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Are You A Workaholic?

Wong Shu Lee  


  October 13, 2022

Nowadays, technology - like smartphones, laptops, and tablets – provides opportunities to work from anywhere anytime and for some people, that means working all the time. The ability to take work home blurs the line between work and leisure as many people feel compelled to continue working long past the official quitting time. Often, we expect that people will be available during evenings, weekends, and even vacations. 


Being a “hard worker” is good. However, we might need to be more aware of our behaviours to avoid crossing the line into becoming a workaholic. 


Work Addiction Scale


Norwegian researchers from the Department of Psychosocial Science at the University of Bergen identified specific symptoms that are characteristic of workaholics. Researchers created a work addiction scale that uses the following seven criteria to assess the likelihood that an individual possesses a work addiction:


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/or 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 deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise because of your work.


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


You may be a workaholic if you answered with “often” or “always” to any of these points. The study concluded that about 8.3% of the Norwegian workforce is addicted to work - other studies have suggested about 10% of the average population in other countries are workaholics.


People identified as workaholics often ranked high in terms of these three personality traits:


Agreeableness – Workaholics are more likely to be altruistic, compliant, and modest.

Neuroticism – Workaholics tend to be nervous, hostile, and impulsive.

Intellect/imagination -Workaholics are generally inventive and action-oriented. 


The study found that younger workers were most likely to be workaholics. Gender, education level, and marital status did not seem to play a role. Parents, however, were more likely to be affected, compared to those without children.


The Dangers of Being a Workaholic


Although some CEOs and managers may feel secretly giddy when they’ve hired someone who is willing to work all hours of the day and night, in the long term, it hurts companies – and individuals. A 2013 study by Kansas State University found that people who work more than 50 hours per week were likely to suffer both physical and mental health consequences.


The inability to detach from work may initially appear to result in increased productivity. Over time, however, productivity decreases, and relationships break down. The stress takes a cumulative effect and eventually, the addiction to work can increase health risks and even contribute to premature death.


Treatment for Workaholics


Being a workaholic shouldn’t be a status symbol – instead, it should be treated as a severe condition. Although it hasn’t been recognized as an addiction in the same way alcohol, drug, or gambling addictions are diagnosed, there are ways to help yourself to tackle this addiction. 


Perhaps the best course of action is to develop self-awareness of any tendencies you may have to become a workaholic. Monitor the time you’re putting into work and take notice when your work life is creating problems in your personal life. Practicing disengagement, taking regular vacations, and setting healthy boundaries can help you develop a work-life balance that will prevent you from becoming a workaholic. 


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