Workaholism facts and statistics: everything you need to know
Research indicates that workaholism affects between 27% and 30% of the general population today. In popular culture, "workaholism" is a buzzword often used to describe devotion to work in a positive light — by defining themselves as workaholics, people often think they are showcasing their passion for their jobs.
But, we should resist equaling work addiction with:
- Having a great work ethic,
- Working hard,
- Being dedicated to work,
- Loving your job, or
- Working long hours to beat a deadline from time to time.
Workaholism, or work addiction, is actually a serious problem that can lead to career burnout. Likewise, it may result in overworking yourself to serious health issues — even death.
To help shed light on the difference between healthy and unhealthy work habits, we will provide a rundown of workaholism-related research, facts, and statistics.
We will also discuss how to notice signs of workaholism, how to help a workaholic, and we will talk a bit about workaholism and relationships.
Finally, you will learn what workaholism is NOT.
Without further ado, let us explore more!
Once in a while, you may experience a desire to work more than your employer or company culture require of you. In fact, that is understandable. But if you stick to your overworking tendencies, you may qualify yourself for other, more severe issues.
To begin looking into workaholism, we will first cover the basics. Then, we will get into the types of workaholics and the effects of this modern-day crisis.
What is workaholism?
The term "workaholism" was coined in 1971 by American psychologist Wayne E. Oates in his book Confessions of a Workaholic: The Facts About Work Addiction. According to his definition of workaholism, this phenomenon is known as "the compulsion or the uncontrollable need to work incessantly."
Over the years, countless authors have defined it slightly differently, and we will get to that later. For now, let us see what makes up a workaholic.
What is a workaholic?
Simply put, a workaholic is a person "who works compulsively" or is a "work addict." However, there has been little empirical research about what exactly it would mean to call someone a workaholic. Similarly, a consensus is yet to be made among experts. In other words, there still isn’t a definitive workaholic definition.
Even so, researchers have aimed to explain the term further. According to Scott, Moore, & Miceli (1997), there are three main characteristics of workaholics:
- They spend a lot of time on work activities.
- They are preoccupied with work, even outside working hours.
- They work more than what is expected of them to finish their tasks.
In the years since Oates, other researchers have gone on to define workaholism as:
- An addiction to work. (Robinson, 2000; Porter, 2006; Ng, Sorensen & Feldman, 2007)
- A pathology. (Fassel, 1990)
- A behavior pattern that persists across multiple organizational settings. (Scott, Moore & Miceli, 1997)
- A syndrome comprised of high drive, high work involvement, and low work enjoyment. (Aziz & Zickar, 2006)
In recent times, the "addiction" definition has been given the most credence. Specifically, in the work of Andreassen (2013) and Sussman (2012).
According to Taris et al. (2008), there are two main components to workaholism:
- The behavioral component, which manifests as working excessively hard. This component suggests working long hours per day or week.
- The psychological component, which manifests as being obsessed with work. This component suggests the inability to detach yourself from work and working compulsively.
What causes workaholism?
Various authors group the causes of workaholism differently, with some using narrow and others more descriptive lists. However, we can categorize most causes in the following way:
- Emotional causes: Workaholics feel guilty and anxious when they aren't working.
- Behavioral causes: Workaholics are often reinforced through financial rewards and increased status.
- Motivational causes: Workaholics frequently feel they can increase their self-esteem by earning more or gaining a higher status by working compulsively.
- Childhood causes: Workaholics might have had overly protective or overly demanding parents.
- Genetical causes: Workaholics may have deeply ingrained traits such as perfectionism.
These five points aside, are there other ways to establish if somebody isn't showcasing workaholic tendencies?
Workaholics meaning: What workaholism is NOT
You may think that you are a workaholic. But, perhaps you are just a hard worker with a good work ethic and work engagement who occasionally works long hours. There are differences, and here's what they are.
