Armed with IPads, e-mail, blackberry’s and laptops, today’s ambitious executive can put to shame our counterpart in the money-grabbing 1980s.  Today we can be on call anywhere, anytime. Professional work can be seamlessly carried into the bedroom and, scarily, even the hospital bed.

I am not immune to this over-production, sometimes sending emails, , laptop-propped-on-pillow, late at night.  Here’s the really scary thing—the recipients reply within minutes!

As a coach, I do want to be conscious of mirroring balanced behaviour. So here are some sobering facts for us;

It is estimated that health-related problems associated with work addiction cost an estimated $150 billion per year in the USA alone.  It’s victims include the techie who works 12 hours every day at a dot-com, the career mother who doesn’t want to quit on any of her responsibilities, the lawyer who sweats every detail of every contract, and the stockbroker whose heart rate fluctuates with the NASDAQ.  Even scarier; in Japan, 12,200 workers drop dead at their desks every year as a result of 60– to– 70-hour weeks, a phenomenon known as “karoshi”.

What is it about work that makes certain people drive themselves to the point of breakdown, both physically and emotionally?  Demanding bosses?  Personality types?  Work environments?  Problems with intimacy?  Or some childhood striving for mastery? As with all things, there is no simple answer.  I like to say that my hard work is a genuine outlet for the creative expression of my personality. Some others say it’s an escape from the harsher realities of life and relationships or to cope with low self esteem.  Still others do it for the money, for while all work and no play make jack a very dull and unhealthy boy, it will likely also make him a very rich boy.

“The workplace does not create workaholism, the same way a bar does not create alcoholism— but it does enable it,” says Bryan Robinson author of Chained to the Desk: A Guide for Workaholics. Considering the devastating effects, Robinson suggests that employees should be monitored for workaholism, and managers need to be prepared to intervene.  The irony is that employers value and encourage the workaholic, thinking they will get a great deal, yet workaholic leaders can poorly impact the morale of the company, setting a pace that others might find too daunting or not rewarding enough to follow.  The prospects of burnout and health problems that workaholic  leaders face are often passed on to their grudging reports as well.

Breaking the workaholic cycle requires a strategy and a commitment to practising new ways of doing things;

  • Take regular holidays—you deserve them—and leave your technology gadgets behind
  • Develop gratifying interests and hobbies outside of work
  • Fortify your physical with healthy eating habits and regular exercise
  • Seek appropriate help to tackle relationship difficulties
  • Engage a coach to hold you accountable to a more balanced approach.

If you have been through a workaholic cycle and learned to do things differently, I would love to hear your story.  But preferably, do not email it to me too late at night :)