Workaholism: A Necessary Evil?

Hey Anita,

My wife is complaining that we haven’t taken a vacation in 6 years. But she doesn’t understand that I have to work non-stop to keep up with my job. Our kids are in sports and camps, and I can’t afford to be get lackadaisical. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and I need to keep pace with the pack. But my long hours are causing a lot of friction in my marriage. Can you give me some arguments to help me prove to my wife that not taking time off is the price of success in our modern business world?

Workaholism_InfographicDear, Marty Martyr,

National Workaholics Day was this past Sunday, July 5. Admit it – you checked your work email.

You are not alone. A hefty 79% of respondents to a Select Family web poll consider themselves workaholics. Gallup reports that while half of Americans work 40 hours or less per week, the other half work 41-49 hours (11%), 50-59 hours (21%), even 60+ hours (18%). The last thing I want to do is help you argue with your significant other, and these stats don’t measure success – only time spent. A Huffington Post article observes, “Many feel, with some justification, that a 40-hour week would be career suicide.”

Working hard is one thing; being addicted to your job is another. Workaholism is a pattern of long hours, working beyond expectations, and a consuming obsession with your job. Workaholics Anonymous has 20 questions to ask yourself to see if you are taking your commitment to your profession too far. Beyond the obvious (Do you work more than 40 hours a week?), there’s one that seems to apply in your situation: Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else [like vacation]?

Americans leave 429 million vacation days unused yearly, according to Oxford Economics, which noted that a heavy workload and peer pressure prevented some from taking their earned PTO. Heck, even the CEO of the U.S. Travel Association had trouble getting his employees to take more than $350,000 in accrued vacation.

There’s always one more call to make, one more email to answer. And, God willing, there will be one more day. Instead of trying to “finish” everything each evening, learn to be okay with leaving some tasks for the morning – or next week – and try to relax. The world, your industry, and your company will manage to muddle on without you for a week or two while you embark on that much needed vacation.

The consequences of workaholism are stress-related health symptoms, sleep issues, decreased productivity (did you get that one?), and an increase in work-family conflicts. If you continue on this exhausting path, you may just find yourself married to your job, and nothing else. Research by Dr. Bryan Robinson, Ph.D., reveals that workaholics are 40% more likely to get a divorce. Or worse, you could make your wife a widow. Those who regularly work 11+ hours a day are 67 percent more likely to develop coronary disease, according to a UCL study.

My advice? Have a heart and address your family’s vacation deprivation. To quote Harold Kushner, “No one ever said on their deathbed ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’ ”

Readers: How many hours a week do you clock for your job? Do you feel pressure to work more than 40?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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