Dangers of workaholism and how to overcome them

- Mindfulness

Hands-on Management 3.0 leadership workshops focus on tangible practices to help managers, team leaders, middle management, and C-level executives increase employee engagement and foster transformational change within their organizations. Start Your Leadership Journey Today!

by Tomas Kejzlar

Putting your everything into your work.

After university, Gary got his first job as a UI / frontend developer.

Designing user interfaces and creating beautiful websites was something he really loved. He was working on a small team that had a very creative project for a high-profile client. Soon, Gary found himself spending a lot of time at work and taking work home with him — he wanted the product to be the best and he really put all his energy (and time) into it. A few weeks passed and Gary, still working long hours, noticed he was occasionally very tired and also that his teammates, none of whom seemed to work that hard, often had better ideas than he did and that they even corrected his designs.

He tried to work even harder and longer, severing all his outside-of-work relationships, even the one with his girlfriend, who got fed up with how Gary only cared about work. Time went by and things seemed to be getting worse for Gary. One day, Sally, one of the other team members came to the office in the morning and found Gary sleeping, his head rested on the keyboard. She tried to wake him up, only realizing she’s touching his lifeless body. The coroner’s verdict: a heart attack.

Versus pursuing multiple streams of fulfilment.

Mandy was also a user interface designer and frontend developer, the same age as Gary. Mandy was also working on a very important and a very interesting project. Mandy however knew that spending ludicrous amounts of hours at work does not work. She noticed she had the best ideas after doing something completely unrelated to her work — usually wandering through nature or gardening — something she really enjoyed doing as she loved how things grow. Her teammates really liked her work and her being a part of the team and they all had great fun together. Mandy even started showing some gardening tricks to others and the entire team spent some great moments cultivating their own small garden. They also finished their work on time and to absolute delight of their customers who completely fell for the organic designs on the frontend.

Workaholism is just plain bad.

Workaholism leads to psychological disorders.

Many studies have recently shown that workaholism has a very negative impact on your physical health, increasing risks of ADHD, OCD and other diseases.

Workaholism damages physical health

Besides damaging your psychique — and perhaps in conjunction with it — working long hours also deteriorates your physical health, significantly increasing chances of heart attack or stroke, either directly or indirectly through raising cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and other stress-induced health risks.

Working hard does not equal working smart

Being at work or thinking about work all the time does not lead to better results, especially not when we are talking about creative or knowledge-intensive work. In fact, the opposite happens and you cannot force yourself (or others) to becoming more innovative or creative by through working longer hours..

Our mind is tricky.

So tricky that we often have some of our best ideas while taking a shower or going on a walk. Our mind often needs time to “process” information in the background which we have to allow by taking a rest or just focusing on something else.

Hobbies make us more creative.

Kevin Eschleman’s study showed that pursuing hobbies — or any other creative activities outside of work — such as photography, creative writing, knitting, or whatever, makes us more creative at our jobs. His summary is this:

Creative activity was found to be positively associated with mastery, control, and relaxation experiences. In addition, creative activity was consistently associated with performance-related outcomes. The processes underlying this relationship were examined by testing the mediating effects of recovery experiences.

My call to action — challenge yourselves!

Taking into account all the facts and evidence, my challenge for you this week — regardless whether you are a workaholic or not — is this:

  1. Think about how long you spend at work. Is it more than some 40 to 50 hours? If yes, what can you do to squash that time down? (Note that a recent study found that — at least if you are over 40 and live in Australia — you are likely to be most productive when working around 25 hours per week.)
  2. Ask yourself what you seek in work. And try coming up with other options how you can achieve that same goal. Maybe a new hobby or a new social group will have the same effect?
  3. Imagine you no longer had your day job. What would you be doing? If it is something radically different then again I encourage you to try and start experimenting with it, maybe as a hobby or try to find a way how to incorporate it into your current role.
  4. Look at how others are behaving. Who is staying late in the office? Who is always sending e-mails or other kind of messages during night, weekends or when they are on vacation? If you find someone like this, why not invite them for a coffee and tell them what you’ve observed and how workaholism is bad?

So, remember: work is not all there is. Yes, work is important, and meaningful, fulfilling work is even more important. But there are other things that can bring happiness and self-fulfilment, and relying only on work for that is a very fragile approach.

Continue the discussion in the comments below!

Image courtesy of Creative Commons: Rene Schaefer

Have you already read these?