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Recognizing Work Addiction: Before it’s too Late

3 min read

Work addiction comes in all shapes and sizes, but being able to recognize it is the most important step towards curing it before it’s too late. There’s a difference between having passion for the work you are doing, and being a workaholic. Today, we’ll look into symptoms, factors, effects on employees, and how to cure work addiction.

Recognize the Symptoms

To begin, let’s look at the symptoms of work addiction. According to the Department of Psychosocial Science at the University of Bergen, answering yes to at least 4 of the following criteria could indicate you are at risk of work addiction.

  1. You think of how you can free up more time to work.
  2. You spend much more time working than initially intended.
  3. You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and/or depression.
  4. You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
  5. You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
  6. You stop prioritizing hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise because of your work.
  7. You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

Factors of Work Addiction


One of the biggest contenders to this recent increase in work addiction, is technology. With having our work at our fingertips at all times of the day, people have found it hard to log off and relax after “working hours”. Being constantly connected with people has had a detrimental effect on people in the workplace. Ranked one of the most distracting, email has been taking people’s attention away from productive work, since it was created. This means less time doing work at the office, and more time checking your email and responding to trivial chat messages, even at home.

In order to prevent work addiction, logging off after work hours is the easiest way to prevent becoming a workaholic. Set a strict time to shut down for the day. When you’re home, you’re home! Don’t check emails – they can wait until tomorrow. Small things like this can really help employees combat work addiction and prevent burnout.

Workaholic Bosses

Another influence that may affect employees is a workaholic boss. When the superiors in the organization are seen putting in long hours, the employees underneath them feel obligated to do the same. This decreases the productivity of the employees, since they’re merely trying to look busy at their desks, and also increases potential health and mental issues. Spending too many hours sitting at a desk can cause workplace illnesses and injuries such as musculoskeletal pain.

As employers, lead by example. Be aware of the fact that your employees are watching you and can feel pressured to work the same hours as you. Especially in a SME, group think kicks in pretty quickly. Encourage workers to leave on time, and to take time off. Feeling guilty about calling in sick or taking a vacation is a sure bet to increased turnover rates.

Being Proud

“Work hard, play hard” –  corporate America’s favorite mantra. This is causing Americans to feel pride in putting in 50-60 hour work weeks, whether or not you’re actually getting more work done. More hours does not equal more productivity. In most cases, after 50-55 hours a week productivity sharply declines. We’ve created our own monster, where we see working long hours as a sign of success.

This unhealthy lifestyle we have created for ourselves needs to come to an end. Let’s start by recognizing that working long hours means you’re taking time away from things you could be enjoying more, like hobbies and time spent with family and friends. People will be much more interested in listening to your newest hobbies than your most recent conference you attended.

Before it’s Too Late…

Now that we looked at the symptoms and factors of work addiction, take a second to reflect on yourself. Are you at risk of becoming a workaholic? Do you know a coworker, friend, or family member who might be at risk? Admitting to work addiction is the first step to saving yourself. Work addiction trickles into all aspects of our lives: into our relationships, physical and mental health, and especially productivity at work. It may not seem obvious while we’re busy bragging to others about the “crazy” week we had at work, but what goes up must come down. So even if we are riding the high of no sleep and 60 hours in the office, remember, loving your work and being addicted to it are different. Let’s try to make this relationship with work a long, and happy one!

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