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Am I a Workaholic?


Over the last 1 – 2 years, more and more people have started working remotely. This is a trend that was already on the rise due to globalization and a wealth of technological advances but, with so many of us tethered to smart phones and laptops, the line between work and private life has become increasingly blurred. The benefits of remote work, like flexibility for employees, access to a larger pool of talent for businesses, and the ability to work in sweatpants (yes, please!) have been a welcome shift, but these benefits can come with a price, particularly for those who struggle to shut work off at the end of the day.

So, What is Workaholism?

In the early 1970s, the term workaholism was coined to describe “the uncontrollable need to work incessantly.” Workaholism has been the subject of ongoing discussion because so many of us find it difficult to identify or differentiate when a person with a super-strong work ethic or passion for the job is, in fact, a workaholic. This one is tricky!

As with many things in life, the key indicator comes down to the underlying motivation. Whereas a strong drive or passion for the project you’re working on might lead to hours tapping away on your laptop, workaholism is motivated by an inner compulsion to work for the sake of working.

Research has shown that there are three defining elements most workaholics seem to share:

· An internal compulsion to work.

· Persistent thoughts about work even when not working, or an inability to detach from work.

· Working more than is expected by an employer despite negative consequences.

Over the years, a few measures of workaholism have been developed. One is the Bergen Work Addiction Scale (BWAS) which is a series of statements that help respondents self-reflect and uncover their compulsion to work. The BWAS criteria are simply a starting place for exploring workaholism but I hope it’s helpful!

You will answer each prompt below with never, rarely, sometimes, often, or always:

1. You think of how you can free up more time to work.

2. You spend much more time working than initially intended.

3. You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and depression.

4. You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.

5. You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.

6. You de-prioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work.

7. You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

If you responded often or always to four or more of the prompts above, it may indicate that you have workaholic tendencies.

Effects of Workaholism

Studies have shown that workaholism takes a toll and that it can increase stress levels, burnout, insomnia, and family conflict while, interestingly enough, studies have not shown a relationship between workaholism and work performance. In fact, workaholism may negatively impact production as well as relationships in the workplace.

Ideas for Managing Workaholism

Our lives are constantly evolving and, depending on the stage we’re in, a certain person, profession, or other passion might call for more attention than others which can make it difficult to achieve that ever-elusive balance. If you find that work seems to be an overwhelming priority and you’re suffering from workaholic tendencies, there are a number of things you can do. I’m listing a few tips for combating workaholism here and hope you will share some in the comments below!

  • Schedule tech-free days (AKA tech time-outs)

  • Each morning, identify one non work activity that you will do to take a short break from work and have fun

  • Set healthy boundaries (learn more in my How to Set and Maintain Healthy Boundaries Workshop)

  • Carve out 15 – 30 minutes every day for meditation and exercise

  • Set a time for shutting everything down and learn to walk away

  • Be kind to yourself and poll the room – your value is not tied to your work and I can bet that those who love you would be more than happy to remind you of that fact

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