What are the causes and effects of workaholism?

What are the causes and effects of workaholism?

It is no secret that entrepreneurs are passionate about their business and are driven to succeed. This can lead to becoming consumed with your startup, especially in the early stages. But when do your drive and passion begin to border the line of workaholism? What does it truly mean to be a workaholic? There are several causes and effects of workaholism and it is important to understand what being a workaholic is, the signs to watch out for, and how it can be detrimental to your health and business success. 


What is workaholism?


Most people view workaholism as working long hours and always wanting to be at work. Although this can certainly be a big indicator, this is not always the case.

Psychologist Wayne E. Oates coined the term workaholic in 1968, defining it as someone who has “an uncontrollable need to work incessantly.” 

It is a misconception that working a lot automatically means you are a workaholic, and similarly that working a “normal” amount means you are good at maintaining work-life balance. The reality is someone who loves to work is not necessarily a workaholic, and someone who works less can be.


What is the difference between workaholism and working long hours?


Dr. Oates’ work shows that workaholism is not necessarily determined by the number of hours worked, but rather by the extent to which work controls and negatively impacts one’s life and health.

For example, Person A may work 70 hours a week, but is relaxed and mentally “switched off” when they are on personal time. By contrast, Person B works 40 hours per week, but in their personal time are constantly worried about deadlines and projects, obsessively checking their phone and email, and feel guilty when they are not working.

A study on workaholism analyzing more than 3,500 employees found that the number of work hours was not related to health issues, but workaholism was. Employees who worked long hours but did not obsess about work, reported fewer health complaints. 

However, those found to be workaholics, regardless of working long hours or not, reported more health complaints and had increased Risk for Metabolic Syndrome (RMS). The same people reported a higher need for recovery and more sleep problems, emotional exhaustion, and depressive feelings. 


What are the causes of workaholism?


There are many causes of workaholism, and they are commonly found in three categories:


1. Psychological 

If a person is a perfectionist, overly needs their peers’ approval, tries to escape life’s stresses, or has emotional voids in their life, they may be more apt to develop workaholism. 


But at the end of the day, your 200 emails will be there whether you take a break or not, and you will feel better and ready to tackle those emails after a well-deserved break.


2. Childhood

Having to take on adult responsibilities at a young age or growing up with workaholic parents can have a large effect later in life. In addition, if someone is taught as a child that acceptance is earned through performance, this can also shape how a person behaves in their professional life.


Take the time to reflect on how you are feeling at work, and how you are feeling throughout the day.


3. Lack of emotional or social outlets outside of work

When someone has a lack of emotional or social outlets outside of work whether, through extracurriculars, family, or friends, it can lead people to gradually become workaholics, pouring all of their time and energy into something that gives them a sense of belonging or purpose.  


What are the signs and symptoms of workaholism?


After learning what workaholism actually is, you may be questioning if perhaps you have workaholic tendencies. There are some common signs and symptoms of workaholism that may indicate you are a workaholic. 

  • Every job requires perfection, regardless of how exhausted and mentally drained you become trying to achieve it.
  • Your days are completely filled with work-related tasks with zero room for anything else. 
  • Building and maintaining social connections and relationships outside of work is difficult.
  • Feel anxious when you consider doing something other than work and feel guilty if you do.
  • Ignoring physical needs like food, sleep, and taking breaks because it cuts into your time to get work done. 
  • The majority of your self-worth, feeling of acceptance, and personal identity are wrapped up in work.


What are the effects of workaholism?


Ignoring signs and symptoms of workaholism can be dangerous as it can take a severe toll on a person’s mental, physical, work, and social/family health. 

