But how, exactly, do you define “workaholic”? How much is too much?
In the Netherlands, people are actually getting sick by trying to stop working -- a phenomenon called "leisure illness." Workers there are apparently so conditioned to overwork that, on weekends and vacations, they actually become ill from trying -- without success -- to relax and unwind.
Workaholics typically continue to work past the point of exhaustion, causing them to make mistakes and work even harder to fix them. They also find that when they get where they were so driven to be, there is often nothing there. This leads to a chronic cycle of obsessive goal-chasing which, in reality, is much like the hamster running on the wheel -- frenetic movement that leads to nowhere.
After all, every job has different hours, requires a different set of skills and has a different level of intensity.
Well, researchers in Norway want to help you answer that question about yourself with a new, easy-to-take quiz called the Bergen Work Addiction Scale.
To find out whether you have a healthy or unhealthy attachment to your job, grab a pen and jot down “never,” “rarely,” “sometimes,” “often” or “always” in response to each of the following seven questions.
How often have you...
1. Thought of how you could free up more time for work?
2. Spent much more time working than you originally intended?
3. Worked in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and/or depression?
4. Been told by others to cut back on work but didn’t listen?
5. Got stressed out if you were prevented from working?
6. Neglected hobbies, leisure activities and/or exercise because of work?
7. Worked so much that it negatively affected your health?
Read on to find out whether your answers make you a “workaholic” or not...
ARE YOU A WORKAHOLIC?
These questions target the seven main symptoms that people with addictive behaviors tend to display. To determine who is a true workaholic, the researchers used an approach that’s common among many types of diagnoses for addictive psychiatric behaviors--they determined whether subjects meet more than half the criteria.
So if you responded “often” or “always” to four or more questions, you are most likely a workaholic, says Cecilie Schou Andreassen, PhD, a researcher in the department of psychosocial science at the University of Bergen in Norway and the lead author of the quiz.
If you’re feeling trapped in your workaholic ways, there are simple steps to get your workload under control so that your health doesn’t suffer...
HOW TO GET YOUR WORK LIFE UNDER CONTROL
If you discovered from this quiz that you are, in fact, a workaholic, there are steps you can take to break your damaging habits and live a happier, healthier life. Here are tips from Dr. Andreassen...
- Cut yourself off. If your day is supposed to end at 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm, leave the office--and don’t bring work home with you. If you work unusual hours, then find a similar type of cut-off point so that you don’t allow yourself to work more than about eight or nine hours a day. Realistically, it may not be possible to follow this rule every single day--but start small. For instance, do it once a week by renaming, say, Wednesday a “Me Day” in your head.
- Get a hobby. Find another passion in your life besides work! Try a new activity--or revisit an old favorite that you left behind when you started your career. For example, pick up a novel...go out and take pictures just for the fun of observing the world...dust off your bike and get rolling again. Devoting an hour a day to your hobby is ideal, but when you don’t have an hour, just 15 minutes will refresh you--and take your mind off tomorrow’s presentation. Or focus on your hobby on “Me Day” once a week.
- Work smarter, not harder: To manage your time while you’re working, set a timer so that you don’t obsess over the first thing on your to-do list and fail to get to everything else. When your plate gets too full, politely say “no” to new duties or delegate some tasks to others. Though it may go against your grain, you even may want to have a conversation with your manager to see if some of your work can be distributed elsewhere. Unless your manager is a monster, he or she will understand that no one is superhuman and even good workers have limits.
- Reschedule meetings. We all have meetings. You can’t cancel them all--but often you can move them. And you should, when it comes to making time for friends and family. When all is said and done, you’re going to kick yourself for missing out on family events--not for skipping or moving some meetings!
- See a therapist. It bears repeating--no one is superhuman. You might benefit from talking to a trained counselor about ways to think about your work life.
- Change jobs. This may be easier said than done until the economy bounces back...but when all else fails, consider changing companies or even changing careers. Your work environment, not your nature, could be the problem.
Cecilie Schou Andreassen, PhD, is a researcher and clinical psychologist specialist. Dr. Andreassen is also an organizational consultant in the private sector. Her research into work addiction appeared in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology.