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“Workaholic”: Are You One?

being a workaholic is bad for your well-being
Find out if you're a workaholic by assessing yourself on the four key components of workaholism!

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Do you think you might be a workaholic? Keep reading and we will help you find out for sure! We admit that we often struggle with overwork as well. It’s really hard to create boundaries around your work. This is especially true when you’re working remotely, as many of us are during COVID-19. When your office and your home are the same, it is harder to turn “off” work. But, it’s important to know if you’re a workaholic. This is because workaholism has been linked to burnout, job stress, work–life conflict, and decreased physical and mental health. Past definitions of workaholism have been fuzzy. But new research defines it as having four key components. Keep reading to learn more about those components and to see which ones might be relevant to you.

Component 1: Feeling Motivated to Be a Workaholic

It’s 5pm – a signifier that it’s the end of the workday. Do you feel an inner “push” to keep working? Then you might have a high motivation for workaholism. Being motived to work all the time is one of the key components of being a workaholic. It’s hard to unwind at the end of the day if there is an inner voice telling you to keep going. This isn’t the same as simply having too much on your plate. Even if you’re done working for the day, and technically things could wait until tomorrow – do you still feel compelled to keep going?

Ask yourself the following questions. Do you feel compelled to work, even if there isn’t anything urgent on your plate? Are you constantly feeling an urge to work, even when you don’t have to? Do you feel like you constantly desire work over other activities? If the answer to these questions is yes, you would score high on the motivational component of workaholism.

Being a workaholic might mean being motivated to keep working
If you’re constantly telling yourself that you have to keep working, you might be very motivated to be a workaholic.

Component 2: Constantly Thinking About Work

There is also a cognitive component to being a workaholic. This consists of persistent, and intrusive, thoughts about work. Do you ever find yourself in the middle of another activity, but you can’t stop thinking about work? As with the above component, this is not relevant if you’re in a crisis situation. In other words, if there is something urgent going on at work, you might be inclined to think about it regardless. However, if you are obsessively thinking about work all the time, you might be high on the cognitive component of workaholism.

To know if you’re high on this component, ask yourself some questions. Do you spend most of your free time thinking about work? Are most of your thoughts related to your work in some way? You should count thoughts that are not directly about work but are relevant to your work. For example, if you’re thinking “I should go for a run now before I get another work email”, that is still a work-related thought. When your work day is done, is it hard for you to stop thinking about working, even if you try? If you answered these questions affirmatively, you would score high on the cognitive component of workaholism.

Component 3: Feeling Guilty About Not Being a Workaholic

We have talked about how a culture of overwork can be difficult to combat. This might influence your scores on the emotional component of being a workaholic. If you feel negative emotions when you’re not working, that is another sign that you are a workaholic. These emotions could be guilt or anxiety. You might also feel negative emotions if you’re prevented from working. These emotions might be more like frustration or anger. Imagine you have taken PTO to go on vacation, but when you arrive at your hotel, you find their Wi-Fi doesn’t work. Would that make you upset, because you couldn’t work if you wanted to? That’s just one example, but a good test of your workaholism.

If you have to take a day off, for health or other reasons, do you feel annoyed? Are you frustrated if you’re in a situation where you couldn’t work if you wanted to (but you don’t have to)? If you have to stop working to pay attention to something else, do you get irritated? If you experience negative emotions when you aren’t working, even if there isn’t anything urgent to do, you’d score high on the emotional component of workaholism.

Being a workaholic means feeling negative emotions when you can't work
Does being unable to work make you upset? You might be a workaholic if you feel negatively about being away from work!

Component 4: Acting Like a Workaholic

Finally, if you’re a workaholic, you might act like one. What does this mean? The behavioral component of workaholism includes working excessively, beyond what is required or expected. If you’re setting a tone of overwork in your team, this might be relevant to you. For example, are you the one who is always sending late or early emails? Do you expect others to respond to work requests in off hours? Are you constantly working and telling others about your long hours? This might be a sign that you are working more than others and beyond expectations.

To find out if you’re behaving like a workaholic, ask these questions. Do you keep working through lunch or other breaks, even when your coworkers are taking a breather? Do you always exceed expectations for how many hours you spend “on the clock”? Are you doing more than what you’re required to do in your job, without being asked? Finally, if you added up all the hours that everyone on your team works, would you be at the top of the list? If so, you might be high on the behavioral component of workaholism.

How did you fare? If you’re high on all four components, you are high on workaholism. We struggle with this as well, but the first step is recognizing it. Notice when you do the above things and tell yourself it’s ok to stop and smell the roses instead!

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