Are You a Workaholic? Here’s Why That’s Not Necessarily a Bad Thing

Business people walking in modern office with blurred motion
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The U.S. workforce is weird.

We’re always talking about how busy we are or sharing the latest productivity hacks to squeeze every last bit of usefulness out of our workday.

But the minute we volunteer for extra shifts or projects, we’re deemed workaholics who need to slow down and take it easy.

I get it. Working to excess has been linked to all kinds of physical and emotional issues, including an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, anxiety and depression.

Some medical professionals even equate workaholism with addiction.

However, according to a recent study, it’s perfectly all right to be a workaholic — as long as you love what you do.

Researchers discovered long work hours can negatively affect people who don’t enjoy their jobs, but not necessarily those who are highly engaged with their work.

They also discovered “engaged workaholics [have] more resources, which they may use to halt the health impairment process.”

Researchers concluded “work engagement may actually protect workaholics from severe health risks.”

Workaholics, Unite!

These findings might help explain the psychology behind why some people enjoy working jobs with long hours.

For instance:

  • Medical professionals, firefighters, police officers and first responders typically work 12-hour (or longer) shifts
  • Many entrepreneurs or business owners work much more than eight hours per day
  • The workdays of teachers and college professors often extend beyond classroom hours

One thing many people who work in these professions have in common is that they genuinely love what they do. But people in other industries also work a lot of hours, sometimes doing jobs that don’t seem quite as rewarding.

Perhaps people who work long hours in, say, food service aren’t as engaged with their jobs as a registered nurse, but that doesn’t mean their apparent workaholism is a cause for concern.

Someone may choose to live the workaholic life because:

  • It allows someone else to stay home to care for children or a sick family member
  • They’re working toward long-term goals like building a retirement fund or socking away money to start their own business
  • It’s a form of escape from issues in their personal life
  • They’re challenging themselves to reach personal or professional goals
  • It brings them personal satisfaction

The bottom line is, we shouldn’t be so quick to judge people who work longer hours or take on more job responsibility than friends and colleagues.

There are a lot of reasons why people lean towards workaholism, and they aren’t all bad.

Check Yo’self Before You Wreck Yo’self

But if you think (or know) you’re a workaholic, be sure you’re not letting it negatively affect you.

1. Look at how working long hours makes you feel.

“When a workaholic is not working, he feels guilty and restless,” says Wilmar Schaufeli, professor of work and organizational psychology at Utrecht University. “To avoid those negative feelings, he starts to work. This is totally different than when you work intensely because you like the job.”

2. Examine your reasons for working long hours.

“Honestly analyze your motivations,” recommends entrepreneur Alyssa Gregory. “Is your work compensating for other areas in your life that are lacking? Are you comfortable with your motivations as they are? Do your motivations support your goals?”

3. Use your powers for good.

“You can use your workaholic tendencies to pull all-nighters to finish big projects on time or even before the deadline,” says business writer Charlene Jimenez. “Being known as a workaholic can actually increase your clientele and improve your professional reputation.”

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s a diehard workaholic with the best of intentions.