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Motivated and highly engaged employees are essential to any thriving organisation. However, it can be tricky for managers to distinguish between an employee who’s hard-working and one who’s a workaholic.
On the surface, they might look the same – both put in extra hours and may take on additional projects – however, the two have very different outcomes for an employee’s wellbeing and overall workplace productivity.
Studies show that today, anywhere from 10 per cent to 25 per cent of professionals are addicted to work. In fact, this phenomenon is so common, the United States acknowledges 5 July as National Workaholics Day, which is a day dedicated to raise awareness of the issue and its impact on employees and companies.
So how can you spot a workaholic, and how can you manage workaholism in the workplace?
Workaholism, or work addiction, is more than just putting in long hours on the job. According to Psychology Today, a workaholic can be described as a “work-obsessed individual who gradually becomes emotionally crippled and addicted to power and control, in a compulsive drive to gain approval and public recognition of success”.
When looking at how to define a workaholic against a hard worker, it comes down to behavioural and psychological factors. While hard-working employees are productive, they know when to switch off. They’re committed to the company’s vision and, because of this, will often go above and beyond in their role. Overall, they have a higher level of job satisfaction and engagement with a company.
In contrast, workaholics are:
While they may put in more hours than their counterparts, workaholics typically are less productive at work because they are overworked, rarely delegate and are often perfectionists. In fact, a study found that fully recovered workaholics accomplished their tasks in 50 hours, while previously they struggled to achieve them in 80 hours.
Workaholics may also experience lower job satisfaction and work-life balance, and may even experience mental health issues. Studies have shown that younger adults – and in particular millennials – are prone to work addiction, however, it is unrelated to gender, education, marital status, or types of employment.
Workaholism can be hard to spot because the signs look similar to a highly engaged employee. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but the Bergen Work Addiction Scale was developed by Norwegian researchers to help diagnose work addiction.
Employees rank themselves from 1 (Never) to 5 (Always) on the scale. If your team member answers “often” or “always” to at least four of these statements, it could be a warning that they are suffering from work addiction:
Lastly, if you or another team member feels an employee’s personal life and mental health are at risk because of work addiction, it’s best to encourage them to seek professional help.
By managing work addiction and providing your team with work-life balance strategies, you’ll cultivate a positive workplace culture for your entire team.
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