Being a workaholic vs. working hard
According to a BBC article, the main difference between workaholics and people who "merely" work hard is busyness.
Namely, people who work hard are focused on a certain priority they need to finish before a deadline. So, they put in extra hours and effort. Afterward, they go back to their normal work routine, which is distinct from a workaholic culture.
But workaholics work hard because they need to feel busy. Unless they constantly think about, worry about, and focus on work, they feel guilty and insecure.
According to psychologists, this insecurity stems from the workaholics themselves. In a nutshell, they fail to understand how much exactly the organization they work for values them.
So, these workaholics try to compensate for their perceived lack of value and importance by being busy. The motto sounds all too familiar: The busier they are, the more important they must be.
Non-workaholics stop working hard once they reach success in their goals. But, for workaholics, enough is never truly enough. In contrast, they never reach the goal fully. In other words, they never feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with objective success.
Being a workaholic vs. having a good work ethic
When you have a good work ethic, it means that you attach certain values to your conduct at work, including:
- Focus on work,
- Continuous improvement,
- Taking initiative, and
- Being productive.
None of these traits are connected explicitly with the meaning of the term workaholic. In fact, they can all be achieved without succumbing to a compulsion to work excessively.
Being a workaholic vs. working long hours
Workaholics tend to work long hours. However, working long hours doesn't necessarily mean that you are a workaholic. According to work published in the Harvard Business Review, the difference lies in the ability to switch off after work.
Namely, an employee can work 60+ hours per week and still not be a workaholic. The reason behind this is their ability to stop worrying about work after they clock out.
On the other hand, an employee can work a little more than 40 hours per week and be a workaholic due to their inability to stop thinking about work long after clocking out.
Finally, some research even suggests that workaholic tendencies may lead to diabetes and heart disease. Similarly, workaholics report sleep problems and emotional exhaustion much more often than those who merely work long hours.
Being a workaholic vs. having high work engagement
Some people may appear to have workaholic tendencies simply because they love their job. Additionally, they might even like thinking about what they need to work on and how they will approach their future assignments.
But, there is a distinction between people who constantly worry about work and those who often think about their work because they enjoy it — especially health-wise.
For instance, one group of researchers conducted a study that examines the relationship between workaholism and work engagement at home.
In a nutshell, they established that workaholism and work engagement represent two different sets of heavy investment at work. In other words, work engagement is positively related to health, while workaholism isn't.
Similarly, it is no surprise to see increased competition in the already highly competitive engineering profession. As a result, the job induces engineers to work harder and longer.
Interestingly, one study looked at a group of engineers. In the course of the research, experts found that workaholics had a more severe history of depressive disorder in comparison to non-workaholics.
Moreover, other research (Stefano & Gaudiini, 2019) also indicates a clear distinction between workaholism and work engagement. Likewise, the study describes workaholism as a "pathology" and work engagement as a "healthy form of heavy work investment."
How to recognize workaholics’ characters
It can be easy to label anyone working overtime as a workaholic. There is, however, more to this issue than meets the eye. Therefore, the best way to recognize signs of workaholism in anyone is first to understand the science and behaviors of a typical workaholic. This section gets into the details.
What are the signs of workaholism?
A 2019 study published in the New York Post polled 2,000 employed Americans. Here are the ten telling signs of a workaholic:
- In 54% of cases, workaholics prioritize work before their personal lives.
- In 51% of cases, they worry about work, even on a day off.
- In 50% of cases, they have difficulties switching off while on vacation, or they simply tend to work throughout their vacations.
- In 48% of cases, they check emails even during the night.
- In 46% of cases, they are the first to arrive at work and the last to leave. Moreover, the same share of respondents feels like they are too pressured or too busy to take annual leave.
- In 45% of cases, they skip their lunch breaks at work, while the same share feels anxious if they don't know what's going on at work.
- In 44% of cases, friends or family members tell them they work too much.
- In 39% of cases, they check emails first thing in the morning.
