Are You A Workaholic?

If your workdays have been much longer than normal, back away from the computer
Young man working into the night

Some of us do it for the pay, while others do it for the recognition. And a few of us just might be doing it because we feel like we’re obligated…to…do…it.

Advertising Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

What is “it?” We’re talking about working too much.

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”
Thomas A. Edison

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Work is the key to success, and hard work can help you accomplish anything.”
Vince Lombardi

“I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but should get you pretty near.” 
Margaret Thatcher

Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”  Kevin Durant

We’ve been told all of our lives that working hard pays off big time. And while it’s admirable that we want to give 200% to our jobs, in reality, it can be draining — and not very realistic when trying to balance heavy workloads with personal obligations. But some people still try to pull it off. 

Now that many of us are working from home, the urge to do everything in a day might grow even stronger. So, how do you stop yourself from becoming consumed by your job, especially when you’re working remotely? Keep reading to find out. 

Ask yourself, “Am I more than just a hard worker?”

There’s a fine line between being a hard worker and being a workaholic. It mostly comes down to one thing — If you tend to buckle down to meet deadlines, but don’t allow your job to spill over into your personal life, you’re not a workaholic.

Workaholics have a hard time separating business from pleasure. They only have one speed — fast. They’ll eat fast, move fast, talk fast and work fast. They also have a tendency to overschedule. In their attempts to control everything around them, they end up creating more anxiety and turmoil for themselves. 

According to clinical psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD, workaholics often keep themselves occupied with work to take the focus off things they might be dealing with in their personal lives.  

Advertising Policy

“There’s an expression, ‘We die with our inboxes full,’ meaning there’s always something that’s left undone,” says Dr. Bea. “The thing that will distinguish workaholics from other individuals is, workaholics are trying to get to some feeling of completion.” He says it’s common for them to use work in an effort to reduce tension and avoid other aspects of their lives.

You might be a workaholic if…

If you’re willing to work so much, you really, really love your job, right? 

While it might seem like workaholics keep themselves busy because they enjoy what they do, that’s usually not the case. Staying busy fulfills their needs, not praise from leadership or a passion for their jobs. Because working brings them a great deal of comfort, they feel uneasy or even guilty when they aren’t.

As mentioned earlier, workaholics have no problem avoiding personal obligations. Another thing they’re known for is always making themselves available to coworkers to create the feeling that they’re always needed. They won’t give their coworkers information or directives they need to proceed without them. Instead, they like to maintain control of the situation by jumping back into work and sorting things out themselves. 

Another thing to keep in mind about workaholics — they’ll never admit they have a problem. They won’t reveal the true motives for their actions either. Instead, a workaholic might suggest their hard work is an effort to get ahead at work, or they’ll say that their coworkers are unqualified or inefficient.

How to keep yourself in check when you work from home

There are a number of reasons why people become workaholics. Some might have been forced to take on more responsibility due to a major life event when they were younger. Others might have grown up in a family that showed love or respect based on accomplishments. This doesn’t mean that the foundation for being a workaholic is always formed during childhood. It can happen later in life as well. 

Working from home can be the ultimate test. While some of us can do our eight hours and walk away from our computer and work phone, others may feel like they need to go above and beyond in proving their worth outside of the office. “There’s no question that we exist in a culture that places a lot of value on what you produce,” says Dr. Bea. “I think some other cultures find that a bit humorous that we don’t have balance in our lives.” 

Make a schedule

Dr. Bea believes the key to not going overboard when you work from home is to create a work schedule for yourself. Make your schedule a day in advance if possible, and be sure to do it when you’re not working. Your schedule can be broken down in hour or half-hour increments. This way, you’ll have a concrete plan of attack for your day. 

Create a space that’s just for work

Pick a spot in your home or apartment and make it your designated work from home zone. Dr. Bea recommends selecting an area that isn’t a place where you socialize or watch television. “You really want to create some separation and distinction in the spot where you’re going to work so you can replicate ordinary work life,” says Dr. Bea.

Advertising Policy

If you’re in a small space and have to work where you play, try changing the area slightly when the workday is over so it’s ready for recreational use again. The changeover will help you switch to relax and recover mode.

Avoid working in your bedroom if you can. “We are highly conditional creatures, and we can quickly develop associations to our bedroom. It’s easy to start thinking ‘This is where I work, or think too much or solve problems,’ rather than ‘This is a spot where I sleep,’ ” explains Dr. Bea. That can make it very hard for you to take a trip to dreamland. 

Practice being imperfect

If you don’t get everything completed by the end of day one, it’s ok. Dr. Bea says that we could all use some practice in the area of letting things remain unfinished. 

He compares it to cleaning your house. You can dust, mop and vacuum and scrub from top to bottom, but you’re sure to miss some spots. Even though that may be the case, you’re satisfied with the job overall. Your house is presentable and that’s what counts. The same approach can apply to your job. 

“Our brains really like the feeling of things being just right or complete. We have to practice allowing things to feel a little incomplete. We can always come back to them later on, the next day or whenever they’re on the schedule again,” explains Dr. Bea.

If all else fails, walk away

When you’ve satisfied your hours for the day, push away from the computer and go do something that you truly enjoy. Better yet, put some distance between you and your work area by going outside and getting some exercise. Exercise is a good mood booster and something that will take your mind off of your job. 

“Right now, we’re in the process of forming new habits, and that creates more demand on our brains. This could be why people are feeling a bit more worn out or exhausted, ” says Dr. Bea. “But it takes a while to form habits — they say about 66 days. So, if you’re careful about the habits you form, you can make sure that you’re developing habits that are healthy for you.”

Advertising Policy