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How companies should deal with workaholics (and how to tell if you are one)

How can you tell if you are a workaholic? (Getty Images)
How can you tell if you are a workaholic? (Getty Images)

Workaholism can lead to bad outcomes both for the workaholics themselves and for the companies they work for – but new research has offered hints on how employers can help to manage the problem.

Researchers from the American Counselling Association found that when workaholics engaged in leisure activities, they broke out of the destructive cycle of work stress and workaholism.

They therefore recommend that HR departments intervene to help workaholics engage in hobbies and leisure activities.

"Work stress can be attenuated by leisure activities that aid in recovery processes; however, workaholics leave themselves less non-work time and are unlikely to engage in regular or effortful activities during non-work time," the researchers wrote.

"Thus, individuals with workaholic tendencies may be those in the greatest need of engagement in leisure activities."

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Researchers said that participants who scored high on workaholism were less likely to engage in leisure activities and had higher levels of work stress.

But when they did engage in leisure activities, their work stress lessened, results suggest.

Accordingly, industrial/organisational psychologist Shahnaz Aziz said that employers should enact policies that encourage workers to engage in non-work activities.

Participants who scored high on workaholism were less likely to engage in leisure activities and had higher levels of work stress. (Getty Images)
Participants who scored high on workaholism were less likely to engage in leisure activities and had higher levels of work stress. (Getty Images)

Bosses could, for example, require employees to leave all organisation-issued devices at the workplace while on vacation.

"By emphasising the benefits of leisure participation... employers can redesign wellness policies that better serve compulsive and stressed employees," the researchers wrote.

What is workaholism?

The NHS says that it's possible to get addicted to work in the same way that people are addicted to gaming, internet use or alcohol.

"Some people are obsessed with their work to the extent that they become physically exhausted," the NHS says.

What are the warning signs?

As with other forms of addiction, the warning signs that you are a workaholic is that your work starts to have negative effects on other areas of your life.

According to the NHS: "If your relationship, family and social life are affected and you never take holidays, you may be addicted to work."

What are the treatments for workaholism?

The treatments for workaholism range from therapy to groups, such as Workaholics Anonymous, that offer in-person meetings or Zoom sessions.

A good first step is to contact your doctor to discuss the issue – and if possible, discuss it with your managers at work.

"Addiction is a treatable condition. Whatever the addiction, there are lots of ways you can seek help. You could see your GP for advice or contact an organisation that specialises in helping people with addictions," the NHS recommends.

Watch: Idris Elba has been in therapy for a year after he became a workaholic