Workaholism: All work, no play

Deal with your obsession with work effectively before it messes up your life

overworked womanAre you available in office, regardless of the actual office timings; do you awaken suddenly in the middle of the night with a work related query? Or are you ignoring your family for the few feet of office space that has now defined your territory and personality? If your answer to these questions is in the affirmative, you may well be on the path to the new-age illness—workaholism.

Defining workaholism

Workaholics should not be confused with people who are simply hard workers, say experts. There is nothing wrong in being committed, or going that extra mile to ensure that your work is impeccable and completed in time for the deadline. However, workaholics rarely have job satisfaction, since they never rest long enough to pat themselves on the back.

For them, work is a lifeline—they cannot survive without it. Workaholics only drive themselves with a manic kind of aggression—vacations are unheard of and they tend to be critical of other ‘normal’ workers, accusing them of slacking off. Hard workers, on the other hand, take breaks and revel in their accomplishments.

It is little wonder then that workaholics are vulnerable to stress-related illnesses, marital discord and burnout.

The Type-A behaviour

Surveys have shown that both men and women continue to sacrifice their marriages and interpersonal relationships at the altar of their careers. According to a study by industrial psychologists Cooper and Taylor, the ‘Type-A personality’ abounds among executives in the modern workplace. A person with a Type-A personality is extremely competitive, continually striving for greater achievement, and rarely satisfied with a job well done.

Aggression, haste, impatience, hyperactive alertness, and a feeling of being under extreme pressure and burdened by responsibility are all common traits in them. In other words, Type-A personalities are typical workaholics driven by the demands of the rat race and their own ambition to get ahead, regardless of the cost.

“Today, the employees who refuse to stay overtime are regarded as slackers—even if they are committed to their goals. This attitude has especially risen with the MNC and BPO culture—in a world where economics, money and power sets the pace,” says Brindaa Jayabalan, career and marital counsellor.

Women are most affected

Although addiction to work is a trait that is common to both men and women, it is established that each reacted differently to stress at work. Men were able to shake off the pressure and unwind easily when they quit the workplace and reached home. Women, on the other hand, grew more tired and irritable.

A woman’s job does not end at the workplace. She also has other responsibilities like managing the house, looking after children and much more. So, it stands to reason that physically, workaholism takes a greater toll on women. However, emotionally, it robs men of a fulfilling family life.

“Men who don’t traditionally take care of their children may feel alienated and cut off from their own wife and kids. As the closest family members become strangers to them, they spend even more time in the office, in what soon becomes a vicious circle,” explains Brindaa. “However, in some cases, men may take solace from their family lives and find it easier to relax with their children, when compared to women, to whom mothering is another full-time job,” she adds.

When work stress becomes a way of life, exhaustion and poor health are not the only by-products. Errors in judgment, increased irritability, panic disorders, clinical depression and even anti-social behaviour usually follow suit. Recent research by the Framingham Heart Study in US found that professional women with typical Type-A personalities were twice as likely to have a heart attack as their male counterparts.

It is important to find a fine balance between your role at home and your position in office. Although there will be some sacrifice either way, you can still have the best of both worlds. And in the end, whatever you sacrifice, it will certainly be less important than that which matters most—peace of mind and health.

Taking things in stride

Here are some ways to cope with professional duress.

  1. Delegate responsibility. Delegating tasks in office will ensure that you have more time to deal with important matters. At home, it will allow you to re-connect with your family. This will increase your productivity and reduce the unwanted emotional baggage of guilt.
  2. Learn to handle minor setbacks. This is an essential survival skill, especially since the little problems in life can annoy and upset you the most when you’re overworked.
  3. Revive your sense of humour. Most incidents have a comical side, although things do not seem that funny when they are happening. Reviving your sense of humour in moments of crisis will help diffuse tense situations and bring the ‘fun’ element into your life.
  4. Spend quality time at home. Reshuffle your priorities so that you complete your commitments in office and have enough time to spend at home. If this is simply not possible, aim to spend quality time—even if it is limited—with your spouse and kids. Investing just a couple of meaningful hours a week can help re-build relationships. Once this happens, the guilt you may have felt will melt away, leaving you more relaxed and looking forward to time with your family instead of resenting it.
  5. Manage your moods. Ensure that when you go home, you are in the best of moods, even if that means unwinding along the way. Find a way of releasing stress or frustration before you reach home. It could be done with a game of tennis, half an hour at the gym, meeting a friend or a just doing nothing.
  6. Meditate to restore energy. Choose a quiet corner; establish a ritual like lighting a lamp or a sweet-smelling incense stick. Clear your mind of all worries, negative impressions and thoughts until it is completely blank. You will find that you’re at peace with yourself. Meditation is an ideal way to counter-effect the tensed lifestyle of a die-hard workaholic.
  7. Maintain a garden at home. Starting a garden can be a relaxing and intellectual pursuit that works wonders in taking your mind off work. You can enjoy it more of you involve the rest of the family in it.
  8. Get organised. Divide your day into two-hour chunks. Make up a schedule and fit into it the things that you love to do, those that you have to do and those that you want to do. Balance these things and soon you will find that in the course of the week, you would have tackled all the important tasks as well as the ones you love.

You don’t have to be a workaholic to be considered more efficient. You just need to get organised and utilise your time better.

Kamala Thiagarajan
Kamala Thiagarajan is a Madurai-based journalist. Her writing interests encompass a host of genres including travel, health, entertainment and lifestyle. She is a full-time freelance journalist who works from her home in Madurai, South India. With 20 years of experience in journalism, she has over four hundred articles in print in leading magazines across the globe.


  1. Really well penned(typed ?!) with a lot of thought going into writing.Made me ponder over certain issues that I could change.


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