Posted by Robert Half on 31 May 2016
"Am I a workaholic?"
If this is a question the comes to mind more regularly than you would like, then read on for the signs that you may be working too hard.
We all have times when the workaholic lifestyle feels like the only way to get through the week, especially when the duties are demanding. But where exactly do you need to draw the line? Having a strong work ethic is one thing – being unable to switch off and unwind is very much another.
If you work pretty much non-stop, and can’t even contemplate a day off, it sounds like you've turned into a workaholic. Putting in the extra hours might generate results initially, but it won't be long before you've ground yourself down. And fatigued, exhausted employees are little use to their organisations.
By taking note of these early warning signs, you should be able to keep things on an even keel and find a work-life balance:
1. You're first to arrive...and last to leave
Are you the first person to arrive at the office in the morning? This isn't in itself a bad thing – professionals often find they are most productive at the start of the day, particularly when there are fewer distractions in a quiet workplace. But if you're also the one also switching off the lights at night, then there may be a problem. There's only so long you can burn the midnight oil before it starts to have an impact on your performance levels and time management. Putting in a standard shift in top gear is always a better option than working 12 hours straight in a tired malaise.
2. You have no hobbies or interests
When was the last time you took part in some sort of activity you enjoy outside of work? Some people spend every waking hour performing employment duties – or when they're not actually working, they're thinking about it. This leaves little time for anything else, whether at home or socially with friends. The upshot of this is that your social circle slowly evaporates due to the lack of a work-life balance, leaving you with just colleagues and clients on your contacts list.
3. You're constantly stressed
Sometimes a little stress at work is no bad thing – it ensures professionals are motivated to complete projects and meet important deadlines. But if you find yourself in a constant state of worry – even when you're not at work – this can be problematic. Sometimes workaholics find they are stressed because they aren't at work – essentially suffering withdrawal symptoms at weekends. This isn't good for your short or long-term health.
4. You never take a lunch break
If you find you've never got the time to take a proper lunch break, ask yourself – is this a voluntary or involuntary decision? If your organisation can't spare you half an hour to sit and eat your sandwiches, then it needs to think about recruiting additional employees to add capacity. Employees need to set aside time every day for breaks and make sure they take them – it's as much about giving your brain a rest as anything else. This ensures you're ready to fire on all cylinders in the afternoon.
5. You check your emails every five minutes
There's nothing wrong with a regular check of your inbox while you're at work – it's important to keep on top of your emails. But once you head home for the evening, it's a different matter. You're paid to work during the day, not 24-7. So unless it's an absolutely urgent email, you shouldn't be spending your evening responding – or sending messages of your own. Depending on the nature of your job, you might have emails coming in throughout the evening. If you pick up your phone or tablet every time it buzzes, you'll never put the thing down.
6. You get impatient with everyone else
It could be the employee who leaves early every Friday or the parent who wants to reduce their hours – do you get frustrated with colleagues who seemingly work fewer hours than you do? If so, it may well be you who is the workaholic. The most important thing from an employer's perspective is productivity and value - rather than the number of hours you work. So just because other people leave at 5pm on the dot, it doesn't mean they are doing a bad job. It may just be that they've found a better, healthier work-life balance.
7. You have one topic of conversation
You don't know what's happening in the news, what the result of the big game was, or even who the prime minister is these days. If it's not work-related, it isn't worth discussing. But if this sounds like you – and you genuinely only have one topic of conversation – it won't be long before you bore everyone else around you to tears.
Take action before work takes over your life
If these signs of workaholism ring true for you, it's time to take action – here are some tips on how you can make sure you get out of the office on time today.
It is important to work hard and give your all to your employer. Showing commitment to your organisation can be good for career development – it can give you the edge on other similarly-performing professionals. But if you are a workaholic, and fail to achieve a sensible work-life balance, you're setting yourself up to fail in the long term.
*This article was originally published in October 2014 and has been amended to reflect more recent information.