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8min838

The growth of technology combined with the idea that we need to work harder to achieve more is a popular concept in the modern workplace.

While there’s no denying the benefits and triumphs that come from committed bursts of hard work, unwavering dedication can tip the balance, turning a hard-worker into a workaholic.

As technology makes it increasingly easy to push beyond the nine-to-five, it’s vital for workers to recognise the difference between committed working habits and work addiction.

Last month, a new study by TUC highlighted how UK staff work the longest hours in the EU, with full-time employees working up to an average of 42 hours a week. Research by Harvard Business Review shows the average CEO works 62.5 hours a week – around 21.3 hours above the global baseline of 41.2 hours. In the UK, 54 percent of employees check work emails on holiday and six percent admit to even checking them at a funeral.

With smartphones, computers, and apps at our fingertips, we’re able to maintain a constant connection to our work. In theory, these tools should make our workdays shorter and more efficient, but constant distractions and the inability to disconnect can lead to longer work hours and less to show for it.

According to the Bergen Work Addiction Scale, replying ‘often’ or ‘always’ to at least four of the following seven criteria may indicate a work addiction:

  1. You think of how you can free up more time to work
  2. You spend much more time working than initially intended
  3. You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, and depression
  4. You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them
  5. You become stressed if you are prohibited from working
  6. You deprioritise hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work
  7. You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health

Impact on employees

Studies from CIPD show a sharp rise in ‘presenteeism’ over the last few years, from just 26 percent in 2010 to 86 percent in 2017, while another report shows a cost of £81 billion each year in the UK.

Work-obsessed CEOs run the risk of creating a company culture in which presenteeism reigns. As opposed to being absent from work, presenteeism leads to employees having lower productivity while at work. They’re also likely to feel judged according to how many hours they sit at their desks, rather than the quality of their output. This can lead to burnout, unhappiness, and increased health issues which end up impacting both company and employee negatively in the long-run.

Impact on business growth

CEOs who work too hard may have trouble delegating effectively or even end up micromanaging teams, which can lead to a bottleneck in the company. It also sends the message to employees that they’re not trusted or talented enough to meet expectations, which can cause tension and unhappiness. 

In a Harvard Business Review study of 27 CEOs over three months, time management proved the greatest challenge for most, while email usage was the top interrupter of the day. Leaders in the same study spent 72 percent of their time in work meetings, with the average meeting length being one hour.

One of the biggest time wasters for employees is distraction at work. Around 60 percent of employees say meetings are a big distraction that impact productivity according to Udemy, ultimately leading to longer hours spent working.

Regain the balance

While the dedication to put in extra hours is a valuable trait, it’s important to manage a healthy balance in the long-term. One of the major differences between a hard worker and a workaholic is the problems that are caused as a result. Poor health, guilt when not working, and increased stress levels are often consequences of work addiction. Here are a few ways to combat it: 

Trust your team: For a team to grow successfully, it’s important to attract and retain talented employees, delegate effectively, and trust them to perform tasks without you. This will free up time for you to focus on strategy and growth.

Reduce distraction: Shorten meetings, set dedicated working times where people can focus, and create a culture of face to face interaction rather than using email. Around 40 percent of employees believe work distraction could also be drastically reduced with flexible and remote working options, according to a report by Udemy.

Encourage work-life balance: Instill a 40-hour work week for everyone- CEOs included – with an emphasis on results rather than hours spent at a desk.

Try a digital detox: Limit time spent online by consciously logging off of your work email and putting your phone away during weekends and on holiday. Set the tone in your organisation by normalising the fact that employees don’t have to adopt an always-on attitude. There are several apps that can assist by locking your devices for a period of time. 

Allow mornings to set the precedent for the rest of the day. Whether taking time out to exercise, read, meditate, or plan for the day, prioritise setting the tone for the hours to come every morning. When planning out your day, stick to a realistic to do list of no more than five items at a time.


