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Recognising a workaholic

Technology has allowed workers to be more connected than ever before but the inability to switch off is leading people to work longer hours without having anything to show for it.

A study from the Australia Productivity Commission estimates that absenteeism costs employers around $4.7 billion a year, while presenteeism costs way more at $6.1 billion.

According to Instant Offices, a flexible workplace consultant, presenteeism often starts at the top with work-obsessed CEO’s creating a culture where people stay longer hours.

For employees this can lead to them having lower productivity as they find ways to spend more hours at their desk, fearing judgement from colleagues rather than focusing on the quality of their output.

“This can lead to burnout, unhappiness and increased health issues, which end up impacting both company and employee negatively in the long run,” said Lucina Pullinger, global head of HR at Instant Offices.

It is not just employees that can feel the sting of workaholism, it can impact business growth as CEO’s who work longer hours may create a workplace bottleneck by not effectively delegating and micromanaging teams.

“It also sends the message to employees that they’re not trusted or talented enough to meet expectations, which can cause tension and unhappiness,” said Ms Pullinger.

A Harvard Business Review study of 27 CEO’s found time management was the greatest challenge for the group, with 72 per cent spending a majority of their time in meetings.

Ms Pullinger said that there were seven criteria that indicated work addiction according to the Bergen Work Addiction Scale, and replying often and always to at least four indicated an addiction to work.

  1. You think of how you can free up more time to work.
  2. You spend much more time working than initially intended.
  3. You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and depression.
  4. You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
  5. You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
  6. You deprioritise hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work.
  7. You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

“While the dedication to put in extra hours is a valuable trait, it’s important to manage a healthy balance in the long-term,” said Ms Pullinger.

There was a difference between a workaholic and a hard worker she said and leadership had to install practices to ensure overwork.

“Shorten meetings, set dedicated working times where people can focus and create a culture of face to face interaction rather than using email. Around 40% of employees believe work distraction could also be drastically reduced with flexible and remote working options, according to a report by Udemy,” Ms Pullinger said.

Workplaces should instill a 40-hour work week for everyone, management included and crucially Ms Pullinger said workplaces needed to encourage digital detox’s.

“Set the tone in your organisation by normalising the fact that employees don’t have to adopt an always-on attitude. There are several apps that can assist by locking your devices for a period of time.”

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