What are workaholism symptoms?
Norwegian researchers from the Department of Psychological Science at the University of Bergen have developed The Bergen Work Addiction Scale. This aid helps determine whether someone is a workaholic. To develop this scale, the researchers studied 16,426 working adults in Norway based on six main criteria:
- Salience — the phenomenon of being preoccupied with work.
- Mood modification — the phenomenon of using work as a way to alleviate emotional stress.
- Tolerance — the ability to gradually work longer hours over a continued period with the same mood-modifying effects.
- Withdrawal — the feeling of physical and emotional distress if unable to work.
- Conflict — the phenomenon of sacrificing relationships and social obligations because of work.
- Relapse — the phenomenon of suffering negative consequences as a result of excessive work.
The Bergen Work Addiction Scale consists of seven declarative sentences you can answer with:
- Often, and
The final tally of the answers will help you determine whether you are a workaholic. And here are the statements:
- You think of how you can free up more time to work.
- You spend much more time working than initially intended.
- You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, and depression.
- You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
- You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
- You prioritize work over hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise.
- You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.
If you've answered "often" or "always" to at least four out of the seven listed points, you have a work addiction.
What do workaholics sacrifice for work?
Another way to recognize workaholism is to consider what you are willing to sacrifice for work.
One USA Today poll covering the period between 1987 and 2008 has identified everything that people sacrifice to stay on top of their work and maintain the feeling of busyness.
In a nutshell, here are some of the things people sacrificed on the shrine of workaholism:
- Sleep (56%),
- Recreation (52%),
- Hobbies (51%),
- Time with friends (44%), and
- Family time (30%).
Most worryingly, it seems that all this sacrifice can lead to more serious mental issues.
The correlation between workaholism and psychological disorders
According to the same study where a group of psychology researchers surveyed 16,426 working adults in Norway, there is a link between workaholism and certain psychological disorders. So, is there such a thing as a workaholic personality disorder? Apparently, the research seems to indicate just that!
Namely, these disorders include anxiety, ADHD, OCD, and even depression. Here’s an overview of the data:
- More workaholics have met the anxiety criteria than non-workaholics (33.8% vs. 11.9%).
- More workaholics have met the ADHD criteria than non-workaholics (32.7% vs. 12.7%).
- More workaholics have met the OCD criteria than non-workaholics (25.6% vs. 8.7%).
- More workaholics have met the depression criteria than non-workaholics (8.9% vs. 2.6%).
However, the same study did not clarify whether the psychiatric symptoms caused workaholism. They also did not state whether it was workaholism that caused the psychiatric symptoms.
The correlation between workaholism and personality traits
Over the years, researchers have frequently given their attention to analyzing the link between workaholic tendencies and certain personality traits.
The Big Five personality traits test (also known as the five-factor model and the OCEAN model) grades people on their:
- Openness to experience,
- Agreeableness, and
Several papers (Burke, Matthiesen & Pallesen, 2006; Andreassen, Hetland & Pallesen, 2010; Clark, Lelchook & Taylor, 2010) have discussed the correlation between these personality traits and workaholism. They indicate that:
- Conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness are positively related to workaholism, and
- Agreeableness is negatively related to workaholism.
In general, these links were found to be relatively weak.
However, various researchers have indicated that people who are more extroverted, conscientious, and neurotic — as well as people with personality type A (described as ambitious, status-conscious, impatient, anxious, and rigidly organized) — are more likely to develop workaholic tendencies.
What are the types of workaholics?
Since the term "workaholism" was first introduced in 1971, researchers have defined several types of workaholics. Sometimes, however, they partially overlap.
As previously mentioned, there is no universally acclaimed definition of workaholics, implying that there is no universally acclaimed workaholic typology. But, if you identify with the traits of some of the listed workaholic types, it may be time for concern.
Definitions of workaholic types in the 1970s
Oates (1971) recognizes 4 types of workaholics:
- The dyed-in-the-wool workaholics are perfectionists who take work seriously and only aim for the highest performance standards.
