Careers: Shaky Economy Heightens Cases of Workaholism

Sept. 11, 2008
As job cuts sweep the nation, engineers are working harder than ever to make themselves indispensable in the workplace by skipping vacations, bringing projects home, and working weekends.

Yet they may be doing more harm than good, warns John Liptak.

In his book Career Quizzes, Liptak discusses the dangers of working too much and provides eye-opening statistics about the amount of time Americans dedicate to their professions. For example, employees in the United States earn fewer vacation days and work more than in any other country in the industrialized world. In addition, “workaholism,” a progressive disease in which people become addicted to the process of work, affects more than 1 million employees a year.

“What makes workaholism different from hard work is the obsession. For workaholics, the desire to work is all encompassing. Even when they’re doing something social or as a hobby they think about work. Their lives revolve around their jobs,” says Liptak.

As a result, people often encounter a variety of problems associated with workaholism, such as poor health, marital and family problems, stress-related diseases, and job burnout. To prevent such problems and reduce stress, Liptak encourages employees to be more aware of how they balance their work life and leisure activities. “It’s important to find hobbies and activities that are different from your work, but still appeal to your interests. The key is to engage in these activities because you want to, not because you think you should, and because they fill needs that your work can’t,” says Liptak.

Liptak offers additional strategies for achieving a more balanced life and career in his book, including:

Time for relationships: It’s important to develop and maintain connections with friends, family and other important people in one’s life. Try scheduling time in a calendar or planner to spend with people until it becomes a permanent part of the day.

Time alone: Everyone needs time to themselves to reflect and recharge. Meditation can be an effective method for focusing on the moment and breaking away from the job.

Breaks: Employees should take breaks even if they feel like they don’t need them. This can help maximize a person’s creativity, motivation, and energy.

Exercise: Research shows that exercise is an excellent stress reliever and tends to make people happier, energetic, and more positive.

Vacations: Employers offer vacation days because they understand that their employees need time for rest and relaxation. Commit to using these days and find an enjoyable way to spend them.

“The balance between work and leisure is one of the most critical issues confronting today’s worker. By making balance a priority, people are more likely to achieve greater career satisfaction, which, in turn, can lead to greater success,” reminds Liptak.

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