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Are You a Workaholic?

03 December 2021

We all have our vices. Junk food, Netflix binges, or hitting the snooze button one too many times - most of these bad habits form an escape from the pressures and responsibilities of work. But for some people, their bad habit is the fact that they can’t escape from work at all!

Especially as more and more people have made the transition to working from home, drawing the line between work and rest has become increasingly difficult for many. Working ends up becoming as addictive as a drug, and workaholics form a compulsion that prevents them from being able to relax. It’s easy to confuse the difference between an extremely hard worker and an actual workaholic who is struggling with a compulsion to work more than they need to.

As workaholism can have truly damaging effects on both a person’s physical and mental health, it’s important to learn what signs to look out for so you can catch yourself before going too far into a spiral of work addiction. Here are the seven major signs to keep an eye out for if you think you might be a workaholic!

1. You compulsively check your phone or emails

One of the easiest ways to spot a workaholic is the constant attention they pay to their phone or email inbox. When work becomes a compulsion, it can be almost impossible for a person to stop checking their inboxes. This is because they are living with the constant expectation that more work will be demanded of them. Checking for notifications even outside of work hours is a clear indication that a person is unable to plug out and disconnect from their job.

2. Working unnecessarily long hours

Working overtime is a necessary evil in many jobs. From time to time, there are bound to be important projects that require extra time and effort, or perhaps an unexpected crisis that needs to be dealt with. Staying past the clock in these situations is a reasonable sacrifice to make every now and again, but workaholics tend to do it on a chronic basis, even when it is entirely unnecessary.

3. Sacrificing relationships with others for work

Relationships with others are one of the first areas of life that start to be negatively impacted by growing workaholism. Placing too much time and focus on work leads us to neglect those around us, and can often create distance and tension between those we love. Working too much can create a negative cycle in which we distance ourselves from others, and then work even more to avoid fixing the problems in our relationships.

4. Poor quality of sleep

An addiction to working can often be accompanied by a tendency towards anxiety, and for many people the two go hand in hand. Like with pretty much all anxiety disorders, working too much can have a highly negative effect on our ability to sleep and actually get rest. Sleep is one of the most important factors in determining our overall mental and physical health, so poor sleep hygiene is one of the most damaging symptoms that can be identified in most workaholics.

5. People tell you that you work too much

Most people who slip into the habit of working too much will be too absorbed in their jobs to notice what a problem it is becoming. Those on the outside, however, will be far more likely to notice you slipping into compulsive behaviour. If you find that those around you are increasingly warning that you work too much - they’re probably right. Make a point of listening to those who know you best, and heed their warning before things get worse!

6. You feel guilty when you’re not working

Guilt, anxiety, and shame are all symptoms of workaholism. The anxiety that pushes a person to work beyond what’s necessary often manifests as guilt. This is especially damaging, as it means that even time off cannot be relaxing or provide the restorative pause from work that everybody needs.  

7. You’re constantly thinking about work

Perhaps it seems a little too obvious to point out - but it’s true. Sometimes looking at the most basic symptoms can be the wakeup call a person needs to address their compulsive working. If you find yourself thinking about work all day and all night, the likelihood is that you’re experiencing a form of compulsive behaviour. Noticing this spiralling thought pattern is the first step towards reclaiming your mental wellbeing, and learning to disconnect from the job.


If you notice yourself presenting any of these signs, it may well be time for you to reconsider your approach to work. This doesn’t have to mean handing in a letter of resignation - there are many ways of going about treating workaholism. Creating a strict schedule, taking a weekend away, or simply putting your phone out of reach during your down time can be powerful steps towards learning to reconnect with the leisure time you need.