- The converted workaholics set limits to their work hours and aim to have and enjoy free time.
- The situational workaholics don't have a typical workaholic personality but aim to achieve high standards in certain situations.
- The pseudo or escapist workaholics mimic the behavior of workaholics in order to gain or maintain a high position at work. Or, they use work as a way to escape their unhappy home life.
Definitions of workaholic types in the 1980s
According to Rohrlich (1981), there are 13 types of workaholics, ranging from the sensible workaholic to the absurd workaholic.
Naughton (1987) recognizes 2 types of workaholics:
- The job-involved workaholics — they are high in work commitment and low in work compulsion.
- The compulsive workaholics — they are high in both work commitment and compulsion.
Definitions of workaholic types in the 1990s
Fassel (1990) recognizes four types of workaholics:
- The compulsive workers are driven to work all the time. They represent the universal stereotypical view of workaholics often depicted in the media.
- The binge workers work in binges rather than continuously.
- The closet workers hide work so they won't be discovered working when they're not supposed to.
- The work anorexics avoid work through procrastination. But, they feel a rush of adrenaline when they finish a project at the last minute.
Scott, Moore, & Miceli (1997) recognize three types of workaholics:
- The compulsive-dependent workaholics exhibit symptoms of the obsessive-compulsive personality.
- The perfectionist workaholics are preoccupied with rules and details. They pursue work and productivity at the cost of social activities and leisure time.
- The achievement-oriented workaholics strive toward success and achievement in moderately difficult tasks. Thus, people view them positively.
Definitions of workaholic types in the 2000s
Robinson (2000) recognizes four types of workaholics:
- The relentless workaholics — they aim to work all the time and believe work is more important than anything else in life. They are viewed as similar to Oates' dyed-in-the-wool workaholics.
- The procrastinating workaholics — they procrastinate until the last minute and then work frantically to finish a task.
- The high stimulus-seeking workaholics — they are easily bored and seek excitement through tight work schedules peppered with multiple (preferably new) parallel projects.
- The bureaupathic workaholics — they tend to prolong tasks and create additional work.
Definitions of workaholic types in the 2010s
Glicken (2010) recognizes six types of workaholics:
- The loner workaholics work hard and want to be left alone while doing so.
- The frightened workaholics are afraid of losing their jobs. Thus, they constantly worry about not completing tasks on time or with the expected quality.
- The burned-out workaholics continue their work, even if they don't find any job satisfaction due to the lack of other interests.
- The incompetent workaholics work hard. However, they can't seem to get much done due to a lack of competence in the work they were assigned to do.
- The dictatorial workaholics push others to work harder than necessary rather than taking on this habit themselves.
- The manic-depressive workaholics may work hard and reach incredible results during their manic highs. But then, they slump to inactivity during their manic lows.
Robinson (2013) suggested another typology after his first from 2000, where he recognizes four types of workaholics:
- The relentless workaholics are the same type as the one he suggested in his previous work.
- The bulimic workaholics aim to perform their work perfectly or not do it at all.
- The savoring workaholics are consumed by their attention to detail.
- The attention-deficit workaholics start multiple projects but get bored and need to move on to new challenges.
The effects of workaholism
Now you know how scientists and other experts define workaholism. In fact, you better understand how to recognize people with signs of workaholism in daily life.
For the next step, we explore how a workaholic suffers from their harmful habits. In addition, we will dissect the impact of workaholism on the close environment of the workaholic.
The effects of workaholism on work, family, and individual outcomes
According to a science brief published by the American Psychological Association, here's what effect workaholism has on your work, family, and individual outcomes:
The effect on work outcomes:
- Job satisfaction starts to decline.
- Counterproductive work behaviors, job stress, but also career prospects start to rise.
- There is no significant correlation between workaholism and work performance.
