Hardworking or work addict? How to spot the signs of workaholism [with free downloadable questionnaire]

How can you tell if someone is a workaholic or just hardworking? What are the negative consequences of work addiction, and how can managers help employees who may be suffering with it? In this article, we take a deep dive into workaholism, exploring all these issues with a free downloadable questionnaire to help you support your team members.

5 mins read
Getty Images 1316264191   Jack

about 1 month ago

​What is workaholism?

A term first coined by Psychologist Wayne Oates in 1971, workaholism refers to a compulsion and uncontrollable need to work incessantly.

It manifests as an inability to stop working or maintain reasonable hours, even when it’s detrimental to the person’s life. Prioritising work over family, friends, and hobbies, workaholics thrive on adrenaline - seeking the rush of last-minute deadlines, all-nighters, and juggling multiple projects.

It is often overlooked as a serious addiction when compared to alcoholism or drug addiction. But, left untreated, it can have severe consequences and even be fatal. Much like alcoholism or drug abuse, workaholism harms both the workaholic and those around them. Over time, it negatively impacts their mental and physical health, straining relationships, family life, rest, exercise, and nutrition. However, unlike drug and alcohol addictions, people cannot choose to completely avoid work forever, so recovery can be a challenging balancing act which requires patience and understanding from employers and those around them.

However, some employers are under the false impression that workaholics make great employees. After all, they are willing to put in long hours, work weekends and put work ahead of everything else. What employer would not want that in an employee? And to make matters worse, our culture of rewarding hard work and commending those who clock in extra hours can contribute to the problem and reinforce the addiction.

But workaholism is not the same as someone who is simply a hard worker and dedicated, and is definitely not a good thing for your business.

How does workaholism differ from simply being ‘hardworking’?

Part of what makes workaholism so difficult to spot is that it can often be mistaken for a hard worker. However, it involves a lot more than just working long hours or being highly ambitious.

What makes someone a work addict is evident in the psychological and physical impact it has on them, which is significant and damaging to their lives and health. Regardless of the number of hours worked, workaholics are unable to psychologically detach from work which can lead to chronic stress.

What are the negative consequences of workaholism?

Work addiction can have a whole host of negative consequences on the individual, as well as your team and wider business.

Workaholics experience high levels of stress, which can lead to sleep problems, depression, severe anxiety, poorer functioning outside of work, and more work-family conflicts. All of this has been linked to poor psychological wellbeing, reduced perceived health and happiness, and lower self-reported work performance.

Here are just some of the wider implications workaholism could have on the team and business:

Imbalance in team dynamics

Workaholics can upset team dynamics. Others may feel resentful of the workaholic for being seen as more dedicated than they are. It could also lead to them trying to ‘catch up’ and match their unrealistic workloads.

Higher staff turnover

A workaholic manager may drive away valuable employees by making unreasonable demands. This will also result in additional costs to the employer by needing to rehire and retrain new employees.

Lack of creativity and innovation

Someone who struggles to switch off, take breaks, and make time for personal hobbies and relaxation may be stifling their creative side. This can lead to a lack of creative thinking and innovation in their work.

Long-term sickness

Along with the physical symptoms of chronic stress that can cause sickness, the person with the addiction is very likely to experience burnout at some point, potentially resulting in long-term absence.

Reduced productivity

Believe it or not, workaholism doesn’t equate to higher productivity. Many work addicts may struggle to strike the balance between quantity and quality of work and may spend more time trying to stay busy rather than effectively organising their time. They may also spend long hours at their desk in a mental fog because they are too exhausted to function at full capacity.

How can you spot signs in your employees?

Spotting the signs of workaholism in others, and even yourself, can be challenging, but it’s not impossible if you actively look out for the red flags.

Firstly, you may notice your employee consistently works beyond their scheduled hours. But most importantly, it’s not just the number of hours worked, it’s if they do this even when it’s unnecessary. For example, it may be reasonable for someone to work overtime if there is a looming deadline, or an unusually busy period. But if they work late or come in early even when there is no real pressure to, this is a warning sign that they may be a workaholic.

Other signs to look out for:

  • They demand perfection and unreasonably high standards from themselves or others

  • Regularly work during holidays or not use their holiday allowance at all

  • They may hoard work by taking on many projects, often more than they can handle

  • Failure to delegate or share work

  • Often work through lunch

  • Put tremendous pressure on themselves to work quickly and meet unrealistic deadlines

While many of these aren’t signs on their own, when you notice a regular pattern of negative habits, it can signify a work addiction.

