Many of us dread facing a new workweek after a relaxing weekend, but if you’re a workaholic, chances are you white-knuckled your way through the down time and cannot wait to get back to the office on Monday. While your coworkers have the Monday-morning blahs, you’re revved up and ready to go. You’re probably not a team player, and your need for control makes it difficult to solve problems cooperatively and participate in give-and-take situations. You believe your approach and style are best, and you cannot entertain less perfect solutions. When your narrow perspective prevails on the job, spontaneity and creativity are diminished. Because of these problems, some management experts have gone so far as to say that the best advice for any workaholic is to work alone or only with other workaholics.
Drain Or Gain?
Traditionally, corporate America has extolled the virtues of workaholism and actively recruited workaholics to get a bigger bang for their buck. So companies must take some responsibility for enabling and promoting work addiction. The philosophy of one major US bank is, We expect you to change tires going 80 miles an hour. The consensus is that to survive in this culture, employees can no longer afford to just focus on one thing at a time. Workaholics consider multitasking to be an essential survival tool, despite the fact that study after study reports that multitasking undermines productivity, efficiency and leads to stress and burnout.
Research shows that workaholics are not the high-level performers that management perceives them to be, and they erode trust throughout the organization.
1. They are attracted—consciously or unconsciously—to high-stress work environments because they are looking for a lot to do.
2. They work for the sake of working instead of focusing on completing tasks.
3. They tend to be motivated more by fear and loss of status than by the desire to make a creative contribution.
4. They are more reluctant than optimal performers to take necessary risks in the organization to achieve positive, creative outcomes.
5. The amount of effort a workaholic puts into the job exceeds the level of productivity.
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6. They create crises and get attention and praise for resolving them, experts say.
According to Rutgers University researcher, Dr. Gayle Porter, “During a crisis, everyone’s attention goes to its resolution. Rarely is time taken to reexamine the history of decision points at which the crisis might have been averted, but the cost of meeting crisis conditions is significant. All organization members should be concerned about the possibility that someone in their midst may contribute to or create crisis. Indeed, managers focus on praise for those who function well during that time. The same person could be playing both roles, and this person may be a workaholic.”
A workaholic seeks to maintain a high level of involvement in the work even when the task could be accomplished with less involvement, Porter said. “This is the person who convinces himself or herself that working on Saturday is necessary and spends time carefully lining up tasks that would not be completed without doing so. In comparison, another worker exerts extra effort during the week, asks for help or finds more efficient ways to approach the task in order to have the weekend off. Both accomplish the required task. However, the first worker has devoted more of the week to doing so. To some, that person would appear to be more involved in the job, or appear to be the harder worker, but the motive was not to do better, only to keep doing.”
The Changing Tide
Finding cost-effective ways to help employees balance career with family, recreation and self-care needs are major concerns for employers nowadays. More companies are starting to hire socially balanced employees and to institute work-break aerobics and meditation workshops. In some cases, bosses are telling employees, directly or indirectly, to slow down and a growing number of companies insist workers use their vacation time. More companies are realizing that work addiction is a major health and safety issue, that it’s to their advantage to promote healthy employees and work environments and that meditation and yoga benefit both payroll and personnel.
Mark Bertolini, former CEO of Aetna Health Insurance Company, discovered that yoga helped him with lingering pain from a skiing accident. So he put in place a stress-reducing mindfulness program for Aetna’s workers and had Duke University scientists study the results. The findings showed that with one hour of yoga classes a week, there was a 33% drop in workplace stress. Both Google and Dow Chemical have established onsite mindful meditation classes to reduce workers’ stress levels. Other companies have de-stressed work environments by using natural light, indoor gardens and plants, and relaxation rooms with trickling fountains. Still others have instituted stress reduction policies such as flextime, job sharing and paid paternity leave.
10 Tips For Work/Life Balance
- Work Mindfully. Make a conscious effort to toil in the present moment as much as possible. Be mindful of your co-workers, and consider eating, walking and driving slower.
- Find Balance. Make sure you balance your days with personal time to unwind and nutritious food, regular exercise and ample sleep.
- Avoid Multitasking. Studies show that multitasking isn’t what it’s cracked up to be and that workers who focus on one task at a time are calmer and more effective and productive.
- Set Boundaries. Refuse to commit to more projects when you’re already overloaded. Tell yourself there’s a limit to what you can do and see this practice as a strength, not a weakness.
- Develop Self-Compassion. Instead of attacking yourself when you forget, make a mistake or fail at a task, shower yourself with compassion. Practice pep talks and treat yourself with nurturing support.
- Come Up for Air. Mother Nature didn’t design your body to be desk-bound for long periods of time. Put time cushions between appointments, take time to breathe or eat a snack or stretch and move around.
- Unplug. Set aside time for self-care. Just five or 10 minutes a day can make a big difference in lowering your stress and raising your energy level.
- Block Off Time for Relationships. Leave space in your schedule to spend time with coworkers, friends and family.
- Gain Deeper Insight. Look beneath your addiction to understand why you require yourself to overwork and why that sanctuary is necessary for the uncertainties of living fully in the present.
- Get Outside Help. If you can’t stop overworking on your own, resources are available to help: professional counseling, support groups and Workaholics Anonymous online meetings, where members work the 12 Steps.