The effect on family outcomes:
- Family satisfaction starts to decline.
- Marital dissatisfaction and work-life conflicts start to rise.
- There is no significant correlation between relationship satisfaction and workaholism.
The effect on individual outcomes:
- Life satisfaction, physical health, and emotional health start to decline.
- The chance for burnout rises alongside emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and depersonalization.
- There is no significant correlation between professional efficiency and workaholism.
As this data shows, workaholism makes the personal aspects of life decline, while the professional aspects of life remain mostly unaffected. Although career prospects are likely to rise, work performance and professional efficiency (other important motivators of compulsive work) are not expected to improve.
Other workaholic relationship problems
Workaholic tendencies can have an effect both on the spouse and children of the workaholic in question.
Bryan Robinson, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is the originator of the 2000 and 2013 workaholic types division. According to him, the divorce rate is higher by 40% for marriages where at least one spouse is a workaholic.
Moreover, the Growing Up in Australia study conducted by the Australian National University (ANU) and La Trobe University has observed ~2,500 working couples and their children over a span of 10 years. They aimed to understand how improper work-life balance affects the parents' commitment to their children.
The study found that six out of 10 couples struggle to manage their work and family commitments. Also, one in seven couples experienced longer periods when one of the parents was not managing these family commitments well.
The study further showed that this effect was strongest when the parents worked demanding, inflexible jobs with low security and long hours. As a result of this work-life conflict, the parents would feel:
- Stressed, and
Apart from that, the children's mental health would be at risk. But not only that.
Interestingly, one study of 537 participants in Lithuania found that the perceived work addiction of the father and mother was related to higher levels of work addiction in their adult child. However, the father's influence had an even higher impact in terms of extrinsic motivation in the child.
Other effects of workaholism on health and eating habits
Apart from what we mentioned above, further research supports the notion that workaholic tendencies can strongly affect your health and eating habits.
Let us look at a study by Chan, Ngan, & Wong (2019) covering the period between 1998 and 2018. The study suggests that people who work 11 hours per day (such as workaholics) have a 67% bigger chance of suffering from coronary disease than people who work eight hours per day.
According to research by Dembe, Ericson, Delbos, and Banks (2005), people who work 12 or more hours per day are 37% more prone to job-related injuries.
Similarly, a study by Balducci, Avanzi & Fraccaroli (2018) points to a link between workaholism and health problems such as high systolic blood pressure and higher levels of mental distress.
Along similar lines, the CEO of the Energy Project, Tony Schwartz, conducted a poll on Huffington Post. In it, he surveyed 1,200 self-admitted workaholics about their experiences at the workplace. Here are the results:
- 60% of respondents stated they spend ~20 minutes on lunch breaks.
- 20% of respondents stated they spend ~10 minutes on lunch breaks.
- 20% of respondents stated they DON'T take their lunch breaks or any breaks at all.
This data is in line with that of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In it, 75% of self-admitted workaholics state they eat lunch at their desks at least three times per week.
As a result of such poor eating habits, workaholics are likely to suffer additional health issues. If the problem escalates to a starvation diet, one of the possible outcomes can even be death.
Workaholism around the world
Developed countries experience the effects of workaholism to a larger or smaller degree. From Japan to Norway and the United States, workaholic behavior is a pervasive issue many workers have to deal with.
For the next section, we will dissect the main findings of studies on workaholism in some of the most affluent nations.
Workaholism in the UK
According to a UK-based survey that covered 2,000 employees, as many as 40% say they cannot switch off after work. In fact, as many as one-third of respondents believe others would label them as workaholics.
Emails also prove to be a big challenge for UK employees with workaholic tendencies. Likewise, this common type of recurring task prompts:
- 57% of respondents to check their emails during the weekend,
- 30% of respondents to check their emails throughout the night, and
- 20% of respondents to check their emails while in bed.
In addition, 16% of respondents say they can't eat without checking their emails. For illustration, one in five has health problems over such diligent work.