Of course, there are many more symptoms that can impact someone’s personal life which may not be visible to you as their manager, but if you have reason to believe they are suffering from work addiction, it’s important to sit down with them and discuss your concerns sensitively and confidentially. If you are unsure on how to broach the topic, always check with your HR team first.

As a manager, you are not expected to be an expert in this matter, nor should you attempt to diagnose someone with an addiction, but it’s important to highlight your concerns about the behaviours you have witnessed, and signpost where they can go for more help should they wish to.

To help you, we've recreated the Workaholics Anonymous official self-assessment questions as a pdf you can email to your employees. It lists 20 questions that will help gauge if someone may have a work addiction. You should encourage employees to complete this in their own time, and if they feel they may have a problem, you can signpost them to their general practitioner or local mental health team.

Download the questions here.

Remember, workaholism is a serious illness that can have a major impact on the individual as well as the team, and managers should be mindful of the signs and take care not to encourage workaholism by rewarding unhealthy work practices.

If you are seeking a talented professional to join your team, or seeking a new opportunity yourself, get in touch with one of our specialist consultants today.

What's happening...

A supportive place to work: the impact of positive affirmations
5 mins read
  1. Article

A supportive place to work: the impact of positive affirmations

​Maintaining a positive working environment is essential for both employee well-being and productivity.

A report released in 2020 by KPMG showed that 75% of senior women interviewed had personally experienced imposter syndrome at certain points in their careers. That's why it’s vital that leaders do what they can to help their team members feel more confident and empowered in their jobs.

In contrast to this, positive affirmations have the potential to improve self-esteem and resilience among employees, uplift spirits, and enhance motivation – counterbalancing imposter syndrome and helping to establish a positive work environment.

What are affirmations?

Affirmations, also referred to as positive affirmations, are phrases that, when repeated regularly, can change negative thoughts and behavior patterns. They are often used as a technique for self-improvement, but their benefits extend beyond individual growth to impact group dynamics and organizational culture. By repeating affirmations regularly, individuals can rewire their thought patterns, boost self-confidence, and cultivate a more optimistic outlook on life.

As a manager, implementing daily affirmations can go a long way to helping team members stay positive and achieve their goals – in both their professional and personal lives. They can be used in a number of ways, you might write one in a Teams chat to one of your team members, or maybe you want to praise them face to face in a meeting.

They may be displayed around the office as artwork, or even on a desktop when your team members log on to their computers. Wherever they are, they promote feelings of togetherness, give inspiration and encourage camaraderie.

What are some examples of positive affirmations for your workforce?

Try using affirmations similar to the ones below throughout your day. You may start to notice your team feeling more positive and motivated.

  • You are capable of handling any task that comes your way

  • You are a valuable asset to the team

  • You are deserving of all the success that comes your way

  • You’ve got this

  • Trust in your abilities and stay confident

  • I believe in you

  • You consistently achieve high standards of work

The power of positivity

In a professional setting, maintaining a positive atmosphere is crucial for employee morale, engagement, and ultimately, productivity. When employees feel valued and are optimistic about their work environment, they are more likely to perform at their best and contribute to the wider goals of the business.

Positive affirmations can make a difference in the workplace by:

Increasing motivation: they can serve as powerful motivators, inspiring employees to set and achieve goals, overcome obstacles, and strive for excellence in their work.

Enhancing resilience: in the face of challenges and setbacks, employees who regularly practice positive affirmations can better equip themselves to maintain a resilient mindset. This allows them to bounce back from adversity and approach challenges with a more constructive attitude.

Improving confidence: confidence is key to success at work. Affirmations help employees build self-confidence and self-belief, enabling them to take on new responsibilities, tackle difficult tasks, and assert themselves in professional settings.

Strengthening relationships: they promote a culture of appreciation and support, helping to create stronger relationships among team members and enhancing collaboration and communication across the business.

Integrating positive affirmations to support your employees

People are known to overanalyze themselves. Employers can take proactive steps to incorporate positive affirmations into their managerial routines to support their staff.  

Here are some strategies you could consider:

Provide training and resources

Offer workshops or training sessions to educate employees on the power of positive affirmations and how to incorporate them into their daily routines to help them counteract negative self-talk and build self-confidence.

Some individuals may benefit from more formal training, including leadership, communication, and coaching skills.

Lead by example

Managers and leaders should model positive behavior by considering the use of affirmations themselves before encouraging their teams to do the same. A supportive and optimistic leadership style sets the tone for the entire organization, giving some employees the inspiration they need to succeed.

Incorporate affirmations into meetings

Start meetings with a positive affirmation or encourage team members to share affirmations that resonate with them. It is also worth considering incorporating affirmations into company-wide communications, newsletters, or internal messaging platforms.

