The Fine Line Between Working Hard and Work Addiction


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Highly motivated employees are essential to any thriving organisation. However, there is a fine line when it comes to distinguishing between a hard working employee and one who’s an outright workaholic. Research has even found that 10-25 percent of working professionals are workaholics, or suffer from work addiction (1).


On the outside, both might look the same. They both may work extra hours to take on additional projects. However, workaholics experience poorer job satisfaction and work-life balance because they are driven by fear and compulsion.


While studies show that millennials are most prone to work addiction (2), it can happen to anyone regardless of gender, education, marital status, or types of employment. Hence, it’s important that we identify the drivers of work addiction so that we can employ better approaches to manage them.

What makes you a workaholic?


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Psychology Today describes a person with work addiction as someone who is work-obsessed to the point they become emotionally crippled (3). They also become addicted to power and control, and they have a compulsive drive to gain approval and public recognition of success.


The core differences between a workaholic and a hard worker boils down to psychological and behavioral factors. Hard-working employees are productive but they also know how to switch off. And as hard workers know how to draw the line between work and life, they have a higher level of job satisfaction and engagement.


In contrast, individuals with work addiction are:

1. Always “switched on”


Workaholics are constantly thinking about work, making it hard for them to mentally switch off. Even when they’re not working, work is always on their mind.


2. Motivated by fear


Workaholics are driven by the fear of negative consequences. They have an internal pressure to overwork to prevent situations such as losing their job or scrutiny from bosses or colleagues.


3. Constantly anxious


Workaholics find difficulty in enjoying time outside work. They often feel anxious or guilty during lunch breaks, evenings, weekends or holidays.


How Can Organisations Help Manage Work Addiction?


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Workaholics are found to be less productive at work than their counterparts because they are burnt out and struggle with perfectionism. Research has demonstrated that recovered workaholics completed their work in 50 hours when previously they accomplished then in 80 hours (4).


Therefore, it’s essential that we address these tendencies as soon as possible to preserve both employees’ health and productivity.


1. Increase conversations on work-life balance


Raise awareness regarding the importance of work-life balance. This means promoting the flexibility to adapt to work and life commitments when necessary. Doing so allows employees to accommodate life's unexpected challenges without experiencing burnout, anxiety, depression, or other negative effects of too much stress.


2. Manage expectations


Managers play a big role in setting reasonable expectations at work. It’s as easy as enforcing clear work schedules and boundaries. Doing so helps workaholics manage their pace since they’re compelled to get extra work done even after work hours.


3. Set priorities


Managers can mitigate the pressure to accomplish everything at once by setting firm priorities. Use prioritisation techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix to clarify what’s important and what’s not. Project management tools like Trello and Asana also help make workflows more transparent.


4. Provide resources


Sufficient manpower, budget, tools and employee wellness programs help employees achieve higher satisfaction and productivity while preventing burnout (5). Managers can check in with any team members who display signs of workaholism and ask them what resources can help make their work life better.

Summary


Evidently, workaholism can drive people to obsess only over their professional responsibilities, costing them dearly in their health and personal life.


If you think you may be addicted to work, discuss with your manager for some time off and see how you feel. If you catch yourself escaping into work to avoid other responsibilities or difficult emotions, we highly recommend seeking support from a mental health professional.


And as managers, providing your team with appropriate work-life balance strategies and resources is vital. Ultimately, managing work addiction can help cultivate a healthy workplace culture that will thrive in the long run.


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Footnote

  1. ​​​​Work Addiction and 'Workaholism'

  2. Millennials Are Actually Workaholics, According to Research

  3. Understanding the Dynamics of Workaholism

  4. Workaholic

  5. New study offers insight into how to best manage workaholics









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