Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The High Price You Pay By Being A Workaholic

It is a fact that men tend to be workaholics more often than women, and that up to 90% of office visits to the doctor are for stress-related symptoms.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):

Job stress has become a common and costly problem in the American workplace, leaving few workers untouched. For example, studies report the following:

  • One-fourth of employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives.

-Northwestern National Life

  • Three-fourths of employees believe the worker has more on-the-job stress than a generation ago.

-Princeton Survey Research Associates

  • Problems at work are more strongly associated with health complaints than are any other life stressor-more so than even financial problems or family problems.

-St. Paul Fire and Marine Innsuance Co.

Job Stress and Health: What the Research Tells Us

Cardiovascular Disease
Many studies suggest that psychologically demanding jobs that allow employees little control over the work process increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Musculoskeletal Disorders
On the basis of research by NIOSH and many other organizations, it is widely believed that job stress increases the risk for development of back and upper- extremity musculoskeletal disorders.

Psychological Disorders
Several studies suggest that differences in rates of mental health problems (such as depression and burnout) for various occupations are due partly to differences in job stress levels. (Economic and lifestyle differences between occupations may also contribute to some of these problems.)

Workplace Injury
Although more study is needed, there is a growing concern that stressful working conditions interfere with safe work practices and set the stage for injuries at work.

Suicide, Cancer, Ulcers, and Impaired Immune Function
Some studies suggest a relationship between stressful working conditions and these health problems. However, more research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.

-Encyclopaedia of Occupational Safety and Health

[So, what are you going to do about it? Here is an article from Yahoo!HotJobs that identifies five main workaholic behaviors and how to change them.]

The High Cost of Being A Workaholic

Caroline Levchuck, Yahoo! HotJobs

In a nation of overachievers, hard work is a virtue. If you work hard, you'll achieve your goals. If you work even harder, you'll achieve even more. Right?

Perhaps not. There are, in fact, several downsides to working too hard. Being the office workaholic can cost you coveted promotions, hurt your home life, and even turn friends into enemies. Evaluate yourself with the following five questions.

1. Are you busy ... or disorganized?

Are you constantly staying late and coming in early yet producing the same output as others? If so, your boss may come to view you as inefficient and possibly disorganized. Dave Cheng, an executive coach with Athena Coaching, says, "There are some people, type A's, who get a lot of satisfaction from doing lots of work, but the quality isn't necessarily superior."

Focus on getting your work done in a reasonable time frame. If you have perfectionism or time-management issues, ask your supervisor to help you prioritize things and learn when to let go of a task. Cheng says, "Just because you're working longer doesn't mean you're working better."

2. Are you delegating ... or hoarding?

If you have any aspirations at all to move into management, you must learn to delegate work. Again, tasks need to be completed in a timely fashion; if you're having trouble finishing a project, you must delegate to other team members, even if you happen to relish the task you're giving away.

Cheng, who has more than 12 years of experience in corporate human resources, reveals, "Some workers feel like if they do everything and they're the only one who knows how to do it, they're making themselves irreplaceable. However, sharing information and teaching others around you is a valued skill as far as management is concerned."

Focus on completion and quality and be generous enough to let a colleague learn and shine. If you lack sufficient support, ask your boss about expanding your group.

3. Are you hungry ... or is your plate full?

Once you've solidified your reputation as the office workaholic, you may find that when your dream project comes through the door, you aren't asked to work on it. Why? Your boss probably thinks you don't have the bandwidth to take on anything else. Always keep a bit of room in your schedule to sink your teeth into new challenges and opportunities.

Cheng reminds professionals, "Your ability to say no to certain things gives you the freedom to say yes to others."

4. Do you have friends ... or 'frenemies'?

Your workaholic ways are likely alienating once-valued associates. Above and beyond the obvious grumblings of, "You're making the rest of us look bad," your colleagues may dread collaborating on a project with you.

Lose the overly methodical approach, don't expect folks to come in early or stay late for meetings, and focus on process and outcome.

5. Do you work to live ... or live to work?

The best workers are well-rounded professionals with full lives, in and out of the office. Each year, new studies abound about the importance of vacations, hobbies, and enjoying your leisure time. But are you listening?

Your friends and family will be in your life a lot longer than you'll hold most jobs. Also, pursuing leisure activities you're passionate about can lead to a second career.

Cheng concludes, "Work-life balance is a choice. If you reflexively say yes to taking on extra work, you may live to regret it."


G said...

Ive always been less stressed at work as opposed to 'real life' stress, if that makes sense. It is important though, to leave the work stress behind, when you leave work, it can be overwhelming and detrimental.

Michelle said...

Hi G,

I, too, have always been less stressed at work, but then I Love teaching. :-)

I really think it is the guys who most often experience workplace stress, and they are usually the ones who are workaholics, too (at least in my experience).

One of the ways to tell if you are in the right job or careeer: if you love your job/career, you will be invigorated by the work, not stressed.

G said...

Amen to that M!