Affirmations should solely focus on celebrating achievements and strengths – and are a great way to show how much you value team members.

Create a positive work environment

An atmosphere of appreciation and recognition can make employees feel valued and respected. Be sure to celebrate achievements, acknowledge contributions, and provide constructive feedback to reinforce positive behavior and a spirit of togetherness.

Encourage employees to embrace their achievements and if need be, write them down. That way, when it comes to feeling a sense of doubt, all the proof is recorded.

Encourage self-care practices

Emphasize the importance of self-care and well-being by encouraging employees to take breaks, practice mindfulness, and engage in activities that promote mental and emotional health.

Where possible, task employees with practicing affirmations to boost their confidence. These affirmations should focus on their strengths, abilities, and potential. Positive affirmations have the power to transform the workplace by helping nurture employees and their optimism, resilience, and productivity.

Ultimately, investing in the well-being and positivity of employees is beneficial for both the individuals who need that extra layer of support and care and also for the overall success and sustainability of the organization.

In the workplace, if there’s a toxic work environment, affirmations alone will not address the root cause of the issue. This is why it’s important for managers to create an inclusive environment, with equality, diversity, inclusion, and belonging at the forefront of the culture.

Need help filling your vacancy, or finding a suitable role for you? Our specialist recruiters can help. Contact your nearest Reed office now.

Education or experience: what do employers value most?
4 mins read
  1. Article

Education or experience: what do employers value most?

The ‘education vs experience’ debate has been a hot topic of conversation within recruitment for years. While there is no definitive answer to which is more appropriate or sought after, when looking to bolster your CV, you want to make sure you highlight your relevant education and experiences.

As apprenticeships, internships and work placements continue to grow and become more accessible and available, you may be wondering if being qualified at degree level is really that important. That said, you want to prove to potential employers that you are the top candidate for their role, so it's useful to learn what employers most care about in jobseekers.

So, is work experience becoming the desired preference for employers, or do qualifications still highlight the best candidate?

Education or experience: is there a right answer?

Choosing either to concentrate on your education or gain relevant experience early on has its advantages and disadvantages.

For many years, education has been touted as the main steppingstone that leads to a successful career. But this really depends on where you are in your chosen career, the industry that you are in and the requirements of your profession.

When considering your next career move, it’s important to do some initial research into both avenues and determine the qualities that employers are looking for in your chosen profession. Every employer is different, so it can actually be down to the preferences of the person hiring you.

In some cases, you’ll be able to land a role without meeting all of the requirements in the job description if you have something else of value to offer, such as transferable skills, real-life experiences or a passion and desire to succeed.

The necessity of education

More often than not, a lot can be revealed about a person through their qualifications. Furthering your education to a high level can help illustrate your ability to learn at depth and speed, making you desirable to employers.

According to the Annual Population Survey, people who have no qualifications have an employment rate of 47%. This jumps to 72% for people with qualifications at Level 2; 83% at Level 3; and 87% at Level 4 and above.

Many high-level roles and certain industries require a strong educational background to qualify for the job. In sectors such as accounting, education, engineering and law, being educated to degree level is highly beneficial and can often be a requirement outlined in the person specification.

In the current jobs market, educated graduates are in high demand and it looks set to remain that way for the foreseeable future. Many employers will look at an applicant’s education and see a person who has the ability to learn complex subject matters and, where degrees are concerned, have the staying power to study for a lengthy period of time.

If you’re looking to enter a sector where a high education is desirable, outline the options available that will help you appeal to employers – including degrees, apprenticeships and further education courses.

The value of experience

Proven experience goes a long way to showcasing your ability for a role. If you have worked in an industry before, this previous experience may signify to an employer that you can do the job required.

Having relevant experience also helps individuals to develop new perspectives and learn vocational skills that are fully transferable within the workplace. Having workplace experience can also develop desirable skills such as problem solving, communication, and people management – demonstrating to employers that you can work effectively and efficiently within a team.

Experience is highly valued since it indicates that you are familiar with the latest workplace trends, technologies, and practices in your relevant industry. As much as hard skills are essential, certain soft skills relevant to all industries are needed for entry-level jobs. Having a previous role can help enhance your interpersonal, communication and adaptability skills that employers often look for in potential employees.

A healthy blend of the two

Unfortunately, attaining your dream job is not quite as straightforward as education or experience. A survey by Universum found that 58% of leading employers value work experience among graduates more than grades or the name of their university.

