You love your job and take pride in your work. You’re a dedicated team player and the go-to person for getting things done. You’re always on call and bring work home on the weekends. You have a great work ethic, right? Or is it really work addiction?
While dedication is honorable, you need to find balance to sustain your career and personal life for the long term. Get a gut check by measuring your work ethic with the Bergen Work Addiction Scale. Consider these seven statements, and answer with “never,” “rarely,” “sometimes,” “often,” or “always.”
- You think of how you can free up more time to work.
- You spend much more time working than initially intended.
- You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, and depression.
- You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
- You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
- You de-prioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work.
- You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.
If you answered “often” or “always” to at least four of the following seven criteria, you might have a work addiction.
Why it’s a problem
“One of the major differences between a hard worker and a workaholic is the problems that are caused as a result,” says Lucinda Pullinger, global head of human resources for the office brokering service Instant Offices. “Poor health, guilt when not working, and increased stress levels are often consequences of work addiction.”
The biggest misunderstanding about work addiction is the level of severity, says Sarah Greenberg, lead coach for the career coaching service BetterUp.
“It’s not uncommon to hear the term ‘workaholic’ used in jest or applied as a badge of honor,” she says. “But the reality of work addiction is painful. Many of us can relate to pushing ourselves too hard and running out of steam. Many of us can relate to the experience of overworking.”
Work addiction can be an enemy to personal and professional success, if not properly addressed.
“If work ethic functions as an inner coach, work addiction functions as an inner bully,” says Greenberg. “We respond to the addict voice because we see no other option. Like most bullies, the addicted part of ourselves can appear strong, but it’s actually covering up vulnerabilities.”
Here are a few ways to combat it:
If you’re a leader, instill and enforce a 40-hour workweek for everyone, including yourself. Emphasize results over hours spent at a desk.
“Set the tone in your organization by normalizing the fact that employees don’t have to adopt an always-on attitude,” says Pullinger.
Focus on wellness
While organizations should recognize good work, corporate culture should also celebrate and promote other achievements, says Doug Walker, manager of HR services at Insperity, an HR services provider.
“Well-being programs that promote mindfulness, time management, and a healthy lifestyle can be an excellent way to realign mindsets across the organization,” he says.
Consider holding workshops at your office that teach meditation or yoga. Or organize healthy activities, such as wellness challenges or walking meetings.
Develop a hobby
Finding satisfaction in activities outside of work can help build the resilience you need to weather rough times and continue to put in a strong effort, says Lucy English, Ph.D., vice president of research and science at the resilience and stress management training platform meQuilibrium.
“Work addiction is a matter of being too identified with, and absorbed in, work,” she says. “Anything that creates some distance and perspective is healthy.”
Pick up that old hobby you used to love and still miss, English suggests. “Hobbies remind us that there’s more to life than work,” she says.
Trust your team
Develop a good support system at work so you can let go. For a team to be successful, you have to attract and retain talented employees, delegate effectively, and trust them to perform tasks without you, says Pullinger.
“This will free up time for you to focus on strategy and growth,” she says.
Take a vacation
Taking time away sounds obvious, but more than half of Americans leave vacation time unused, adding up to 212 million days of lost time off, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
One way to incentivize staff members to use vacation days is to limit the number of days that can be rolled over annually and encourage team members to fully unplug and recharge while away, says Walker.
“Senior leadership should consider the behavior they exhibit and lead by example to promote work-life balance across their organization,” he says.