Here are lists of common effects of workaholism:


Mental Health 

  1. Obsessive thoughts
  2. Impatience and Irritation
  3. Stress and Burnout
  4. Poor concentration
  5. Emotional disengagement

Physical Health 

  1. Headaches
  2. Fatigue
  3. Exacerbation of chronic diseases
  4. Stomach pain
  5. Loss of appetite

Work Health

  1. Lack of productivity
  2. Difficulty working in teams
  3. Rarely delegate
  4. Decrease in creative thinking
  5. Unpleasant to be around

Social/Family Health

  1. Lose touch with friends
  2. Family relationships impacted
  3. The feeling of isolation and loneliness 
  4. Are no longer invited to social functions
  5. Work trumps everything else


How do you overcome workaholism?


Some strategies to overcome workaholism include setting firm work boundaries, being intentional about rest, and evaluating if your workload needs to be adjusted. 

As an entrepreneur, you are determined to grow your business and succeed, but take notice of your behaviours and habits as you immerse yourself in work. Make sure you are keeping yourself balanced, healthy, stress-free, and happy.

Above all, you should seek the advice of a doctor or mental health professional if you believe you are a workaholic or are beginning to show signs of becoming one. They can give you accurate information and help form a plan to help you overcome workaholism.

How do you manage work-life balance as a startup?

How do you manage work-life balance as a startup?

We have all heard the term ‘work-life balance’ – the goal of maintaining equal harmony between our professional and personal lives. However, when you first launch and grow a startup business, there is often lots to accomplish. In fact, you could easily fill up 24 hours a day with work. So how do you find that sweet spot where neither your business nor personal life suffers? This blog provides tips on how to manage work-life balance as a startup and why it is so important.



What is work-life balance and why is it so important?


As self-explanatory as ‘work-life balance’ may seem, it is hard for many entrepreneurs to achieve in reality. In the simplest of terms, having a good work-life balance is when a person equally prioritizes their career and personal/family life, with neither one consistently being put on the backburner. 

Being a driven startup business owner can lead to fantastic things, but focusing too heavily on work can cause some negative effects such as: 


  • Feeling burnt out and stressed

Maintaining good mental health for entrepreneurs is so important, and often it is not prioritized. 


  • Creating tension at home.

If you live with a partner or spouse, or have children, devoting minimal time to being at home and spending time together can lead to problems. 


  • Dropping hobbies or interests.

When you are working hard to ensure your startup succeeds, things like hobbies or interests tend to easily fall to the wayside. 

Having hobbies actually makes you more productive and energized for when you are focused on work, and keeping them in your life is just as important as working on the next partnership or product launch.


  • Distancing yourself from friends

Having a support system around you is really important, but if you stop putting effort into relationships, that support system you once had may begin to dwindle.



3 Tips on How to Improve Work-life Balance


  • Set strict work hours

As an entrepreneur, it is easy to go down a work rabbit hole. One more hour turns into four more hours, and before you know it it’s 1:00 a.m. Setting strict working hours will lead to many benefits, including making you happier and more creative. 

Remember that those emails will always be there when you come back. Often taking a much-needed 5, 10, or 30-minute break will lead to a better response.

Setting strict working hours also means learning how to implement better time management skills, so the hours you do work are meaningful and productive. 


  • Schedule time for loved ones

Balancing work life and home life is important. Making sure you schedule time with family and friends will allow you to not only maintain healthy relationships, but it will naturally make you feel a higher sense of work-life balance.

Remember to use this time to have FUN! When we take life too seriously, we forget to enjoy ourselves and our loved ones. By sharing time purposefully with others we reinvigorate our confidence and can feel recharged to work hard on that pending project.


  • Practice self-care

Every person finds relaxation in different ways. Common activities include exercising, reading, meditation, gardening, a hobby, or simply having quiet time alone. Prioritizing time for yourself may seem irrelevant when you have a million items on your to-do list, but in the end having time for yourself will prove to be beneficial at work and for your overall well-being. 



Working more hours does not lead to greater success


Putting in long hours may seem like the logical thing to do when you are really busy, but this extra time and energy is not putting you any further ahead.

Stanford University economics professor, John Pencavel, conducted a study that found that productivity per hour heavily declines after a person works 50 hours a week. In fact, he found that those who work up to 70 hours are equally productive as those who work 55 hours. 