To cap off the workaholism-related situation in the UK, as much as 97% of people surveyed take additional work home and fail to leave work on time.
Workaholism in Germany
A representative study in Germany examined 8,000 people in search of workaholic behavior across all sectors in the country. The Institute of the German Federation of Trade Unions commissioned the research through its Hans Böckler Foundation.
The main findings suggest that 33% of the German workforce excessively worked during the study, while 9.8% exhibited compulsive behavior. On the positive side, as many as 54.9% of employees said they approached their tasks at work in a relaxed manner.
Worryingly, however, women were overall more likely to be workaholics than men. At the same time, researchers said that youth aged 15 to 24 were far more likely to suffer from workaholism than older workers aged 55 to 64.
Finally, the same study found that self-employed people have a far greater risk of developing addictive approaches to work. This seems alarming considering that there are almost four million self-employed individuals in the country.
Workaholism in the United States
According to the economics department at Washington University in St. Louis, many positive changes are underway.
As stated in their study on workaholic tendencies, the top-earning 10% of the male population in the US labor market clocked 77 fewer work hours in 2022 than in 2019. Similarly, female employees cut back time at work by 29 hours for the same period.
Interestingly, one of the co-authors, Yongseok Shin, told The Wall Street Journal that many workaholics are "pulling back, often by choice."
So, are Americans overworked?
Well, according to the previously mentioned article in the New York Post, workaholism is a self-identified trait of many modern-day Americans.
In fact, this article also shows that 48% of Americans consider themselves to be workaholics. But, only 28% of them claim they work so hard because of financial necessity. Moreover, an average American works 4 hours per week for free and spends an additional 4 hours per week just thinking about work.
However, a paper by Griffiths, Lisha, and Sussman (2011) indicates that only about 10% of American workers have a true addiction to work. This gives rise to the theory that people may be confused about what workaholism really is.
Workaholism in Norway
In 2014, one nationwide survey in Norway showed that the prevalence of workaholism was 8.3% among the country’s employers and employees. Here is a rundown of the most striking findings of the country-based research:
- Women were somewhat more susceptible to workaholism than men (51% vs. 49%).
- The age group with the largest prevalence of workaholism was 46-58 years old (36.5%).
- Workers living with a partner were much more susceptible to workaholism than workers not living with a partner (82.5% vs. 17.5%).
- Employees without childcare responsibility were somewhat more susceptible to workaholism than workers with childcare responsibility (57% vs. 43%).
- Workers with a 100% full-time equivalent were much more susceptible to workaholism than workers with a lower full-time equivalent (78.3% vs. 21.7%).
- People with vocational school education were most likely to be workaholics (33.7%).
Yet, a more recent study from 2019 shows that the numbers are slightly better, with the prevalence of workaholism being 7.3%. However, it all depends on the particular industry, work environment, and work setting that researchers are analyzing.
For example, a group of Scandinavian researchers looked into Norwegian remote and office employees after the outbreak of Covid.
In a nutshell, they found that the workload contributed to work engagement in employees working from home. In other words, the study emphasized that family-friendly policies significantly contributed to employees' well-being.
Workaholism in Japan
Japan is famous for its work ethic but also notorious for its workaholic tendencies.
As a result, Karoshi, or "death by overwork," is a common occurrence in Japan. In fact, it is tied to:
- Heart attacks,
- Starvation diets, and
The threat of Karoshi is so prevalent that the Japanese government accepts some 200 workplace injury claims for Karoshi every year. Additionally, one study suggests that authorities recorded 1,949 work-related deaths and suicide attempts in 2019 due to overwork.
Yet, anti-Karoshi campaigners declare that there are around 10,000 deaths caused by this modern-day disease annually.
The cause for these figures is likely linked to the real length of the Japanese work week and the tendencies in their work culture. Namely, they often clock about 80 hours of overtime per month. Also, one study has found that as many as 63% of Japanese employees feel guilty about taking annual leave.
