Are You A Workaholic Or Just A Hard Worker?

How to know when you've crossed the line.

workaholic
Image: careergirldaily.com

Have you ever noticed how on shows like The Bachelor, the contestants’ occupations are included in their on-screen bios? So, when someone’s giving a to-camera interview about how much they hate so-and-so, it’ll say ‘Lisa, 27, QLD, Professional Cheese Taster’. It makes sense, given when you meet someone new, “so, what do you do?” is normally one of the first questions you ask.

But it also goes to show we no longer live in a time where our jobs are just a means to an end — to put a roof over our heads or food on the table. Our careers are now inextricably linked to who we are. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. More and more of us are choosing (or pivoting to) careers that align with our passions. You know, the whole ‘choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ adage.

Many people genuinely don’t mind working day and night, because they’re interested in what they’re doing. This is especially the case for entrepreneurs or small business owners, for whom their biz is like their baby. But is it possible to love your work too much? The short answer is — yes, when it starts to affect your relationships and mental or physical health. That’s when you’re headed towards burnout. The problem is, there’s a fine line between working hard and being a workaholic. Here are 5 signs you’ve crossed the line.

1. You check your work emails on holidays

With a growing number of people entering remote work situations, it’s becoming more common to go on ‘working holidays’. That is, working on your biz from the poolside in your Bali villa. However, if you find it impossible to switch off (both metaphorically and literally) when you’re on vacay, it can indicate you’re verging on workaholic territory.

Do you rarely take holidays and when you do, you spend more time worrying about the lack of high speed WiFi at the resort stopping you from checking your work emails than enjoying your surroundings and the people you’re with? If being present and appreciating the well-deserved break from all your hard work is a struggle, then chances are you’re a workaholic.

Miranda Murray, Life Strategist

2. You can’t stop talking about work

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It’s normal to vent about that awful client or rave about that exciting promotion with your friends, family or partner. However, if you’re talking about work in bed with your S.O or can’t make it through a single conversation with a friend without bringing it up, there’s a good chance it’s taken over your life.

3. It’s affecting your relationship

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Every now and again, you’re going to have to put work before your significant other. It’s a fact of life for anyone who’s passionate about what they do and a good partner will understand. However, if it’s becoming a habit and is beginning to put strain on your relationship, it may be time to take a step back. After all, your relationships with your loved ones (not just your partner) are always going to be more important than your job.  Try to have at least one date night every few weeks where you just enjoy each other’s company — no phones and no work talk!

4. You no longer do things just for fun

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If you used to go to a dance class every week but now can’t remember the last time you went, it’s worth asking yourself why. Of course, when you’re first starting out in business (or have entered a new industry), you do have to make some sacrifices — maybe you won’t be able to meet the girls for drinks every Friday night anymore. But it’s still important to prioritise doing things you enjoy and that make you feel good.

Do you park all other enjoyable activities in the pursuit of work? If you are living and breathing work with no external relief or joy and there’s no end in sight, this is an indication that you have probably crossed the line from hard-working to obsessive”

Miranda Murray, Life Strategist

5. It’s jeopardising your health

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When you have a poor work/life balance and are neglecting your health, it’s not a matter of if you’ll burn out, but when. You can read about some of the physical warning signs of burnout here, but basically it’s a state of complete physical and mental exhaustion. Taking the time to look after yourself isn’t a luxury, it’s a non-negotiable — because without your health, you won’t be able to do your job at all.

Think you may be a workaholic? Just like any other addiction, there are avenues for support. It’s worth chatting to your GP or seeking out a counselor so you can figure out how best to proceed.