Lucinda PullingerLucinda PullingerApril 25, 2019
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9min720

According to HSE, around 15.4 million working days were lost due to work-related stress or anxiety last year, with 23 percent of full-time employees admitting to feeling burned out at work all the time.

Following these recent statistics, we wanted to identify the early signs of burnout and how to effectively avoid hitting ‘rock bottom’.

While January is one of the toughest times of the year for career blues in the UK, it is especially important to look out for signs of burnout later in the year as well. Stress and exhaustion at work impacts employees of all ages around the world, and at every level of the career ladder. Similar to imposter syndrome, high achievers and perfectionists are particularly susceptible to burning themselves out.

Six key factors that lead to burnout at work

  1. High Workload: In the UK, 44 percent of stress or depression at work is caused by a high workload
  2. Unclear Job Expectations: In America, only 60 percent of employees say they know what is expected
  3. Conflict: One of the main work-related factors causing burnout
  4. Lack of Managerial Support: Those with a strong support system are 70 percent less likely to experience burnout
  5. No Work/Life Balance: The inability to manage work and personal life can have a snowball effect
  6. Stressful Working Environment: There is a correlation between stressful jobs and burnout

If your work and family life are consistently stressful, you’re almost certainly at risk of burnout. Most people only realise that they are truly burnt out when it’s too late and then they need to work towards eliminating the symptoms, often while still having to deal with the stresses that caused it in the first place.

Keeping an eye out for warning signs can help you make changes proactively, making it easier to prevent burnout, while you still have the will and motivation to make the changes required.

Career burnout symptoms

Disengagement

Over-engagement is a symptom of high-stress levels. Going to sleep and waking up thinking about a problem or a deadline is a perfect example of over-engagement. When you start to disengage with your work or personal problems by ignoring or avoiding them, burnout warning bells should start ringing.

Helplessness

Stress usually manifests as a sense of urgency, often resulting in hyperactivity. Anyone facing perpetual deadlines knows the feeling. Burnout, however, is characterised by helplessness and hopelessness; the belief that nothing you do is going to have any effect on your situation or drive any real change.

Blunted emotions

When under stress, you may find that your emotions are exaggerated and more difficult to control, resulting in you becoming angrier or upset easier than usual. With blunted emotions, however, you may feel that you do not have the energy to react emotionally to situations, or that you are unable to feel excited or worried at all.

If you’ve started exhibiting any of these symptoms, you may be approaching burnout and should act to minimise its severity and effect. 

Effective ways to deal with burnout

Acknowledge your problems

It’s easy to ignore or downplay other issues in your life that may be contributing to your burnout. Make a list of all things you worry about daily, including the things you feel that you have no power to change. By ordering these by a level of importance, you’ll know which issues you need to address first.

Seek support

Whether it’s from a co-worker or manager, talking about the problem and seeking advice is a critical step into addressing the causes of your burnout.

Book time off

In some cases, merely having some time away from work, helps re-evaluate your priorities and enables you to get to the root of your stresses. If you’re worried about using up all your annual leave, strategically book leave to optimise your time off.

Slow it down

It’s vitally important to learn to create a mental divide between work and your life outside it, as it’s extremely unhealthy and unproductive to be thinking about work during ‘off time’.

Ask for more flexibility

With a huge shift towards businesses becoming more agile, the growth of remote working, and an increasing amount of co-working and flexible workspace options around the world, more companies are starting to introduce flexible working hours to reduce commuting time and increase happiness.

Take a few minutes each day to acknowledge your anxieties for what they are; irrational and exaggerated, and prioritise things like spending time with friends and family and outdoor activities.

It’s important to be honest with yourself during the onset of burnout. Remember, these are simply tips to help you improve your situation in the short term. Burnout has genuine health implications, and we strongly recommend that you seek professional help in overcoming it. A mental health professional will provide you with tools to make your recovery simpler and easier to maintain.




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