If you manage a team or lead a company, you hope that your employees have a strong work ethic.
No doubt, this is something you look for when you’re interviewing job candidates. You want a team or a company of people who are passionate about the business and who go above and beyond, or at the very least, do their very best, every day.
But be careful what you wish for, because there’s a fine line between a hard worker and a workaholic.
What’s a Workaholic?
A workaholic can be defined as someone who “has a compulsive … need to work.” Here are a few signs that one of your employees might be a workaholic:
1. They are always the first one at the office and the last one to leave.
2. They look for ways to make more time to do work.
3. They spend more time at the office than they had planned.
4. They’ve been told to reduce their workload, but they can’t find a way to do so.
5. They spend less and less time on hobbies, family or leisure activities and more time on work.
6. Their health begins to suffer as they work more and more.
Why Workaholic Tendencies Are More Common Than Ever
In today’s workplace, it’s increasingly easier to work from home, thanks to the proliferation of laptops, smartphones and other technological advancements.
While that can be beneficial, offering employees more flexibility, it also means that when an employee leaves the office for the day, they can have more difficulty leaving work at work, and instead compulsively check and respond to work emails, flip open that laptop after dinner, etc.
Compounding the problem, being a workaholic has become something to strive for, not avoid, in today’s society. Bragging about how busy we are, how overextended, how much we have going on – all of these things are seen as notches in our belt. Being a workaholic, then, is somewhat of a badge of honor, something to brag about.
The reality, however, is much different.
Harmful Effects of Being a Workaholic
Being a workaholic has serious mental and physical health consequences. Some of the physical health consequences include:
• Heart disease
• Elevated blood pressure
• Weight gain
Other effects of working too much are just as dire, and include:
• Strain on personal relationships
• Increased risk of marital breakdown
• Loss of employee engagement
• Higher levels of stress and depression in children of workaholic parents
• Deteriorating relationships with co-workers
Problems for the Workplace
Collectively, and ironically, the consequences of being a workaholic can have an extremely detrimental effect on the employee’s work performance. Employees who work excessively long hours and don’t use their vacation time are actually less productive and score worse on performance reviews, research has found.
Other consequences on the employee and the workplace are less measurable but just as important. Workaholic employees can quickly burn out, resulting in:
• Sleep deprivation
• Loss of creativity
• Loss of productivity
• Lashing out at co-workers
• Missing deadlines
• Incurring unnecessary overtime pay
How Managers Can Prevent a Hard Worker from Becoming a Workaholic
If you manage a team or a company, there are several things you can do to prevent one of your employees from becoming a workaholic.
First, promote a work culture where taking time off is encouraged. Let your employees know when someone is on vacation and send the message that vacation time is not only acceptable but encouraged. Show them how to use the timecard system and make timecard changes so they understand how PTO time is processed and how much vacation time they are allowed to take.
Also, have a system for managing time-off requests and making sure that projects still get done even when someone is out of the office.
You may also want to tell employees that you understand that work has to be completed after hours in rare cases, but that any time an employee works after leaving the office, they should document the hours by making timecard changes. That will help you see when an employee is working harder than they should.
Another thing you can do is make sure performance is based on outcomes, not hours worked, and watch out for employees who are spending too many hours in the office. A good time and attendance tracking system can help you see problem areas, avoid excessive overtime pay, and help your employees manage their own time more effectively.
Workaholics can be a dangerous and tricky problem to manage in the workplace, but by understanding the signs, you can learn to proactively manage your employees and cultivate a workplace where taking breaks is not only allowed, but encouraged.