Workaholism is more prevalent now than you would imagine. Due to the current pandemic, more individuals are experiencing this behavior without realizing it. Because of the pandemic restrictions, the majority of the workforce is urged to work from home.
Furthermore, the concept of workaholic has taken on a whole new meaning in today’s digital age. Digital technology such as computers allows individuals to work virtually from anywhere, at any time.
The distinction between work and leisure is blurred with the advancement of technology and the ability to work from home. Many individuals may feel obliged to work past their normal working hours.
Everyone is also reachable via email or Whatsapp on weekends and even holidays. Individuals face even more work-related stress and physical health issues with these’ conveniences.’ Not to mention, their work-life balance is disrupted too.
What is workaholism, and how can you identify a workaholic? What are the different signs and negative implications of workaholism? And how to treat or overcome workaholism? We will help you to answer all these questions in this article.
What is Workaholism?
Most people confuse workaholism with working long hours or extra hard. However, this is not the case. Workaholism is an addiction. It is a mental health problem similar to alcoholism and drug abuse.
The psychologist Wayne E. Oates introduced the term “workaholic” in 1971. He defined workaholism as “an irrepressible drive to work ceaselessly,” like an addiction. Workaholics have an obsession with work. When they are not working, they will persistently think about work and feel uncomfortable and anxious.
Workaholism is frequently associated with working long hours. But the two are different from one another. You can work long hours without becoming consumed by your work. And you can become preoccupied with your work even though you are working less than 35 hours per week.
Like alcoholism, workaholism is a compulsion. Too much of it can negatively impact our lives and well-being. Being effective at work is not so much about the amount of work you can put in within a period. It is about your ability to be fully engaged in your work and disengage from it when necessary.
7 Signs of Workaholism
- Feel as if you’re not doing enough
- Feel guilty about taking a break
- Feel stressed out from not working
- Interrupted sleep
- Inability to reject other’s request
- Don’t have any hobbies outside of work
- First one in the office and last one to leave
Feel as if You’re Not Doing Enough
Whether you are working a full-time job or on your side business, you should have time to get off work. There are only 24 hours in a day, and everyone spends their 24 hours differently. A typical workday for most people is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m (a 40-hours workweek).
But, for workaholics, it’s usually more than that. Basically, they spend the majority of their 24 hours working non-stop. Even though you are hitting all cylinders at work and others are proud of what you’ve achieved, it is still not enough for you.
You believe that once you’ve reached your goals, all your fears and uncertainties will disappear. Yet, in reality, you never feel satisfied no matter how much you have achieved.
Feel Guilty about Taking a Break
Accomplishments are a key part of any performance review. They show that you’re capable of meeting or exceeding expectations.
When writing about your accomplishments, be specific about what you achieved and how it benefited the company or team.
If possible, quantify your results. For example, “increased sales by 25%” or “improved on-time shipping rate from 85% to 98%.”
Include details about who was involved and the team’s role in achieving your results. Share long-term and short-term goals that you met, as well as a timeline for when these accomplishments were achieved.
Feel Guilty about Taking a Break
You feel tempted to work more to keep yourself feeling busy when working from home. Working from home may tempt you to keep yourself occupied with work, even during your free time.
And besides, you may wonder how you can use the free time you have more productively? You may even feel ashamed and use your spare time to work, even if you have no pressing tasks to be done.
Recognizing that work is never-ending can assist you in distancing yourself from working extra hours unnecessarily. Your project will still be there, waiting for you to complete it tomorrow.
Feel Stressed Out from Not Working
Workaholics often feel anxious when they don’t have much to do. They may feel that they are wasting time or not living their lives to the maximum if they do not have a list of things to do.
Most workaholics experience worry and restlessness when they leave their jobs. Working makes them feel at ease, in control, and stable. They feel something is missing or weird if they are not spending their time on work.
Even when they don’t have much free time, workaholics would rather work than allow themselves time to relax.
It’s not unexpected that you bring your work to bed if you’re a workaholic. Research has shown that the blue light from your screen has a detrimental influence on your circadian rhythms.
Misalignment of circadian rhythms can cause many negative impacts on your health and make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. When you are spending most of your time working, your hours of sleep are reduced.
Your mind is so occupied with work to the point that you will sacrifice your sleep to get your work done.
Inability to Reject Other’s Request
Are you a yes man? Or will you politely reject someone who asks for your help at work? If you are saying yes to anyone who approached you for help, you might want to reconsider your position on this matter.
Before you excitedly say ‘yes’ to someone, consider how much extra time you will need to accomplish the work. Also, remind yourself only to accept work relevant to your expertise and experience.
It’s critical to recognize when you’re overstretching yourself or working on projects that are not aligned with your career goals. That is one simple approach to prevent overworking oneself and working extra.
Don’t Have Any Hobbies Outside of Work
When you answer “I enjoy working,” when asked about what you do for enjoyment, something is wrong. It shows that you obsess with work to the point that you have no time or interest in pursuing other activities outside of work.
To workaholics, there is no such thing as free time. They are always available for their colleagues and are prepared to return to work when asked. Many workaholics lead and design systems in ways that others continuously require them at work.
