New York: You put in 12 to 14 hours a day at the office and often work on weekends and at home. Some people have joked that you are a “workaholic”, and a few people close to you have even said that it’s a serious problem. Is it? How can you tell?
The workaholic is “addicted to incessant activity,” said Diane Fassel, author of Working Ourselves to Death and chief executive of Newmeasures Inc., which conducts employee satisfaction surveys. The behaviour continues even if the worker is told that it is personally harmful—even harmful to the quality of the work, Fassel said. Chances are that you’re a workaholic if you feel compelled to work for the sake of working, and you feel panic, anxiety or a sense of loss when you aren’t working.
Here is what some experts have to say to some commonly asked questions.
Is workaholism really a disease, like alcoholism?
Opinions differ over whether such unhealthy behaviour—as opposed to abuse of substances such as drugs and alcohol—can be considered an actual addiction. But more mental health professionals now consider workaholism to be a condition that potentially can cause both mental and physical damage, said Bryan Robinson, who is a psychotherapist and the author of the book Chained to the Desk. One problem is that people are praised and rewarded for working excessively. That never happens with addictions, Fassel said.
Are certain types of people more prone to workaholism than others?
Most workaholics are either perfectionists, have a need for control or have a combination of both traits, said Gayle Porter, an associate professor of management at the Rutgers School of Business in New Jersey, who has studied workaholism.
What are some of the dangers of working too hard?
The stress that goes along with working too much has been shown to lead to substance abuse, sleep disorders, anxiety and ultimately to physical problems like heart disease, Fassel said. Often, a visit to the doctor’s office is the first step?towards ?recovery,?she?said.
How are workaholism and working very hard different?
The non-workaholic knows how to set boundaries. Fassel said: “Many of us at various times in our life have to work very long hours, but we have the internal regulator that says, ‘This has gone on long enough.’” The workaholic “feels bereft without that constant activity,” she said.
What are some telltale signs of workaholism?
If several people close to you say they feel neglected by you because of your work, you should certainly take their words seriously. And if you regularly conceal from family members that you are working—say, sneaking into the next room to peek at your BlackBerry—you may have a problem, Robinson said.
Is technology making workaholism worse?
No question. People are now able to consult BlackBerrys on the sidewalk and in restaurants and go online at home and during vacation. In addition to assuming that the person who spends the most time in the office is the best employee, we may also think that “the person most willing to be connected 24x7” is the most valuable, Porter said.
Do workaholics accomplish more than people who work fewer hours?
Often, they don’t. That is because, as perfectionists, they may become so fixated on inconsequential details that they find it hard to move on to the next task, Robinson said. As Porter put it: “They’re not looking for ways to be more efficient; they’re just looking for ways to always have more work to do.” Most companies think that they are benefiting from a workaholic’s long hours, even if it is at the worker’s expense, Porter said. In fact, she said, workaholism can harm the company as well as the worker.
How can workaholism harm a company?
In addition to discouraging efficiency, it can put enormous stress on co-workers. If the workaholic is a manager, he or she may expect long hours from subordinates, may force them to try to meet impossible standards, then rush in to save the day when the work is deemed substandard, Porter said. The person may look like a hero, coming in to solve crisis after crisis, when in fact the crises could have been avoided. Sometimes, the workaholic may have unwittingly created the problems to provide the thrill of more work.
What steps can a person take to stop working too hard?
The behaviour can be extraordinarily hard to change, experts agree. “People will go through withdrawal,” Porter said. That is why professional help, or at least the support of family members and friends, may be needed to turn the tide. ©2007/International Herald Tribune