Companies such as TAC Securities and Slice grabbed headlines across business publications and journals in India, for introducing the concept of shorter work weeks, with only four or three days of working for their employees.
Many HR leaders still have their doubts about such a move, primarily because they do not think it is sustainable. Many companies come up with such fancy policies to attract talent; and talent does get drawn to such companies in anticipation of less working hours, and hence, lesser stress and better health, as the chances of workaholism are reduced. What such talent do not realise is that, workaholism is not directly related to long working hours.
Even people who work for lesser hours can suffer from workaholism, and as a result, face health issues such as depression and sleeplessness and so on. Yes, it is unbelievable but true.
“Workaholism is not really about working for long hours but more to do with the behaviour of an individual”
Reena Wahi, head – HR, Tata Realty
In a study conducted by some researchers — covering over 700 employees of a financial services firm — found that health issues related to workaholism have no connection with working for long hours. According to the study, people who failed to disconnect themselves from work faced more sleeplessness, tended to be more cynical, were more emotionally exhausted, and suffered depression, irrespective of the number of hours they worked.
The term ‘workaholics’ was coined by Wayne E Oates, in 1968. He defined a workaholic as someone with “an uncontrollable need to work incessantly.” Wayne likened some people’s relationship with work to alcoholism or substance abuse!
Workaholism vs hard work
Simply put, workaholics are addicted to work. It is pertinent to clarify here that there is a difference between hard workers and workaholics. The former are passionate about their work, internally motivated, and are aware of the need for work-life balance. They compete with themselves and strive to achieve their personal goals. Workaholics, on the other hand, are compulsively motivated and have no social ties. They are willing to sacrifice family and enjoyment just to work more.
What is worth noting here is that even hard-working employee may be stressed about immediate deadlines and be obsessed over completing certain tasks.
After all, stress is inevitable, in any job. When there are deadlines, one has to conquer them. However, in a hard-working employee’s life, these stressful moments are momentary. For instance, hard workers may feel anxious about approaching deadlines, but once they pass, they do relax.
“I am noticing a rise in the number of people turning into workaholics”
Nilay Nilay, CHRO, India Shelter Finance Corporation
Workaholics, on the other hand, constantly think about work. In their minds, work occupies the maximum space. They think about work and stress over it all the time, unlike the hard-working employees who know exactly when to stop and switch off.
Talking to HRKatha, Reena Wahi, head – HR, Tata Realty, says, “Workaholism is not really about working for long hours but more to do with the behaviour of an individual.”
“I am noticing a rise in the number of people turning into workaholics,” says Nilay Nilay, CHRO, India Shelter Finance Corporation. In fact, Nilay blames technology for making people workaholics. Devices such as smartphones, keep people connected to work even when they are not physically present in the office or involved in activities outside of work. Technology allows people to access their mails and messages through their smartphones, anywhere.
Another rationale is that people who are really engaged at work, truly love what they do and spend long hours doing the work they enjoy are not workaholics. That is because, workaholics are not really engaged at work at all. They are only compelled to work, unlike engaged people who are intrinsically driven or motivated to work out of passion or joy.
How to reduce workaholism at workplaces
Believe it or not, workaholics exist everywhere, in all workplaces. Can something be done about them? What can one really do to stop workaholism from cascading down to others?
First of all, organisations need to stop encouraging and rewarding workaholic behaviour. “If we do not stop encouraging workaholic behaviour at the workplace, people will assume that is the only way to achieve success in the company,” shares Wahi.
“Workaholism is a habit that is hard to curb or control. However, I think this is where managers need to become coaches and mentors to such people”
Jayati Roy, director – HR, Barco India
Also, managers and HR partners will have to constantly counsel people showing signs of workaholism at the workplace. Such people will need to be told that they should switch off from work when they get the time. “Workaholism is a habit that is hard to curb or control. However, I think this is where managers need to become coaches and mentors to such people,” points out Jayati Roy, director – HR, Barco India.
The Bergen Work Addiction Scale developed by Norwegian researchers can be used to gauge whether an individual is a workaholic or not. The scale requires people to respond to seven questions or statements by choosing one of the following options — Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Often, and Always:
– Think of how you can free up more time to work.
– Spend much more time working than initially intended.
– Work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, and depression.
– Have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
– Become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
– Deprioritise hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work.
– Work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.
If the respondent picks ‘Often’ or ‘Always’ at least four times, he or she is either a workaholic or at serious risk of becoming one.
The ideal thing to do, if one finds oneself suffering from or at the brink of workaholism, is to simply accept it and then seriously work on making positive changes. One can begin by altering one’s working schedule, adhering to specific working hours and prioritising tasks.
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