workaholism
Workaholism is more than a drive to succeed; it is a compulsive effort to keep busy. This compulsive behavior can be fueled by a sense of inadequacy and a lack of self-worth, psychologists believe. Here are some of the troubling results:
- Health issues — Workaholism is connected with weight gain, high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety and depression, according to a 2013 research study by Kansas State University.
- Family and marriage problems – Several studies, including one published in the American Journal of Family Therapy in 2001, found that a workaholic’s children’s psychological development and marriage relationship can be negatively affected.
- Job performance – Although they work longer hours, workaholics don’t usually get more work accomplished than other workers. For example, a study by Ernst & Young, a London-based professional services firm, found that for every 10 hours of vacation time its own employees took, there was lower turnover rate and their annual performance ratings improved by 8 percent.
- Job dissatisfaction – Contrary to what it might appear, workaholics often don’t enjoy their work. The Psychologist Manager Journal published a study in 2008 that compared workaholics with employees who maintained a healthier work-life balance, and found the workaholics were more dissatisfied. In addition, a Journal of Stress Management study found that workaholics can cause their co-workers to feel stressed.
Five ways to lessen your work load
If you or someone you care about shows signs of being a workaholic, there are things you can do to improve the situation. Here are five steps to lessening the load:
1. Recognize the problem. Many workaholics do not realize they have a problem until it is pointed out to them. Take a long, hard look at what you have been missing while you have been working. Kids’ school events? Date nights with your spouse? Social events with good friends? Time spent exercising or reading a good book? Determine your priorities and realize that work is not the most important thing in your life.
2. Set limits. While technology does not create a workaholic, it does make it easier to be one. Today’s workaholics are always connected, always checking their phones for work-related messages and updates. Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Edward Hallowell says that making yourself available around the clock works against productivity and that we must work to set boundaries with technology.
Use a voice mail message to let callers know when you will be back at work. Give yourself certain times a day to check email and then let it go until the next scheduled time. You can help yourself by silencing your phone during off hours, so you can have times each day when you can get away from work both mentally and physically.
3. Take time off. We all need time to refuel, and, by not taking you vacation time, you are actually hurting your productivity. Former NASA scientists, working on a study commissioned by Air New Zealand, found that people who take vacations experience an 82 percent increase in job performance after their time off. The optimum benefit comes from vacations that last one and two weeks, the research reveals.
4. Say “yes” to something else. Many workaholics get antsy if they are not busy. Make an effort to diversify your interests, so that you enjoy spending time on non-work-related activities. Take up that hobby you have put aside for years, get involved with your child’s school or read a book for pleasure.
5. Break the habit. Like other addicts, workaholics use work to distract themselves from other problems in their lives. Work becomes a never-ending cycle. Maybe you are worried about paying your bills, maybe you are working through grief and work helps you from thinking about your loss, or maybe you feel you will be replaced if you are not always on top of things.
Workaholism serves as a kind of existential reassurance
In his 2012 op-ed piece for The New York Times, cartoonist and writer Tim Kreider put it this way: “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”
Our society values busy. When people ask us how we are doing, we reply, “Oh, busy, crazy busy” as a kind of mantra. Much of this busyness is simply for the sake of busyness, however. Now realize that you don’t need to quit your job to break the workaholic cycle. Your life has many aspects, and work is an important part of your life. Other essential components are relationships, hobbies, health and exercise and spirituality. When you look for ways to get your life back in balance, all areas of your life will benefit.