Workaholism: Why do we do so much for money?
“We’ve each given the hours of our lives in dull rote jobs for other men’s profit, and have been asked to be grateful for doing that.” – Charles Bukowski
As we enter September, Labour day acts as a symbol for the last day of summer break and the beginning of another work term. It can be a bittersweet moment as we come to the realization that months of freedom is coming to an end. But when this work grind continues to overpower one’s emotional and physical stability, it can become more problematic than you think. When we live in a society where working long hours is viewed as the norm and even is praised, leading to a mindset where work is the determinant of one’s value and worth. In this transitional period, when our priorities and needs are shifting, the importance of reorienting oneself along their values cannot be stressed enough.
In 2019, nearly half of the population in the United States identified themselves as workaholics.1 Is this surprising? Not really, as we have discussed the socially constructed idea surrounding work and also oneself being potentially detrimental. Workaholics have a hard time detaching themselves from work, wherever they go.2 Although there is no one concrete reason as to why people start having desires to uncontrollably work constantly, some have associated this type of behaviour to one’s fatuation over becoming the work-martyr, and also to the 5 big personality traits. Interestingly, a study concluded that conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism and openness are positively correlated to workaholism.3 Additionally, many researchers have pointed out the underlying cause of workaholism as an attempt to escape the harsh reality we are in, on top of avoiding the topic of one’s emotions throughout life.
When the motive to work is to avoid your own reality, it can be damaging physically, psychologically, and emotionally. It goes without saying that many workaholics also suffer from depression, stress, anxiety and sleep deprivation.2 It is the constant internal reminder that anything in excess, including work, is detrimental. The goal can be earning a lot, yet this type of lifestyle can eventually be extremely harmful that one decides to step away from the workforce. Whether it be draining one’s physical and mental health, or damaging relationships outside of the context of work, workaholism affect many in different ways and as we enter September, it is crucial to acknowledge the possibility of slipping into habits of overworking.
However, workaholism is not just about cutting down the hours. One must realize the significance of separating life and work, but also have the mental energy and capacity to face reality as it is and resist the impulse to hide behind work. This is the hard part.
Acknowledging one’s emotions can be difficult, especially for those who have never really have gone through self-reflection or value reason much more than emotions. Nevertheless, emotions are a big part of who we are today and ignoring it do more harm than good to all of us.
Q: Am I working with a purpose?
Q: Do I enjoy working, but do I also make time to spend alone time / time with family and friends?
Q: When was the last time I sat down and reflected on myself?
These are a few questions that can help us track back to our values before we become overwhelmed and consumed by our work. Just like working out, the workforce needs rest days too.
- Schmall, T. (2019, February 2). Almost half of Americans consider themselves ‘workaholics’. New York Post. https://nypost.com/2019/02/01/almost-half-of-americans-consider-themselves-workaholics/.
- Brummelhuis, L. ten B., & Rothbard, N. P. (2018, June 14). How being a workaholic differs from working long hours – and why that matters for your health. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2018/03/how-being-a-workaholic-differs-from-working-long-hours-and-why-that-matters-for-your-health.
- Andreassen, C. S., Hetland, J., & Pallesen, S. (2010). The relationship between ‘workaholism’, basic needs satisfaction at work and personality. European Journal of Personality, 24(1), 3–17. https://doi.org/10.1002/per.737
- Seybold, K. C., & Salomone, P. R. (1994). Understanding workaholism: A review of causes and counseling approaches. Journal of Counseling & Development, 73(1), 4–9. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.1994.tb01702.x