Thanks to technological advances that have made us accessible 24 hours a day 7 days a week and even higher expectations of us to perform and deliver in business from an organizational perspective and client demands, the lines between personal life and business life have become very blurred.
The Bureau of Statistics reported that 5 million of Australia’s 7.7 million full time employees put in more than 40 hours per week. 1.4 million put in more than 50 hours per week and around 270,000 put in more than 70 hours per week. And it’s normal for people to be putting in the extra and not be paid for it. It’s part of the job and in a competitive market almost expected. I also wouldn’t hesitate to estimate that self-employed people do much more than your 50-hour week. That I do know from experience and observations.
As a consequence to all of this people fall into the ‘workaholic’ trap very easily and it can be hard to get out of. Life becomes about work and things that are important to us become compromised and sacrificed because we’re so busy and engrossed in our work. Your work has become the most important thing in your life. Now there’s nothing wrong with being dedicated and committed to your career or business, it’s admirable – to a point. It does become a problem when there is no balance in your life and you’ve created an unsustainable habit of being a workaholic that will inevitably lead to inefficiency and burnout.
Becoming a workaholic can work for some people who are wanting to avoid a less than perfect life outside of work or having to deal with something personal they’d prefer not to. However, once again this is unsustainable and something a friend of mine found out. Her avoidance strategy worked for a couple of years by becoming a workaholic, avoiding dealing with the death of her parents, a marriage breakdown and other smaller issues. Burnout was her consequence and the sign she had to stop, slow down, take time out and deal with what she had now created and been avoiding. She ended up resigning from her role and taking six months off to recover.
There are 5 tell tale signs that you’re a workaholic:
- You have a lot of annual leave accrued.
Your annual leave days far exceed what is acceptable on a balance sheet and you are constantly being asked to take time off. However, you always have important issues on the go and ‘can’t afford’ to be away at any given time. You believe you’re indispensable.
- You can’t switch off
The time you do take off you are glued to your phone and your head is still firmly back in the office. You may be physically away but your head remains connected and buzzing. You find it very hard to be present in the moment and switch off from work.
- Your relationships are stressed
Your partner complains they no longer see you, that they aren’t a priority and even when you are home that you’re not 100% there. Your kids are disappointed you constantly miss their activities and your friends complain they never see you. People are constantly ‘at’ you and this is very annoying to you. Can’t they understand you’re busy?
- You’re not involved in anything outside of work
You used to play tennis, get to the gym, play golf, go to book club, play netball or cricket but this has fallen by the wayside now. You don’t have time. You don’t even have time to read for leisure anymore – its all work related. Work is really all you know now.
- Your health is suffering
Because you’re constantly ‘switched on’ you have trouble sleeping, you’ll go for the most convenient food choices and don’t have time to exercise. You’ve put on weight and feeling sluggish. Or you’ve lost weight due to the stress your body is under and feeling tired all the time. In a nutshell, you don’t feel or look you’re best.
The key is to identify the signs before they become a habit and you’re firmly embedded into the workaholic trap. It’s incredibly easy to do now in this busy frantic, challenging and crazy world we’re in. The pressure is on to do more, be more, deliver more……more. However, we also must recognize that being a workaholic isn’t going to benefit you or the organisation longer term. Over time you lose perspective, productivity, efficiency and become resentful especially once you realise what has happened to your life. And sometimes, the important people around you have given up and moved on. That’s certainly something you want to avoid.