7 signs you’re working too much

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON FAST BUSINESS, 25 NOVEMBER 2014

BEING A WORKAHOLIC HAS DISTURBINGLY BECOME DE RIGUEUR AND WORKING LONG HOURS A SIGN OF SUCCESS. BUT THE TERM ‘WORKAHOLIC’ DESCRIBES A REAL AND POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS ADDICTION. WORKAHOLISM IS NO DIFFERENT TO OTHER DETRIMENTAL ADDICTIONS AND IT’S TIME WE STARTED TREATING IT THAT WAY AND RETHINKING OUR APPROACH TO TIME AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT.


Our modern culture idolises good work ethic and more recently good work ethic is defined by working more rather than working smarter. An article in The New Yorker pointed out that, “overwork has become a credential of prosperity” and many workers seem to take pride in being called a workaholic. This is a big issue.

Workaholism is defined by a recent paper as, ‘‘being overly concerned about work, to be driven by strong and uncontrollable work motivation, and to spend so much energy and effort into work that it impairs private relationships, spare-time activities and/or health”.

Workaholism can be a dangerous and potentially fatal addiction. Last year, copywriter Mita Diran, who worked at advertising agency Young & Rubicam Indonesia, slipped into a coma and later died. Before she passed away she tweeted, “30 hours of working and still going strooong.” Another work-related fatality was Li Yuan, an Ogilvy & Mather employee in Beijing, who suffered a severe heart attack and died at work after working extremely long hours for a month.

Pan Jie was only 25 years old when she died of viral encephalitis, 10 days after asking for sick leave because of a high fever from her employer, PriceWaterhouseCoopers Shanghai. These events are the stuff of sensationalist headlines, but unfortunately, they’re also true stories.

Take a look at your work habits. Are you a workaholic? Could you improve your time and project management skills? Are you working longer but not smarter? The Bergen Work Addiction Scale presents a series of statements on work habits correlating to seven workaholism indicators, including salience, mood modification, conflict, withdrawal, tolerance, relapse and problems.

If you reply “often” or “always” to at least four of the seven following statements it may suggest that you’re a workaholic.

  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 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 deprioritise hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work.
  7. You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

If the stories about death caused by work-related exhaustion weren’t reason enough to stop you working so hard, ask yourself this: “In 10 years, will I care about all this?” If the answer is no, maybe it’s time to take a breather and reassess your work habits, project management approach and priorities.

While work-life balance can seem like an elusive entity, small steps can be taken to alleviate your workaholic ways and venture outside the office bubble. Investing time and energy into your hobbies, health and relationships with family and friends could significantly improve your stress levels and general wellbeing. This improvement in work-life balance may in turn influence your approach to work and project management.

Remember that working smart is more effective and much healthier than working hard, and in this ever-evolving time of Work 3.0 which places more value on productivity than a sweatshop culture, make sure you check yourself before you wreck yourself.