Step into the office pantry, and you’ll be privy to a curious blend of tales – a cocktail of exhaustion and pride. Your colleagues will regale you with stories of their high-octane workdays, the minutiae of meetings, the ins and outs of client interactions, all while sipping on their third cup of coffee like it’s an elixir of life. It’s clear that many view their demanding jobs as battle scars, badges of honor, and a testament to their unwavering dedication and undeniable success.

In recent years, the term “workaholic” has undergone a peculiar transformation. It’s evolved from a cause for concern to a pat on the back, with individuals flaunting their work-related struggles as badges of honour. But, you might wonder, is this workaholic culture all it’s cracked up to be? And just how can HR address the unhealthy fetishisation of overwork that seems to have seeped into the lives of our dedicated employees?

“The labour force wasn’t designed to support us in our path to self-fulfilment… to entrust the labour force with such an important part of who we are is really risky.” – Erin Cech, Sociologist, Associate Professor, the University of Michigan, and Author

HRM Magazine

Why the Workaholic Bug Bites

So, why do people willingly become workaholics? Well, it turns out there are a few common culprits.

  1. Expectations from Others: Workaholics often push the boundaries, laboring far beyond what’s reasonably expected by their organization or society. There’s this pervasive belief that the harder you toil, the more you achieve. The result? A detrimental mindset that forces people into a never-ending cycle of trying to prove themselves through long hours.
  2. Personality Traits: Some personality traits are more likely to land you in workaholic territory. Extroverts yearn for social validation, which often leads them to overcommit and blur those all-important boundaries. Perfectionists are prone to stressing over every little detail, and they struggle to delegate tasks. And then there are the narcissists, who pile on work to craft that ideal image they want others to see. It’s a heady mix that leads to overworking and under-sleeping.
  3. Over-Motivation: Not all workaholics are toiling out of sheer passion. Many are just driven by an insatiable urge to work, even if they’re not particularly thrilled about their jobs. They can’t seem to let go of work, even on vacation, and the mere thought of not working triggers anxiety and guilt.
  4. Unhealthy Working Environment: Toxic workspaces play a major role in nurturing workaholic behaviors. When your boss is dishing out impossible workloads, projects with merciless deadlines, and a reward system that practically worships late-night office hours, it’s no surprise that people find it hard to switch off. The idea of going “off-duty” becomes a joke, with employees shackled to their work-related messages at all hours, even the unholy hour of 3 a.m.

So, what can HR do to break the cycle of workaholism and bring back some semblance of work-life balance?

  1. Grant Autonomy: Give employees a bit of breathing room. Instead of piling on stress and unrealistic workloads, be the supportive boss who encourages autonomy. It can do wonders for their morale and help create a productive workspace that doesn’t send everyone into overdrive.
  2. Clock-Watching: Keep an eye on those working hours. You see, while your boss might want to get the most bang for their buck, there’s a limit to how much one can work without burning out. Periodic evaluations can help maintain a healthy work environment, where everyone can meet their goals without surrendering their sanity.
  3. Interview Insights: In interviews, avoid applauding candidates who pledge their eternal devotion to work. Instead, look for individuals who excel in their roles but also value work-life balance. Communicate your company’s culture and ethos clearly, so there are no illusions about what it takes to thrive in your workplace.

How to Kick the Workaholic Habit

And if you’ve found yourself caught in the workaholic trap, remember that studies have shown workaholics tend to suffer from poor sleep, depression, and even an elevated risk of heart disease. Plus, they’re not exactly poster children for life satisfaction.

To break free, set those boundaries between work and your personal life. Rekindle your interests, reconnect with those people you’ve been neglecting, and rediscover the joy of living. After all, as the saying goes, “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

Are you a workaholic? Take this poll to know more!

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