Some initiatives to combat this issue include assigning "embarrassment" capes for people who work overtime. Similar activities led to the introduction of Premium Fridays (the permission to leave at 3 p.m. on the last Friday of the month).
Sadly, it is still unclear whether employees actually leave work at the agreed time on Premium Fridays. At any rate, it seems that the abolishment of the workaholic culture in Japan still has a long way to go.
Countries with the highest share of people working long hours
We already talked about how working long hours differs from being a workaholic. But, although people who work long hours are not necessarily workaholics, people who are workaholics do tend to work long hours.
The latest Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data highlights the five countries where people work the longest hours in any given year. In other words, they indicate that their employees may have a higher chance of developing workaholism. Here’s the list with data from 2021:
- Mexico — with 2,128 hours worked,
- Costa Rica — with 2,073 hours worked,
- Colombia — with 1,964 hours worked,
- Chile — with 1,916 hours worked, and
- South Korea — with 1,915 hours worked.
However, it is worth noting that this list of the most overworked countries changes almost every year.
Global workaholism vs. hourly productivity
So, why do workaholics tend to work longer hours?
Sometimes, it is actually because they (or their organizations) think it makes them more productive.
Yet, OECD research from 2021 indicates otherwise. In fact, they state that the number of hours worked is not linked to productivity, at least not in terms of GDP per hour worked.
In that sense, Ireland ($139.2), Luxembourg ($119.2), and Norway ($106.2) take the first three spots in terms of the highest GDP per hour worked.
|Country||GDP per hour worked||Average hours worked per week|
Coincidently, none of the top ten countries with the highest GDP per hour worked can be found in the list of the top ten countries with the highest average hours worked per week.
In effect, this means that long working hours don’t translate into higher GDP or higher income, for that matter. In other words, employees in wealthier countries work fewer hours while earning a lot more than their counterparts in low-income and middle-income countries.
The link between work environment and long hours in Columbia
Although Colombia has the highest number of hours worked per week (47.8), they also have the lowest GDP per hour worked ($14.3).
For illustration, the Miami-based newspaper Infobae cites a literature review on work dynamics in Colombia. One of the findings is that 85% of employees believe that problems at work negatively impact their relationships with children, spouses, or other family members.
Similarly, the same research suggests that work stress, fatigue, and anxiety are among the major culprits contributing to a toxic work environment. To that effect, 62% of workers in companies and organizations stated they suffered from some of these physical and mental health issues.
Along similar lines, Colombian employees working long hours are also less likely to be productive overall. In fact, the stress-induced health issues and other problems that come with workaholic tendencies are more likely to make productivity plummet over time rather than help increase it.
Global workaholism and vacations
One of the workaholic tendencies includes working past the expected number of hours per day and thinking about work even when not working. Therefore, it is no surprise that workaholics often struggle while on vacation. Likewise, some aim to put their minds at ease by working while vacationing or simply leaving their days off unused.
Speaking of which, a 2021 study by the US Travel Association suggests that American employees left an average of 33% of their paid time off unused from the previous year. This comes despite the fact that as many as 97% said that planning a trip makes them happier.
On a more positive note, Japanese employees took more days off in 2020 than in previous years, according to government reports. Similarly, the authorities mandate that workers with more than ten days of unused annual leave take at least five days off.
In Germany, employees are entitled to a minimum of 24 days of vacation over an entire year. In fact, the law allows you to carry over unused days into the next three years.
To continue with the good news, a report by GlobalData suggests that German vacationers will get back to 2019 levels of international vacations by 2024. In effect, this means surpassing the number of 116 million outbound tourists in 2019.
Professor Sir Cary Cooper and Dr. Ian Hesketh of UK's Alliance Manchester Business School coined the term leaveism. The phenomenon describes employees taking work on a holiday to avoid being seen as lazy by their managers or because they are overwhelmed with tasks.