How do you start implementing a work-life balance?


Overall, our message is simple: Do your best. We know juggling being an entrepreneur and perhaps also being a spouse or a parent can be very challenging, but making an effort to balance all areas of your life will not only make you a better entrepreneur, but it will make you happier.

It is always about progress rather than perfection. Don’t expect to find this balance right away if this is your first time trying to implement these tips. It is about consistency and exploring what works for you, what feels GOOD. Enjoy the journey of finding your balance. You will not regret it!

Joining a startup incubator is an effective way to see progress and organize your workload. Startup incubators mentor and guide you on how to best operate your business, prioritize goals, and manage the challenges that are unique to entrepreneurship. 

For more information and tips on how to achieve a work-life balance, visit the Canadian Mental Health Association.


Why is good mental health for entrepreneurs so important?

Why is good mental health for entrepreneurs so important?

Being an entrepreneur has many advantages. It allows you to follow your passion, set your own schedule, and be your own boss. But any experienced entrepreneur will tell you that the road to success does not go without challenges or obstacles. Working through problems is a priority as a startup business owner, but mental health for entrepreneurs needs to be given the same level of importance.

Why is mental health important for entrepreneurs?

From a mental health survey of more than 300 entrepreneurs, 63% reported dealing with burnout and 59% dealing with anxiety – a far cry from the glamourized entrepreneurial lifestyle that populates our Instagram feeds. 

Although being an entrepreneur can be an amazing lifestyle, in reality, it is common for individuals to have stressors over finances, the day-to-day, or keeping a work-life balance. To ensure these natural thoughts do not escalate into larger problems, knowing how to properly identify signs of poor mental health and its effects needs to be more openly discussed.


Common symptoms of poor mental health amongst entrepreneurs


  • Inability to focus  

When you feel overwhelmed by the laundry list of projects you need to complete, it can be extremely difficult to focus on any of them. This can lead to feeling more stressed or overwhelmed because it is taking much longer to scratch tasks off your list.


  • Exhaustion

Regardless of how much sleep you are getting, chronically feeling mentally and physically exhausted is a sign you are headed for burnout. When you no longer have the energy to do the work you once loved, this is something to take note of.


  • Decreased performance

Due to exhaustion and an inability to focus, you begin to notice a decrease in the quality of your work. Creativity and innovation are best fueled by a clear mind, but when you have a lot on your mind and you are not well-rested, this can hinder bringing forth your best self.


  • Anxiety

Feeling anxious all the time is a sign that something needs to change. Experiencing a small dose of anxiety over an upcoming investor pitch or sales meeting is quite common, but this anxiety should not be a daily occurrence.


  • Lack of patience

If you tend to be a fairly patient person but find yourself becoming short with team members or others around you, this can begin to negatively affect relationships which can impact your business.


How can entrepreneurs manage their mental health?


  • Practice self-care

Rest, sleep, exercise, eat healthily, meditate, and disconnect.

  • Don’t keep emotions bottled

Chances are if you do, it will build to become worse. Talk to other entrepreneurs or trusted people to who you can vent and go for advice.

  • Slow down your pace

Entrepreneurs often have many jobs on the go. Sometimes the best way to lower stress and have better mental health is to take a breath and slow down.

  • Take up a hobby

When you are already super busy, adding another element to your life can seem impossible. However, taking time to focus on a passion unrelated to your business can bring more joy and balance to your life.

  • Set clear boundaries

We know that at times you would be able to fill 24 hours of your day with work. This is why it is healthy to set clear boundaries such as firm working hours, device-free time, and when you have set aside time for yourself or your family. 

  • Join a startup incubator

Startup incubators help entrepreneurs work through all the steps to launch and grow a successful business. Having mentors to keep you focused and stay on the right track can alleviate a lot of stress and overall, improve your mental health.

Visit Innovation Cluster Peterborough and the Kawarthas to discover how they help entrepreneurs launch, grow, and scale their businesses in a welcoming, inclusive, and stress-free environment.

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