Could I be a workaholic?

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Dr Lyn van Oudtshoorn is a pressure management consultant providing workplace counselling and has investigated the mental health problems workaholism produces.

'There are City brokers and traders working 17-hour days,' she says. 'They leave home at 5am and do not return until 10pm. With a few hours for essential sleep that doesn't leave much time for anything else.'

She adds: 'It's all very well being dedicated to the job and working every hour God sends but it damages your health, relationships and social life. We all need some pressure in our working lives because it helps to motivate us but there is a difference between working hard and workaholism.

'A workaholic is someone who is dependent on work in the same way an alcoholic is dependent on drink. The workaholic is irrational and obsessive about work to the detriment of everything else. My own view is that people who suffer in this way have a deep-seated anxiety about their security below the conscious level.

'If you're worried you might be becoming workaholic there are key questions you should ask yourself (see list below). Do you have a life outside work? Have you cancelled private, social engagements because of the pressure of work? Do you put off having fun because of work? These are some of the warning signs.

'There are physical symptoms associated with workaholism as well. These include things like loss of libido, migraines, heart palpitations, sleeplessness and digestive problems.'

South African born Dr Van Oudtshoorn is a Brunel University graduate and the co-author of 'Counselling in the Workplace' (published by IPD). She has been studying pressure management at work for 14 years.

'The financial services industry is a very fast-paced environment,' she says. 'The stakes are high and one mistake could be the end of your career. That kind of pressure can be rewarding but it can also be very destructive.

'If you think you are a workaholic you need to take a step back and look at the balance of your life. It can creep up on people and not be noticed until it's too late. Seventeen-hour days are all very well but sooner or later your body will present its bill.'

Could I be a workaholic?

  • Do you regularly bring work home?
  • Do you regularly work at weekends or on holidays?
  • Do you put off having fun because of work?
  • Do you readily cancel personal arrangements because of work?
  • Do you rarely spend quality time with your partner or spouse during the week?
  • Do you regularly miss events in your children's diaries eg sports days, school plays etc?
  • Does your work lead to arguments at home
  • Do you suffer from the following: loss of concentration, a short-temper, loss of appetite or weight, loss of libido.
  • Do you have problems with any of the following: delegating, making decisions, setting priorities.

What to do

  • Be honest with yourself
  • Cut out unnecessary work
  • Make work more flexible
  • Set yourself goals in your personal life
  • Create some regular sacrosanct time with you partner and family
  • Report concerns to superiors
  • Talk to friends and family about priorities
  • Try relaxation techniques
  • Seek occupational stress counselling

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