You don’t have to look very hard to find an internet meme that says you should, ‘Hustle while they sleep,’ or ‘Keep working while others play.’
But just because you can work all day and all night, doesn’t mean you should. Like all addictions, a work addiction is bad for your health–both mentally and physically.
Researchers from the Department of Psychosocial Science at the University of Bergen identified the characteristics of workaholics. According to their work addiction scale, here are seven things that separate workaholics from hard workers:
1. Workaholics free up more time to work.
Workaholics aren’t interested in taking vacation time. In fact, they’re usually trying to organize their lives in a way that allows them to work more, not less.
2. Workaholics spend much more time working than initially intended.
A workaholic might say she needs to work for a few hours on Saturday morning. But, her work schedule is likely to stretch late into the evening.
3. Workaholics work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness or depression.
Work provides a means of escape for workaholics. As long as they’re doing their job, they avoid uncomfortable emotions.
4. Workaholics don’t listen when people tell them to cut down on work.
Other people tend to tell workaholics to slow down or take time off. But, they don’t listen. Similar to the way other addicts try to hide their addiction, a workaholic might get up in the night to do work or he may lie about how many hours he’s spending in the office.
5. Workaholics become stressed if they are prohibited from working.
A workaholic isn’t likely to relax on a beach or unwind with a game of golf. In fact, being away from the office is likely to cause more anxiety.
6. Workaholics deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, or exercise because of their work.
Although a workaholic might say it’s important to exercise or have hobbies, making time for those activities isn’t likely to happen. Work remains the top priority at all times.
7. Workaholics experience health problems because of their work.
Workaholics experience a variety of mental and physical health problems stemming from their long hours. Lack of sleep, high stress levels, and strained relationships often result from too much work and too little play.
Getting Help for a Work Addiction
The cruel irony of workaholism is that workaholics don’t tend to be very effective employees. They struggle to delegate tasks, they’re not team players, they have trouble concentrating, and they make more mistakes than other people. So even though their long hours keep them busy, they’re not necessarily productive.
If you suspect you may have a work addiction, help is available. A trained mental health professional can help you work to live, rather than live to work.
There are also support groups available. Based on the same 12-step program used by Alcoholics Anonymous, Workaholics Anonymous holds meetings around the world. They even offer meetings online and over the phone.