Take A Reality Check: Are You A Workaholic Who Needs To Change?

Posted: April 21, 2014

As working women in India become more driven, ambitious and upfront about their goals at work, some of us also adopt the workaholic tag willingly. Is that a good thing?

If you are a working woman or one who is about to start or resume your career, here is a simple test to take:

  1. Are you one of those who love to be first in office and the last to go out?
  2. Do you miss work when you are away from it?
  3. Do you place your work above everything else?
  4. Is it hard for you to say no at work?
  5. Does the office laptop go with you on your vacations?
  6. Does working mean a lot more to you than just a monthly income and perks?

If the answer to these questions is more often a Yes than a No, you know that you have been bitten by the workaholism bug.




Hard work to grow in one’s career is extremely important but there is a thin line that demarcates it from workaholism. Hard work means putting in extra hours as and when required; such people always keep their timings in check and give priority to family.

However when it comes to workaholics, they work long hours all the time and love impossible demands with no consideration for personal life or health. While the former never lets it get there, for the latter, working becomes an addiction.

Joining men on the Workaholic bandwagon

More and more women today are approaching this near obsessive commitment to work. If you give it a thought, this rising trend can be attributed to multiple reasons.

Women today are a lot more energetic, wish to build an identity of their own and are driven to prove their self-worth in otherwise male dominated work places. Add to it the intrinsic nature of a woman to multi-task and not rest until the job gets done.

Empowerment, we have today and while it helps carve a niche for ourselves in our careers, workaholism can prove to be damaging as well. In the pursuit of striving for excellence, the possibility of crossing the line and becoming addicted cannot be denied. And as far as we women are concerned, that can not only take a direct impact on our health but on the general being of our family, especially our children as well.

So how do you know if there are any workaholic traits hidden within you? A study by Marilyn Machlowitz, Machlowitz Consultants, Inc. shows that the characteristics mentioned below define a workaholic.

  • Workaholics are intense, energetic, competitive and driven
  • Workaholics have self-doubts
  • Workaholics prefer work to leisure
  • Workaholics work anytime, anywhere
  • Workaholics make the most of their time
  • Workaholics blur the line between business and pleasure. As a result, it’s not uncommon for workaholics to have major health problems including stress-induced illnesses, chronic fatigue and increased anxiety levels

Why is it so hard to stop being a workaholic?

Workaholism is a habit that is hard to get rid off. However much you try you cannot stay away from it.

I know, because I have been there and gone through the highs and the lows that only a workaholic goes through. Almost all through my career, I worked 16-18 hours everyday, carried my laptop to every vacation I took and kept an eye on my office mails all weekends.

While the situation sounds intimidating, experts suggest various ways to deal with this situation – get yourself more organized, Say no when your plate is full, make it a point to leave office on time and most important of all, implement the Pareto principle, that 80% of your work requires only 20% of your time.

When you read tips such as these, they seem to make sense, but if anything they are extremely difficult to carry out.

Getting organized – Most workaholics are organized. We love making our To Do list for the day and ticking off tasks as they get done. That tiny tick would give me an adrenalin rush and make me want for more. If anything, being organized means the availability of time to take on more work.

Say No to Work – Until and unless there is an extremely strong reason to say no (e.g. the work is written in Greek or Latin), it is extremely tough for a workaholic to say no. If we do manage to spit out the word, within moments we are engulfed with an uneasiness to go back and undo what we have done. Saying no, cannot happen overnight. In fact it can never happen unless a major catastrophe hits our lives.

Prioritize Work – Prioritization is a task all workaholics love to do. Don’t look shocked! Prioritization helps us address all important tasks upfront and then spend hours together on the rest to get done and take on more. Deadlines is a word alien to us; our work gets done much before them anyway, so prioritizing really cannot help us change ourselves now, can it?

Follow the 80-20 principle – Pareto tells us that 80% of our work can be done in 20% of the time. Oh yes it does, but as far as we workaholics are concerned, it means we have 80% of our time left to take on more work.

Understand that workaholism does not translate to more pay or better growth – The aim of hard workers is growth; for workaholics it is much beyond that. We do not work more just to get paid more or to get that coveted designation in the organisation. We work more because that’s all we know to do. Because our mind does not settle in peace if our work is not done, we just cannot leave that baggage called work behind.

So, advice such as this usually falls on deaf ears and workaholics continue to be the way they are. But does that mean they stay so forever?  No. If there is anything that can help us change for the better it is the realization of how being a workaholic can kill our health and destroy our personal life.

From stress to dietary issues, workaholism is a mine of problems. The focus on work tends to take away your attention from regular meals and exercise. This in turn can have a dire impact on your health and lead to an early burn out at work. Socializing, meeting family and friends and other personal activities do not exist and as time goes by we are left to ourselves. Initially none of this seems to matter, but when it does, it usually is too late.

I did get my share of recognition and appreciation, but nothing that I wouldn’t have got had I spared time for having a personal life. I lost friends over the years and missed out on family moments; twiddled my thumbs when I had some free time purely because I had no idea what to do with it – work was all that I had come to know. And finally the dreaded happened – I began to burn out. My health started deteriorating to an extent that artificial supplements had to take over. Only then did I realize what workoholism had done to me.

Start getting a grip of yourself before you lose your friends and family begins to distance you. Curb those tendencies before you begin to burn out and your career reaches an untimely demise. No, you cannot stop being a workaholic and resume a different lifestyle overnight. workaholism is a part of what defines you; it will take time to change. But it is never too late to take a pause and give it a try.

Now, I am working on changing my workaholic nature. It’s not easy but after a bad experience with my health, I have come to realize that in the long run, it is something that will benefit me both from a personal as well as professional standpoint. And if there is anything that helps me live up to that determination it is this definition of a workaholic:

“We basically stay so busy that the truth of our lives can never catch up”

We don’t want to let that happen to us, do we?

Pic credit: Tobias (Used under a CC license)

Seeta Bodke is a Business Consultant and Senior Manager from the IT sector. After spending

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Comments

2 Comments


  1. Oh! I was nodding my head throughout the article. I don’t know whether that is good or bad! Every word of it is true. Workaholic-ism is like an out of control roller coaster

  2. Glad this piece resonated with you Arunima.. The problem with Workaholism is that we never realize its issues in time… I hope reading my experiences will help people not become another me..

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