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Workaholics: Research & Tools for Establishing Work-Life Balance

Anita BradyToday’s guest post comes from Anita Brady, chief executive of 123print.com. I think this post has some excellent tools you can use to establish work-life balance. If you’re looking to make your own business cards, give her company a look.


It might be possible to take loving your work a little too far

(Photo by Aek1982)

Do you get more excited about your work than about family or anything else? Have your family or friends given up expecting you on time? Do you take complete responsibility for the outcome of your work efforts?

If you answered yes, then you may have a problem finding work-life balance.

These are just a handful of questions asked by the organization Workaholics, an international fellowship started in 1983 with the purpose of helping others “to stop working compulsively and to carry the message of recovery to workaholics who still suffer.”

Establishing Work-Life Balance is a growing problem in the United States

While we may be placing pretty high in the world rankings for productivity, we’re working harder than we ever have before. According to a recent study by 20SomethingFinance.com, the productivity of the average American has risen 400 percent since 1950. In other words, about 60 years ago we could comparatively afford the same standard of living with only 11 hours of work a week.

The United States is also the only developed country that does not have a legally mandated leave to help professionals establish work-life balance.

In the European Union, workers are allotted a minimum of 20 days paid leave per year and the economic impact is minimum, at best. In fact, while Greece may have a fairly low rate of vacation days with two weeks per year, and Germans take off around four weeks a year, Greece is the 24th most productive country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) while Germany ranks eighth.

Lacking work-life balance is a  growing trend that’s going to bite Americans soon if nothing is done about it. And as productivity begins to slip, so does the American psyche.

Overwork Can Affect the Brain and Your Relationships

A recent life insurance report that looked into the American challenges of work-life balance listed several startling facts about people who work too much, with “too much” being defined as more than 40 hours per week and not taking all of the vacation days allotted to them per year.

Regarding marriages, people with spouses who are workaholics are 38% more likely to wind up divorced than those with non-workaholic spouses. And people who work more than 11 hours per day are 67% more likely to have a coronary heart disease than those who work the standard seven or eight hours.

Even working 10 hours per day increases your chances of heart disease by 45%. Vacations are also difficult for many workaholics as the effort to draw oneself away from the standard of constant stress and anxiety can result in something Norwegian researchers have dubbed ‘leisure sickness‘. With leisure sickness, the body actually seems to have difficulty adjusting to a non-stress environment and the sufferer could wind up with headaches, migraines, and even flu-like symptoms.

Break the Habit and Find Work-Life Balance

Even though those extra late night shifts may result in a slight move up the corporate ladder or a little extra bonus at the end of the year, is it really worth your marriage? Your health? Or even your life?

If any of those Workaholics Anonymous questions at the beginning of this article struck a chord with you, it’s probably time to step back and evaluate your current work situation.

And while you may not need to go so far as joining a support group, it may help to consider some of the Workaholics Anonymous’ Tools of Recovery. Prioritizing the most important things to do (even if it’s nothing), substituting one activity for another instead of adding to your schedule, scheduling time for play, and just trying to concentrate on one thing at a time instead of all of the things you need to accomplish in a day are just some of the steps you can take to help steer clear of the patter of workaholics.

What practices have you built into your routine that help you establish work-life balance?

  • http://twitter.com/DebraLloydNGBT Debra Lloyd

    This is SO true, as an ex-pat Brit dividing time between Europe & the US I will say this is one area where the US definitely has it wrong. Finding a proper balance allows for better performance in all areas, you almost always come back refreshed and are more productive as a result.

    • http://nateriggs.com nateriggs

      Amen, Debra!

  • Nriggs

    I dunno – I show symptoms of “Workaholism” more than most people that I know and I can identify the toll it takes on my relationships. Then I pick up a Chronicle of Higher Education and read 7 articles on the front page about how expectations for tenure-track positions are higher than ever and how everyone should double their productivity.

    Seems to me that there is enough labor-related diagnoses out there. Not sure if “aholizing” work does anything but add to the problems of neglect, stress, and visceral response. Coping with the realities of the disease-based metephor adds to the stress of balancing the scales between satisfaction and guilt.

    • http://nateriggs.com nateriggs

      Interesting take. I can see you challenge with the association of “aholism” and I somewhat agree. Part of hosting guest blogs is letting the contributor speak their own piece and in their own terms.

      That said, I’ve learned in the last 10 years of my career that while ‘hustling’ is indeed part of being successful, there is a line that, once crossed, brings demising returns professionally as well as disastrous results on personal relationships.