The tell-tale signs creep in early on. If you find yourself regularly working marathon hours, getting ill or taking longer than usual to heal from a bug, or a decline in your personal relationships, you may be a work addict.
Just as with any other form of addiction, making excuses to justify your long hours or repeated social absences will only enable work dependency as a way to make your self-worth tangible.
Workaholic or just an engaged worker?
There’s a fine line between being enthusiastic and passionate about your work, and workaholism. Workaholic employees are unwilling, and mostly unable to disengage from work. They think about work constantly, and when they aren’t working, they’re overwhelmed by a desire to get back to work. On the other hand, work engagement refers a healthy, positive, fulfilling relationship with work, which more often than not, ends when out of “work mode”.
For cynics who claim workaholism isn’t a real addiction, a research paper released by professors at Utrecht University disagrees, citing the figures on karoshi (death due to overwork) and karo-jisato (suicide due to work overload) in Japan as proof that a work addiction is more than just employee engagement.
Even the best can burn out
Former business leader and a renowned leadership coach, Sue Coyne is a self-confessed workaholic. Having faced the dangers of burnout in the pursuit of her career, it took the cold reality of cancer and a consequent near-death experience during chemotherapy to make Coyne take stock of her priorities. In her upcoming book, Stop Doing, Start Leading, she examines strategies that can help business leaders draw the line so they can continue to lead effectively without facing the mental, physical and personal costs she experienced. According to Coyne, learning to say no and managing time and priorities is just one skill required to becoming a great leader.
If work is regularly cutting into your outside activities – particularly those that you share with your friends and family, it may be time to take stock, just as Coyne did. If you find yourself going out of your way to justify your need to be “on” throughout the day, those around you may see the picture more clearly, so heed any warnings that colleagues or loved ones offer.
Time for an intervention
Lean on your friends and family for support in breaking the habit. For example, a reminder call from home thirty minutes before the end of the day can help keep you on track to leave. Planning your social life ahead, just as you would work appointments, means that you’ll have commitments outside work you will be obliged to keep, rather than struggling to be there for your friends and family on the fly.
Identify whether or not your relationship with work is healthy with the handy guide from BusinessBacker below.