New businesses and startups can often come with difficult tasks and long hours. But do you know the difference between hard work and workaholism? Make sure you know what your company can do to avoid encouraging this problematic culture.
Workaholism is said to affect 30% of the general population according to this study.
But what exactly is workaholism?
Workaholism has similar traits to other addictions like alcohol and drug addiction, but can often have positive rewards in the short term — like the praise of a happy boss. Psychologist Bryan Robinson once called workaholism “the best-dressed mental health problem.”
Many confuse hard-working people with workaholics. Workaholism means that you value work over any other activity, even when it negatively affects your health and personal life, as well as the quality of your work.
On the other hand, there are many people who put in long hours, but still give back to their loved ones and enjoy outside activities in their free time. These people are hard workers, not workaholics. There is a very serious distinction between the two.
When work becomes all-consuming and joyless and have no other interests or activities — it becomes a negative addiction. Workaholics typically work because they have nothing else to take its place.
Workaholics should not be confused with people who are simply hard workers, love their jobs and go the extra mile to finish a project.
These days many label themselves “workaholics” for putting in a few extra hours. By contrast, a workaholic is someone who constantly thinks about work, and without work feels anxious and depressed.
Although workaholism may result in high productivity at the start, employees are far more likely to suffer from ‘burn out’.
Workaholism is harmful to health and happiness
- Working 55 hours or more per week is linked to a 33% greater risk of stroke and a 13% increased risk of developing coronary heart disease. (According to this study by UCL)
- Marriages involving a workaholic are twice as likely to end in divorce (According to this study)
- There is a Workaholics Anonymous network, with a 12 step programme similar to that of Alcoholics Anonymous.
- Workaholics struggle in team situations as they tend to push others as hard as they push themselves.
What can you do to help achieve a healthy work life balance?
For the most part it comes down to culture. Employers should acknowledge that the current company culture may be promoting workaholism, and strive to change it.
Managers can lead the way to a healthy work life balance by trying some of these initiatives:
- No work e-mail sending or responding from Friday at close of business until Monday morning.
- Endorse and model a 40 hour work week.
- Set realistic expectations for projects including appropriate timelines.
- Take into consideration what is on an employee’s plate before loading on more responsibilities.
- Offer flexible work or working remotely as an option for employees. Even if it is one day a week, it could enhance their wellbeing and decrease stress.
- Reward healthy behavior. Pay or contribute towards exercise classes for your team, provide healthy snacks on site and encourage employees to get some fresh air and take a walk outside.
What culture do you have in your organisation? Let us know on Twitter.