Workaholism: the enemy of productivity

Workaholics were once hailed as “heroes” of the corporate world for their commitment-at-all-cost attitude. Studies now show being addicted to work impacts negatively on productivity . While many people confuse workaholism with high performance – they’re not the same thing.
Here is a simple way to look at it: workaholics do work to look important while high performers look for important work to do. Both hard workers, how can you tell the difference between workaholics and high performers? Take a look at their working styles.
Kudos for working long hours
Sweden, for example, is moving to a six-hour work day in a bid to increase productivity and make people happier. In contrast, the corporate culture here in Australia remains relatively inflexible and very much focused on sticking with 38-hour-plus work week.
In this context, workaholics are unable to create boundaries. The demands at work are often too high too. Competitive by nature, workaholics are easily drawn into the notion that if they spend more time being busy, they will be rewarded for their relentless dedication.
What personal life?
You can see where this is going. Workaholics choose work over everything else – forgoing time with friends and family, putting hobbies on hold, and relinquishing relationships. This may be okay in the short term, but we’re not meant to be chained to a desk (and smart phone).
While high performers identify high-value tasks and get on with executing them efficiently, workaholics go for busyness – lots of work for little progress – as their personal life falls by the wayside. Obviously, this is not ideal in the long term for a workaholic’s health and wellbeing.
Impact on workplace culture
We are all indispensable – whether we like it or not. Regardless, high performers empower teams to make decisions, and are confident of their place in an organisation. Workaholics find it tricky to untangle themselves from work, and are reluctant to leave the office or unplug from it.
By checking in with their team, when they are supposed to have checked out, a workaholic can undermine a workplace’s culture. For the workaholic, not taking the opportunity to recharge will inevitably impact on their productivity, creativity and ability to innovate.
How to change
How does a workaholic know they’ve reached the tipping point? When incidences either at work or at home become significant enough to cause larger, more important change. If this is ringing bells for you, here’s what you can do.
You have two choices:
Do nothing; borough in some more and perfect your perfectionism.
Change what’s not working for you.
Which choice did you make?
I recommend you don’t wait for it to happen.
Ask yourself these questions:
How is this affecting you?
What rewards are you receiving?
What’s it going to take to change
What’s not working?
What would you be willing to let go?
The way for you to change will be as individual as you are. There are some shared starting points, including honest reflections when you answer the questions above.
Further to this, having worked with many senior leader ‘perfectionists’, I have found a change in this behaviour relies on:
A reassessment of values
Turning values into a committed action (don’t let yourself be pulled off-course)
Exploring what beliefs, attitudes and behaviours can support you to achieve this change.
Are you a workaholic or do you work with one? I would be keen to know what you think.

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