Likewise, one study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development saw more than two-thirds of respondents report that leaveism had occurred in their organization in 2018.
To add to these numbers, a study by Passport Photo Online found that 68% of people use smartphones for work while traveling. As a result, 62% of respondents felt that using their devices for work while vacationing made it difficult for them to relax and recharge.
The single biggest reason for such behavior was, researchers found, the need to check in because of expectations at work. In turn, as many as 66% of people said they wish they had been out of touch while vacationing and not connected.
The pandemic and workaholics
The Covid pandemic has increased productivity among many remote workers. In fact, the University of Southampton's Work After Lockdown study suggests that 54% of people thought their productivity had gotten higher for every hour they worked than before the pandemic.
With this in mind, the Covid-induced work environment has led to many employees wanting to reassess their potentially workaholic habits. In that sense, one study found that workaholic frequency increased significantly after the pandemic, leading to:
- Difficulty maintaining sleep,
- Insufficient sleep, and
- Issues initiating sleep.
Another study examined 668 employees in Lithuanian organizations. In this case, researchers discovered that the positive relationship between workaholism and workload was stronger among remote workers. The findings suggest that remote work is a critical variable that increases the risk of workaholism.
Yet, some cultures handled the issue of workaholic tendencies during and after the pandemic differently. For example, one 2022 cross-cultural study covering Europe and Asia by a group of researchers concluded that how the health crisis affects workaholics' behavior depends on:
- Sex and cultural differences, and
- Stages of the human life cycle.
The experts suggest that the respondents from Asia showed a vast increase in the level of workaholism compulsive behavior.
On the other hand, European participants noted higher levels of workaholism compulsive and workaholism excessive behavior. This leads us to conclude that European respondents handled the pandemic worse than their Asian counterparts.
So far, you have learned the definitions of workaholism from many expert authors. You also better understand what distinguishes workaholics from people working hard and you know what causes workaholism.
However, one crucial piece is missing: How does a person stop being a workaholic?
In the following section, we will explore this topic and provide seven tactics anyone can use on themselves or others.
How to stop being a workaholic?
If you feel you are addicted to working, you can approach this problem the same way other people with addictions would. For example, you can go through an anonymous multi-step program to learn how to overcome workaholism.
One such solution is to join Workaholics Anonymous. The organization’s only prerequisite for future members is the desire to stop working compulsively. They offer meetings, literature, and annual conferences. So, you can connect with and seek support from people experiencing the same struggles as you.
For other addiction treatment options, you can visit the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), which provides guidance.
Healthline, a reputable website and provider of medical information, also advises further consultations with an expert. Considering that work addiction can be associated with certain mental health conditions (such as depression), it is best that you also consult with a professional to assess your current mental health.
Apart from that, other tactics you can consider include:
- Making crucial lifestyle changes,
- Focusing only on a select set of priority tasks each day,
- Avoiding your biggest stressors as much as possible,
- Limiting access to email only to work hours, unless absolutely necessary,
- Working no more than 40 hours per week, unless absolutely necessary,
- Setting realistic expectations in terms of workload and deadlines, and
- Working on balancing your life activities better.
Wrapping up: Workaholism diminishes life quality and work satisfaction
Workaholism is a prevalent issue among working individuals, occasionally falsely depicted in popular media. So, try not to aim to be a workaholic just because you have read about a multi-talented business magnate or media personality who claims to owe their success to a 24/7 work routine.
Instead, aim to be productive and organize your work so that you finish more in less time — but also with less stress. In other words, strive to have a good work ethic.
Here are our main takeaways in this regard:
- Work long hours when needed, but don't overdo it at the cost of your health.
- Love your job (and be passionate about it) but also leave time for other important things in life.
- Strive for a better work/life balance. Seek professional advice to achieve this if you find that you already have workaholic tendencies.
As a result, you will be more efficient at your job — and healthier and happier in your private life.
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