Just because you’re doing a lot of work doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing it well. If you’re a workaholic, kick the habit and improve your performance.
Americans are some of the most productive people in the world, but an over-commitment to work can become a liability, hurting not only your personal life but also your performance.
Although work hours in the United States have been trending upward for decades, the economic downturn has forced many employees to tackle more assignments, driving up the amount of time we spend at the office. This makes it all the more important to learn how to overcome workaholism, for the benefit of your health, sanity and the quality of your work.
According to data compiled by Business Insurance, the average productivity per U.S. worker has increased 400 percent since 1950. Between 1970 and 2006, the average number of hours worked per year by employees increased by 200. Today, 85.5 percent of employed men and 66.5 percent of employed women work more than 40 hours a week. Moreover, one in three American adults doesn’t take any vacation days.
While it’s bad enough for most workers, workaholics have a particularly hard time. Roughly 10 million Americans work more than 60 hours per week. Despite the significant time commitment, 56 percent of these workaholics report feeling that they haven’t accomplished enough in a day.
There are serious repercussions for working so much: workaholics are 67 percent more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease than those who work 7 to 8 hours a day, and one out of two workaholics’ marriages end in divorce.
“In a culture that prizes work ethic, overachievement and financial success – where gazillionaires such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are household names, and Donald Trump has his own television show – people who are addicted to working are seen by outsiders as smart, ambitious and entrepreneurial,” WebMD explains. “But those very qualities may make the workaholic a poor candidate for employee of the month because they often have more work than they can handle effectively, don’t delegate, aren’t team players and are often more disorganized than their less compulsive colleagues.”
So who are the workaholics? According to Psychology Today, baby boomers are more susceptible to work addiction than younger generations. Workaholics are also likelier to be managers or executives, to feel unhappy about their work-life balance and to average more than 50 hours a week at work. They often neglect their health and put strains on their relationships with family and friends.
The Addiction Help Center offers a list of signs to help identify whether you’re displaying workaholic tendencies:
- Taking on more work than most of your colleagues;
- Feeling anxious about work even after you leave the office;
- Being reluctant to take a vacation and thinking about work when you do;
- Receiving complaints from family members or loved ones that you are not available when they need you or that you don’t spend enough time with them;
- Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep;
- Feeling tired all the time and relying heavily on caffeine to remain awake and alert; and
- Suffering from headaches, blood pressure problems or other stress-related health effects.
“The problem is, perfection is unattainable, whether you’re a kid or a successful professional,” Psychology Today notes. “Anyone who carries a mandate for perfection is susceptible to workaholism because it creates a situation where the person never gets to cross the finish line, because it keeps moving farther out.”
If you’ve identified some workaholic traits in your own professional life, there are a number of ways to help alleviate the problem and move toward a solution. Healthy living journal Rodale provides the following tips for coping with a work addiction:
- Understand the difference between hard work and workaholism. Workaholics are defined not by the number of hours they work, but the reasons why they work. If you’re a perfectionist and use work as an outlet for anxiety or to deal with personal discomforts, you’re probably dealing with more than just a heavy workload.
- Maintain strict rules about electronic connections. It’s important to be able to disconnect from work when you need to. That means setting up a strict policy regarding the use of smartphones, voicemail or email to keep work-related issues from interfering with valuable time spent with family and friends. This policy is especially important during holidays or vacations.
- Insist on having boundaries. Sometimes pressure from the workplace itself triggers workaholic tendencies, so it’s crucial to maintain clear boundaries with colleagues and your boss. Establish specific times and places when it is acceptable or unacceptable for you to do work outside of normal work hours.
- View it as a health issue.Corporate culture sometimes validates or encourages workaholic behavior, making some people reluctant to even acknowledge it as a problem. But workaholism can take a severe physical toll, so try to consider it as a health issue that needs to be treated.
“With your basics in place, you can live accordingly, which leads to choices, leadership and time management – the ‘balance’ part of the equation. It starts with a commitment to leave stress behind, and to practice leading a balanced life and making balanced choices,” Entrepreneur.com notes. “When you make balanced choices that honor your new-found basics, you learn to manage your time with integrity and breathing room, and avoid the running-ragged craziness. You learn to know your limits and manage your capacity better.”
|Workaholism in America|
|by Business Insurance, September 2011|
|Are You a Workaholic?|
|by WebMD, Jan. 29, 2010|
|Workaholism and the Myth of Hard Work|
|by Psychology Today, March 15, 2012|
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|Work Addiction Therapy|
|by Addiction Help Center|
|How to Spot – and Help – a Workaholic|
|Is Your Business Killing You?|
|by Entrepreneur.com, July 7, 2010|
|Click for less|