Breaking the Workaholism Habit: Symptoms and Solutions

Every leader appreciates diligent team members who are engaged, reliable performers. However, there’s a fine line between people who take their work commitments seriously and those suffering from workaholism.

Engaged people are often highly productive, while workaholics tend to find themselves on a downward spiral. But how can you tell when someone is addicted to work? And what can you do about it?

This article looks at how to detect workaholism and how to break free from its toxic grip.

Defining Workaholism

Although being a workaholic may not sound like a cause for alarm, it is a legitimate mental health condition with real and dangerous consequences. And it’s probably more common than you may think. In fact, research estimates that nearly half of U.S. employees consider themselves workaholics, and 10% are truly addicted to work.

Workaholism in the U.S. - key statisticsPeople dealing with workaholism constantly struggle with the  uncontrollable urge to work excessively for prolonged periods. In other words, these people feel compelled to work all the time and they find it very difficult to detach from work situations.

As this problem progresses, it becomes all-consuming, eventually putting individual psychological and physical wellbeing at risk.

On the other hand, it’s important to understand that working long hours doesn’t necessarily mean you or anyone else is a workaholic. Sometimes, all of us need to work longer hours to meet a tight deadline, fix an urgent problem, or support a customer in need. The trick is to avoid making this kind of situation a habit.

Is it Workor Workaholism?

The following behaviors do not necessarily mean an individual is a workaholic:

1. Going Hard at Work

Working diligently can go a long way toward helping you achieve your professional goals and objectives. In fact, motivation, drive, and self-initiative are desirable traits among people who want to excel in the business world.

If you show up every day and strive to do your best, you’re not necessarily a workaholic. But problems start if you don’t know when to take a break or call it a day.

2. Strong Work Ethic

Your work ethic is a set of personal values that guide your professional behavior. This can determine how successful you’ll be in your career. Unfortunately, many of us mistake a strong work ethic for workaholism. They’re not the same.

For instance, punctuality and being proactive at work aren’t signs of workaholism. They’re simply principles that drive individual productivity. But if a commitment to work means neglecting other aspects of life, it’s time for a reality check.

3. Working Overtime

If you work overtime occasionally, you aren’t a workaholic. Putting in extra hours may be necessary to complete a particular project or to push through a peak work period. But it can be a slippery slope if you and your team are regularly working late or on weekends.

Using the right technology tools is one way to help reduce your work hours — even if it’s only the time you spend managing email messages. For example, you can create follow-up email templates and let automated tools handle the rest of the process.

Likewise, other digital productivity tools can help ease the burden of routine tasks like project management, note-taking, scheduling, and team communication.

4. Passion for Your Business

If you’re on a leadership path or you own your own business, you’re likely to be more invested in your work. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a workaholic. It may only mean you love what you do and you’re motivated to make an impact.

However, this kind of enthusiasm can open the door to unhealthy behavior. So it’s wise to step back periodically and assess your relationship with work.

How to Detect Workaholism

When exactly should you be concerned that hard work has taken a negative turn? Here are some common signs of workaholism:

  • Refusing to take breaks, even lunch breaks
  • Being the first to arrive at work and the last to leave, every day
  • Taking work home each day
  • Never going on vacations
  • Choosing not to lose sleep in order to meet work commitments
  • A lack of hobbies, activities or relationships outside of a work context
  • Unwillingness to step away from a workspace when working from home
  • Working when sick
  • Experiencing stress symptoms when away from work

Overcoming Workaholism: 5 Tips

A hardcore obsession with work not only harms your health and your relationships. It also erodes your effectiveness on the job. That’s why it’s important to take action when warning signs appear in your behavior or in others. These tips can help:

1. Acknowledge the Problem

Most people who work compulsively find all kinds of excuses to justify their behavior. Some even expect praise for their sacrifice. But left unchecked, it will only get worse. People who suffer from workaholism need to recognize that it’s a problem and that they need help. This is where managers can assist with careful intervention.

2. Identify the Cause

Unless you understand why workaholism surfaces, it will be difficult to manage. But pinpointing the underlying problem can be easier said than done. Some researchers say workaholism is a response to stress, anxiety, or depression. Others say workaholics are driven by perfectionism or an overwhelming desire to feel competent.

Whatever the cause, the desire to work hard sometimes morphs into a counter-productive prison. And those affected often don’t recognize what’s happening until it’s too late.

3. Develop an Action Plan

Once you determine what’s behind this work compulsion, it’s important to establish guidelines that support healthier habits. Make sure this roadmap is practical and doesn’t add even more pressure. For example, consider these ideas:

  • Agree to appropriate daily work “windows.”
  • Establish clear break times for every work day.
  • Create a list of work priorities and update it periodically.
  • Allocate sufficient resources to support key projects and goals. This should include team members, budget and tools.
  • Employ task management software to improve scheduling, time tracking and efficiency.
  • Outsource whenever you can. For instance, a virtual assistant can free-up time for more valuable activities.

