How often have you heard the phrase ‘you’re a workaholic’? Whether it is your partner saying it to you or you saying it to a friend who constantly cancels due to last-minute work commitments, but is this a real phenomenon?
TechTalk statistics show that 75% of people check their work email over the weekend, 54% check emails during their holidays, 6% when at funerals, and 5% when their spouse was in labour! These statistics are even worse for our American and UK counterparts. However, does this make you a workaholic?
The evolution of technology has created an atmosphere of working beyond traditional working hours. There is a fine line between being committed and diligent in your work habits and an addiction to work.
Everyone has a computer, tablet, smartphone, and a multitude of apps on hand that creates the ability to be constantly connected to your work. Technically, these tools were designed to make work more efficient and therefore shorten workdays. However, that constant desire to be connected and other technology-related distractions have resulted in more working hours and less money and appreciation to show for it.
The Bergen Work Addiction Scale reports that if you can say ‘always’ or ‘often’ to at least four of these seven benchmarks you may be experiencing work addiction:
- You think about how you can free up more time for work.
- You spend a lot more time working than intended.
- You work to lessen feelings of depression, guilt, anxiety, or loneliness.
- You have been told to cut back on work by others, but you do not listen to them.
- You are stressed if you are restricted from working or having access to emails.
- You tend to deprioritize leisure activities, exercise, and hobbies because of work.
- You work so often that it has adversely affected your health.
Work Addiction: Employee Impact
Interestingly although the modern workplace has changed dramatically with working from home and flexible hours becoming more commonplace, CIPD studies have shown a significant rise in presenteeism between 2010 and 2017, sharply growing from 26 per cent to 86 per cent. Presenteeism can be described as working additional hours due to job insecurity, working whilst sick, or simply waiting for the boss to go home first to create a good impression.
Presenteeism actually results in lower productivity at work. The results of this issue include a rise in health and wellness issues, burnout, and unhappiness, which not only negatively affects the employee, but the business over the long term.
Work Addiction: Regaining Balance
The main differences between someone who is committed to their work and someone who is a workaholic are the issues that are created as a result. Guilt about not working, poor health, and higher stress levels are the most common consequences suffered by workaholics. The following are ways to resist it:
Trust your team/colleagues: As a manager if your team is to evolve successfully, it is vital to attract and keep skilled employees, delegate tasks, and have confidence in them to perform without you there. You will then have free time to concentrate on business growth and strategies. If you work within a team, you also need to maintain strong relationships with your peers and trust that they will support you if you are not at work.
Promotion of Work-Life Balance: Hopefully your company is promoting ‘working smarter’ rather than harder. Things like implementing stricter working hours to prevent people working additional hours, with the focus on results rather than the hours spent working can have a positive result. Rewards for this improved performance can be based around time off or finishing early etc. Many firms have introduced flexible working hours and it has been proven to increase productivity. If your current employer will not implement changes maybe it is time to look elsewhere.
Distraction Reduction: If you ask anyone what takes up most of their time, they will undoubtedly say pointless or overly long meetings and internal emails. Most of us have worked for large firms where people feel it necessary to copy in entire management teams or functions with every email they send. In the last corporate I worked at I would say 50% of my time was spent on these two things alone and my inbox would never be empty! It is hard to change these things internally but at least discussing it with your direct line manager is a start.
Limit Online Time: A digital ‘detox’ sounds scary at first but you quickly feel the benefits. Think of a time you went away and had no internet or phone reception, after the initial panic you soon realise how beneficial it is for your health and mental wellbeing. Try to log off your work email and put away your phone when you are on holiday and on weekends. You will find many phone apps that are helpful with locking your device(s) for selected times.
These are only a few examples, what else would you recommend?