If you’re worrying about which career path to start out on – university or job – you can gain both skill sets whichever you choose. It’s important to remember that you can always go back to university or retrain in a different profession later in life.

If you’re already in the workplace, many employers will give you time to study for industry qualifications as part of a continued professional development (CPD) plan. This has become even easier recently thanks to advances in remote learning technology post-pandemic.

Most employers want to see and hear of theoretical and practical skills from candidates during job interviews, but you can gain both from education and experience. A healthy blend of education and experience will set you in good stead when it comes to changing, adapting, or starting a new career.

Looking to take the next step in your career? Send us your CV and find out how we can help you secure your next role.

Supporting pregnant employees: top tips for employers
4 mins read
  1. Article

Supporting pregnant employees: top tips for employers

As an employer, supporting pregnant employees goes beyond legal obligations - it’s a moral duty.

And by doing so, you contribute to fostering an inclusive company culture where everyone feels valued and respected. While compliance with pregnancy discrimination laws is essential, in this article, we explore the extra steps you can take to ensure pregnant workers feel included, valued, supported, and safe at work.

Provide managers with effective training

How supported employees feel largely comes down to their relationship with their direct manager, therefore it’s essential that all managers are trained effectively with best practice advice on how to support pregnant employees. All employees should feel able to approach their manager about their pregnancy and discuss their needs without feeling judged. Managers should understand the potential symptoms pregnant employees may have and the kinds of needs that may arise throughout the pregnancy, however, these are highly individual so ensure managers discuss symptoms and needs directly with employees.

Supporting your team members through their pregnancy requires a level of emotional support as well as practical, and managers need to be trained on how to deal with sensitive situations, such as a miscarriage. In a survey conducted by pregnancy research charity Tommy’s, 67% felt their manager did want to support them during a miscarriage, stillbirth, or losing their baby shortly after birth, but 69% said they did not actually know what to do to provide that support. This is why it’s so important to provide managers with training in these situations.

Accommodate employees’ needs

You should provide reasonable accommodations during pregnancy, such as ergonomic adjustments, flexible working hours, accessible facilities, and time off for doctor/antenatal appointments.

Some needs can be established during an initial workplace risk assessment as soon as your employee tells you they are pregnant. This assessment would cover whether changes are needed to chairs, desks, and screens, as well as potential health and safety risks in the workplace. However, these should be regularly reviewed as needs may change throughout the pregnancy.

Allow pregnant employees to adjust their work hours to accommodate antenatal appointments, fatigue, or other pregnancy-related needs. You could also consider staggered start and end times, compressed workweeks, or part-time schedules if needed. You should also be flexible with breaks, allowing additional breaks for rest, hydration, and bathroom visits.

It may also be helpful to offer remote work, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy, as remote work reduces commuting stress and provides a more comfortable environment for the employee.

The most important thing is that managers listen to the needs of their pregnant workers, try their best to accommodate them, and review arrangements regularly to ensure they are still effective and required.

Be reasonable with uniform/dress policies

Uniform/dress policies are often put in place to create a sense of unity, collaboration, and teamwork, and promote an inclusive culture. But they can be exclusive if they fail to accommodate the needs of pregnant workers, and beyond that, may be discriminatory.

Employers should ensure that dress codes meet health and safety requirements, particularly for pregnant workers, but should be flexible enough to accommodate changes that may need to be made during the pregnancy. For example, being able to wear comfortable trainers may help with swelling and be more comfortable, as well as loose-fitting clothing.

It is also important that dress codes don’t require pregnant workers to have to pay a lot of money for maternity work clothes, and if there is a required uniform, employers should provide a maternity version.

Conduct regular mental wellbeing check-ins

Staggeringly, one in five women have mental health problems in pregnancy or after birth – depression and anxiety being the most prevalent. While work, in general, does not increase the risks of pregnancy complications, stressful work does increase the risks of miscarriage, preterm labor, preterm birth, low birth weight, and preeclampsia. This is why it’s imperative that employers regularly check in with employees to ensure they are managing workloads, stress, and mental wellbeing.

Schedule extra one-to-ones to check how your employee’s doing, and to see whether they need any adjustments or extra support. Some women may be happy to take on extra responsibility while pregnant, whereas others would prefer to adjust or rebalance their workload to help manage their stress levels. Work-related stress could lead to employees being signed off work, therefore it’s in your best interest to be accommodating.

Remember, supporting pregnant employees isn’t just a legal obligation - it’s a moral imperative that contributes to a healthier, more compassionate workplace.

If you are looking for a talented employee to cover maternity leave, or seeking a permanent employee to join your team, get in touch with one of our specialist consultants today.