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Are You a Compulsive Worker?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 5 Mar 2014 | comments*Discuss
Compulsive Workers Working Hours

Years ago it predictions suggested that computers would make life easier for us; we’d get to enjoy more leisure time and have a great work-life balance. So why are people working harder and for longer hours than ever before? We can't place the entire blame on the computer. We live in a world beset by consumerism – having it now, paying for it later and amassing more and more possessions all of which have to be paid for at some time or other. Companies, too, are feeling the pinch – fears of downsizing and redundancies are never too far away from the surface so we feel even more compelled to work longer and harder simply just to keep our jobs. Let’s take a look at the effects.

The Economy and Competitivity

As companies lay off staff to remain competitive, the volume of work tends to stay the same or, sometimes, even increases leaving the staff that still work there to take up the slack.

More people now bring work home with them than ever before and this, often after a working day that can span 10 hours or more, if you factor in getting to and from work. Inevitably, this is going to have a detrimental effect on family life and when that starts to happen, the situation can be said to have reached crisis point.

Technology Changes

IT and telecommunications have revolutionised the way we work. First it was the fax – now we live in a world dominated by e-mail, web conferencing, messaging and mobile devices. In other words, we’re connected 24 hours a day which means that workers find it almost impossible to put work to one side, even for a minute.

Even holidays these days rarely get completed without the need to visit an internet café – that’s if you haven’t taken your laptop with you.

Finances and Consumerism

These days, especially in the developed countries, we live in a world where we tend to view ourselves and others in terms of material wealth, what kind of house we live in and what car we drive being the two most obvious examples and, therefore, we have to work longer and harder just to pay for this luxury lifestyle. At the other end of the scale, it’s not simply the rich who have fallen into the trap of compulsive working – people who have poorly paid jobs are equally as vulnerable and susceptible to working ridiculously long hours and some will have two or even more jobs just to pay the bills and to keep the wolf away from the door.

How to Tell if You’re at Risk

No one is saying that you shouldn’t work hard. After all, if you look around at most of the successful entrepreneurs in life, they’ll all advocate working hard if you want to reap the rewards but it’s a real fine line that separates hard work from compulsive working and being labelled a ‘workaholic’. Here are a few questions you may want to ask yourself to see which category you fit into.

  • Do I put in the extra hours occasionally just to meet a deadline or a one-off demand or do I see my workplace as a place of safety to escape the pressures life in general and to avoid facing up to feelings and other commitments?
  • Am I able to set time constraints on the amount of work I do and to set aside time for my other commitments and to my family and leisure time or does work always first, even if that means postponing or cancelling time planned for spending with the family?
  • Can I put my work to one side or am I constantly thinking about it even when I’m supposed to be relaxing with family or friends?

Tips for Getting the Balance Right

You may get a pat on the back from your boss for always ‘going the extra mile’ and all the extra work may afford you the luxury of buying that top of the range car you’ve had your eye on but….at what expense? Here are some tips to get your Work/ Life Balance right:

  • Keep a diary and set aside ‘in stone’ designated time which you’re going to spend with your family and/or with friends (non-work colleagues). Ensure that this time cannot be altered
  • Learn how to delegate tasks to others and learn how to say ‘No’
  • Set aside longer periods of time to get away from work – weekends away etc
  • Take up exercise if you haven’t already done so and maybe find a hobby. In other words, find some other kind of activity to keep your mind off working for a while.
  • Tell yourself that it really is OK to just kick back, relax and do absolutely nothing now and again
  • Get into the routine of a decent sleep pattern – regular physical exercise will help you with this.

Compulsive working has destroyed countless relationships and has been cited as the primary reason for thousands of marital and family break-ups. If you find that you’re at your happiest when you are working, even happier than when you’re spending time with your family and friends - you’re in grave danger. You need to ask yourself whether your family, friends and even your health is worth putting in jeopardy because of the time you spend working. If you don’t want to become another casualty statistic, you do need to take some kind of intervention quickly before it’s too late.

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