They tend to micromanage and delegate ineffectively because they don’t want to rely on their team members. And, they intentionally fill their free time with business activities, leaving them with no time to spend with their loved ones or hobbies.
First One in the Office and Last One to Leave
The habit of reaching the office early is beneficial to you. With fewer interruptions, you will have more time to focus on the more critical work tasks and give you a good head start for the day.
But it becomes a problem if you are the first to reach the office and the last to leave. Working too much may be harmful to your health and productivity. If you notice yourself overworking 50-60 hours per week, you need to slow down and relax.
Treatment and How to Overcome Workaholics
Being a workaholic is not something that you should be proud of. Instead, it is a serious condition that you need to find a solution to quickly. Perhaps the best way to overcome workaholism is to become self-aware of any inclination you have of becoming a workaholic.
Keep track of the time you spend at work and be aware of when your work is affecting your personal life. Practice detachment from work and establishing clear boundaries between work and personal time can help you achieve a work-life balance and avoid being a workaholic.
Here are a few ways that you can consider adopting to your life to overcome workaholism:
- Determine your ‘stop time’ for work and commit to it
- Plan your after-work activities once your workday ends
- Make time to spend with your loved ones, such as friends and family members
- If all else fails, talk to a therapist or counselor
Determine your ‘stop time’ for work and commit to it
Having a stop time makes you pause for some time before resuming work the next day. It might also help you in creating time to rest and rejuvenate. Setting a stop time and sticking to it can be extremely challenging for someone with a compulsive desire to work.
However, this may be a blessing in disguise for you. Because of the shorter working hours, you may find ways to work smarter and more efficiently. Wouldn’t that be a much better way of doing things if a task can be completed more efficiently with less time?
You may be thinking that this is about forsaking work and taking shortcuts to complete your tasks in a faster way.
But no, this is about making you more focused, using your time more intentionally, and getting rid of nonsense to reclaim your life.
Plan your after-work activities once your workday ends
A workout session, having a walk in the park, journalling, or cooking dinner are some examples of the activities you can do after work.
Establishing an after-work routine may help workaholics develop a healthy lifestyle that can keep them healthy. When you find interesting activities outside of work, they can be a healthy distraction for you.
Make time to spend with your loved ones, such as friends and family members
If all else fails, talk to a therapist or counselor
Workaholism and Health Problems
Research conducted by Lieke ten Brummelhuis and Nancy P. Rothbard reveals two key findings. First, in terms of health implications, working long hours is not as harmful as demonstrating being obsessed with work.
It is found that when working 70 hours or more a week, individuals may find it difficult to detach from work. Furthermore, they are less likely to engage in activities such as exercise or get adequate quality sleep.
Nevertheless, it appears that our thoughts about work have a greater influence on our well-being and health than the number of hours we work. The second major takeaway from the study is that workaholics who enjoy their work have lower health-related risks than non-engaged workaholics.
This could be due to their perception that their work is meaningful and worthy of their sacrifice and effort.
Nonetheless, whether the individual is an engaged or non-engaged workaholic, they reported feeling more depressed, experiencing sleep problems, and having more health complaints than non-workaholics.
These are all evidence that workaholics’ well-being might suffer, no matter how much they enjoy their job. In summary, workaholics may experience a significant level of stress, anxiety, and sleep problems.
Under chronic stress, workaholics will start experiencing negative health effects like high blood pressure and high cortisol levels. These negative effects will put workaholics at a higher risk of being diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and even death.
Workaholism can negatively impact your relationship, resulting in feelings of loneliness or depression. In extreme cases, some workaholics may also be diagnosed with other mental health disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or bipolar disorder.
Avoiding the Negative Effects of Workaholism
You can adopt several effective ways to manage your stress and reduce major health risks. The first step is to be aware of your relationship with work. You can begin by reflecting on how work has impacted other areas of your life.
Do you have time to spend quality time with your loved ones? Do you have time to spend time doing things you love outside of work? Or do you spend most of your time doing or thinking about work? The next thing you can do is reestablish control over your behavior and thinking about work.
You can start with setting clear boundaries on how many hours you want to work in a day. By doing this, you will learn to manage your time more effectively to finish your work on time.
Having a to-do list will be extremely helpful in keeping track of the most important tasks that you need to complete for the day. You can also allocate a couple of hours a day in the evening before you sleep as your ‘me time.’
During this ‘me time,’ restrain yourself from touching any work-related stuff and get involved in doing something that you have wanted to do. It can be reading a book, learning a new skill, catching up with your friends, or trying a new recipe for dinner.
In the end, it’s all about your ability to identify your workaholism symptoms and find ways to avoid its repercussions.
Is workaholism a mental illness?
While work addiction is often overlooked, it can be a genuine mental disorder. If you find yourself addicted to work, and believe that work is taking over your life and negatively affecting your mental health, then workaholism can be classified as a mental illness.
It is often rooted in positive ideas, such as discipline and dedication to work, but it can quickly turn into an unhealthy compulsion that negatively impacts your confidence and wellbeing, thus becoming a mental illness.