Keeping Work at the Office

Walk along any metropolitan street café or subway car, and you're likely to find many of the people around you are texting or scrolling through emails from work.

It's getting harder to get away from work, especially if you're issued a cell phone or laptop from your employer. Some feel so compelled to work they keep the cell phone near the bed to check office email in the night and get on the web as soon as they get up in the morning.

In a down economy, many people feel they actually need to work more hours to avoid being targeted during a layoff. But if you're finding it hard to get away, here are some tips to keep stress at bay:

  • Avoid weekend work. Start withdrawing by keeping one day work-free. Leave your electronic devices at home and plan an activity that will take you away from them.
  • Don't take your briefcase home.
  • Keep your work week to 40 hours. Give some of your duties to coworkers if you must.
  • Keep multitasking to a minimum. When you are at home, give your family, your friends, your partner or even your pet your full attention.
  • Consider counseling. If you find yourself uninterested in much besides work, consider seeing a therapist to figure out what's going on.

How can workaholism affect health?

Overwork can often translate to poor physical and mental health. If your back and shoulders are seizing up, and you suffer from constant headaches, it may be related to having no relief from the job. Here are some suggestions:

  • Your relationships and family are important, so focus on them at least once a day. Exercise with a friend, walk with your spouse and play a game with your child. Schedule time with your family as if it were a business meeting.
  • Find time to move. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day every day.
  • Thinking about work can often result in loss of sleep, especially if you're worrying about the next deadline or project. Too much sugar and caffeine can also keep you from getting the rest you need when you finally do leave work and hit the hay.

What can you to to help a workaholic partner?

  • First of all, don't nag about missed dinners or social events. Your family or friends may want you both to attend every birthday party or holiday gathering, but they will understand if doing so causes a rift in your relationship. Make a list of the most important events, and get your partner to agree on making it to the most important ones.
  • Be flexible, but don't be a doormat. If your partner is constantly missing dinner or repeatedly asking to reschedule an important activity, indicate which activities are not negotiable.
  • If your partner works at home for most of the day, suggest turning off electronic devices during important family time, such as dinners. Plan an activity that takes your partner away from home.
  • Find a counselor if you really feel that your partner is using work to avoid family time. A therapist may also help a workaholic spouse set limits on how much work he or she does at home.

What can managers do to help workaholic employees?

  • Respect your employees' time away from the office. Avoid calling workers late at night or on weekends when they're enjoying family time.
  • Make deadlines realistic. Talk with your employees about them.
  • Remind employees about unused vacation time and taking breaks and lunches. Productivity will increase if they come back refreshed and ready to work.
  • Discourage workers from taking work home with them.
  • Try not to talk about work at office lunches and parties.
  • Overwork and stress translates into millions of dollars worth of disability claims and sick days every year, so pay attention to workers who call in sick more than usual.
  • Allow your workers flexible time.
  • Set a good example. Show your workers that managers can find time to exercise and get away from work. If your employer can afford to, get your company to offer free gym memberships.

References

Farrell, M. Surviving a Workaholic Spouse. Forbes. Nov. 19, 2009 http://www.forbes.com/2009/11/19/survive-workaholic-spouse-entrepreneurs-human-relations-workaholic.html

Workaholism and extra-work satisfactions, Ronald J. Burke, International Journal of Organizational Analysis. Vol. 7, No. 4; Pg. 352-364

Spinning wheels, Tyler, Kathryn, HRMagazine. No. 9, Vol. 44; Pg. 34

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