4. Practice Setting Reasonable Limits

A common trait among workaholics is the inability to say “no” to more work, even when it’s inconvenient, irrelevant, or unimportant. But recovery depends on boundaries. With healthy work hours in place, it’s essential to practice the art of saying “no.”

Remember that redirection can be an effective option. For example, turn off work-related distractions like email notifications while away from work. Also, during these times you can transfer calls to another staff member or delegate meeting attendance to a colleague.

5. Seek Professional Guidance

Even with these ideas in place, sticking to the process may be difficult. So don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional if you or a team member are struggling to break free from a work obsession.


Many people call workaholism the addiction of this century, and they are not exactly wrong. Unfortunately, remote work and flexible hours have compounded the problem. Thankfully, people are now becoming more aware of the reality of workaholism and the danger it poses. Hopefully, this article will help you recognize if you or someone in your circle is facing this problem and help you move toward recovery.

Tips For Increasing Productivity In The Workplace

We’ve all been there. It’s Monday, your weekend was much too short, and you’re getting paid to just sit at a desk, doing little to no real work.

With the birth of the Next Great Distraction seeming to crop up on the Internet every other day, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be the productive employee you and your boss expect you to be.

Being more productive at work is not only good for your career, it will make you feel accomplished and fulfilled on your commute home.

Use these 7 productivity tips when you’re feeling slow at work to make you happier, healthier, and, in the end, more successful.

1: Exercise

The two best ways to increase your energy are through physical exercise and the proper diet. Everyone knows this, but until you’ve ingrained healthy habits, it’s much easier to continue being a sedentary junk food eater – especially while at work. The most popular alternative to 8 hours of sitting is, of course, the standing desk.

The good news is you don’t have to break the bank or take up much space to implement this work-friendly tool thanks to such manufacturers as Techni Mobili. Even bike desks can come in small, inexpensive packages. By engaging with these simple technologies, you give yourself the gifts of increased mental and physical energy.

2: Healthy Snacking

To further boost your stamina, keep only brain-power foods on hand and snack on them throughout the day, thereby stabilizing your blood glucose levels. Walnuts have been shown to increase inferential reasoning, blueberries improve short term memory, and the turmeric in curry helps to create new brain cells.

In order to increase your productivity on the job, you can intentionally set yourself up for success by instituting limits on idleness and food and, of course, by rewarding yourself for making good choices.

3: Acknowledge Employees & Coworkers

There is a simple reason for taking time out of your day to acknowledge the good work of the people you work with: putting energy into being negative drains you and those around you; positive energy generates more positive energy.

By generating an optimism epidemic, you create happy, efficient employees who are motivated to create output that prolongs the reward loop. Be realistic with your expectations, communicate them to your workforce, and reap the benefits of a happy workplace.

4: Harness the Power of Collaborative Office Spaces

Whether in a traditional office or a coworking space, people who form into teams give themselves a boost by generating a larger opportunity set and accomplishing more as a group than anyone can individually.

Creating a collaborative environment through the use of open office space not only solidifies an employee’s sense of being an integral part of the team, but research has shown that a moderate level of ambient noise can keep you alert as well. Plus, chatter and information-sharing is necessary for the generation of innovative ideas that will keep your business at the forefront of your industry.

5: Organized Fun

Friendly competition can play a large role in collaboration and productivity. Here’s how: the release of endorphins is essential to stress relief; at its heart, play is a team-building activity; a stimulated mind is more creative and poised for improved memory.

What is most important is that a playful environment comes from the top-down; the best leaders recognize that they set the tone for the work environment and it just so happens that games provide relief from mundanity.

6. Form Good Work Habits

If you haven’t done so yet, Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, is a great read for anyone who wants to understand how to make good habits last and bad habits die off.

It all begins with the neurologically-driven habit loop: a cue triggers a routine and, if the brain likes the ensuing reward, the same cue will trigger the same routine time and time again. If you want to become addicted to habit building, there’s an app based on Duhigg’s principles – and if you play with the app too much, you can always hire someone to slap you out of that routine.

7. Take a Nap

We have all experienced the post-lunch lull – when a full stomach brings on the burning desire to trade in your desk for a nice, warm bed. Whether your belly is satiated or you just didn’t get enough sleep last night, it’s time for a 30-minute nap. Sleeping for 10 to 30 minutes during the day is just enough time to enter the peacefulness of Stage 2 sleep without delving into grogginess-inducing Stage 3 REM sleep.

Stage 2 sleep is where memory consolidation happens so, when you wake up from your nap, you not only have increased productivity, creativity, and cognitive function, but improved memory, as well. One caveat, though: taking a nap too late in the day will throw off your circadian rhythm, so it’s best to snooze in the late morning or early afternoon.

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