Miles Cooper presents a guide to recognising the signs of workaholism in ourselves and those around us...
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? You love your work and are responsible for multiple projects and tasks that continue to be assigned to you or your group. You actually thrive on the multiple deadline pressures.
Or perhaps you hold down multiple jobs or own your own business. Your work hours are long, your at-home hours short, and your sleep hours few. Holidays and social visits with friends are a distant memory. Your only hobby is your job.
It’s pretty likely that you — or someone you know — is a workaholic. Workaholics live for their work, often spending many extra hours at work, and often taking work home to complete. We, when compared with many other countries, are typically a work-hard culture, but when work becomes the sole reason for a person’s existence above more important things (such as family and friends), the issue becomes critical.
Part of the matter is societal. We are working more hours per week than in years past, and with all the downsizings and consolidations and lack of recruitment of suitable replacements, more and more workers are putting in extra hours to complete the work previously completed by others. Some studies show that as much as 40 percent of workers don’t even bother to take holidays, partly because of fears they may not have a job to come back to if they do.
Part of the matter is technological. We live and work in a connected environment: email, instant messaging, fax machines, mobile phones and PDAs all make it difficult for workers to truly get time away from their work.
Part of the matter is financial. Whether it is how more and more of us mistakenly define success in terms of financial and materialistic measures or the fact that many people simply must work multiple jobs to earn a living wage and keep their families out of poverty, we are working more and more for the financial outcomes.
Regardless of the reasons, workaholism can be a serious condition that can lead to the decline and destruction of families, as well as to serious stress-related health problems. When work becomes the sole reason for being, when it becomes the only thing we think about, the only thing that truly makes us happy, then it is time for some sort of intervention. And do not confuse hard work for workaholism. Hard workers know the boundaries between work and personal times and can function normally when not at work, while workaholics have no personal times and cannot function well outside of work.
Strategies for Reducing Workaholism
The key is making time away from work - totally away from work - to get your life back in balance. It will take some effort on your part - and perhaps the part of a friend or spouse - to make the shift from a sole focus on work, but for your mental and physical well-being, you really should make the effort.
- Set aside ‘personal time’ to spend with family and (non-work) friends
- If you work away a lot or are on the road for business, call home regularly to stayed connected
- Learn how to delegate work, and learn to say no to new assignments (or at least learn not to be the first to volunteer to take the assignment)
- Take time off, perhaps starting with a long weekend and gradually moving up to longer holidays - and leave work behind
- Consider an exercise routine, after clearing it with your doctor, to get your body back to a healthy shape. And better, have a friend or partner (life not business!) other as your exercise buddy to make it more fun (and to keep your mind off work while working-out)
- Consider volunteering: you’ll be helping others and at the same time meeting new people
- Convince yourself it is okay to sometimes just sit and relax and do nothing
- Find a hobby or two
- Fight the urge that everything you do must be perfect - to your standards
- Accept that we all need a decent number of hours of sleep
If you find yourself not able to do any of these suggestions, consider getting professional help to deal with what is basically an addiction.